I recently read a great little book by Wayne Grudem called Business for the Glory of God. It's very short, but it touches on some very important issues for those living in a capitalist society. Where as this book did not contain any earth shattering revelations that morphed my schema or flipped my world on its head, it did contain many key points that I had all but forgotten, never notice or simply ignored with the actual living of my life. If this book didn't already have a subtitle, I would suggest it could be subtitled How to be a Christian Capitalist. Whether that is appealing to you or not, I think it would be a good read for anyone in the business world. I'll take a moment to share my thoughts on the last chapter, "Effect on World Poverty."
I am not suggesting:
- Capitalism is the only system through which a business can glorify God
- Any capitalist business is automatically glorifying God
I am suggesting:
- A business can/should glorify God in whatever system it finds itself
- Capitalism can/should lend itself to that end.
Saving the World
Shortly after introducing the concept of micro-loans and their remarkable benefits on poor areas, Wayne Grudem makes what I would consider to be a bold claim. "I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business." I have been involved with several non-profit organizations that have sought to end (or at least dull the effects of) world poverty. The problem is that all the money we give, items we donate and time we volunteer are consumable resources. The money is spent; the items are used, and the time is gone. What poverty needs is productivity.
Businesses produce. Businesses produce goods (that the world did not have before hand). Businesses provide income (to both employer and employee). Businesses encourage spending (in turn strengthening other businesses). Our charity is good and nessisary, but it is only the kick-start. Businesses is the alternator that keeps our good going.
What's Taking So Long?
So, if capitalistic businesses are so great, why haven't they saved the world yet? That's a fair question. Some would even say that businesses have been the cause of many ills in the world today. Before I relay Dr. Grudem's reasoning I'd like to point out that the problem doesn't lie in business or the system; it's a people problem. I'm a pacifist, but I understand that the problems of violence in the world don't stem from guns. If we had no guns, none whatsoever, murder would occur by other means. Now, if we could just get people to stop wanting to harm each other, we'd be set. In a similar vein, Dr. Grudem gives three reasons that business does not reach its full potential for good.
- Sinful misuse of business power
- Sub-par governments (be them excessive, weak, repressive or just plain evil)
- Negative attitudes toward business
This final concept is really the preponderance of the entire book. If we view business as something evil we will be reluctant to engage in it, distant when we deal with it, restrictive when we govern it and harsh when we judge it. Take a moment to view business not as some evil monster or even some morally neutral entity. Take a moment to view business as a means of producing goods, benefiting others, providing for those you love and glorifying God though His gifts. When our attitudes toward business change our involvement and our use of business start to change as well.