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Does business matter to God?

February 19, 2013
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Does business matter to God?
Van Duzer

The Almighty is not an anti-capitalist, as some have argued, but his big-picture goals extend beyond maximizing profit margins and increasing shareholders’ investments.

That biblical truism remains an eye-opener for many believers who possess only a faint idea of what God intends businesses to accomplish, said Jeff Van Duzer, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University and professor of business law and ethics.

“By and large, Christians in business have a well-developed business worldview but an impoverished Christian worldview,” said Van Duzer, who spoke during Calvin College’s January Series. “It’s Wall Street’s interpretation of scripture, interpreting business.”

From some startups and multi-national corporations, changing the rules of the entrepreneurial game is at full throttle and is known in business circles as creative capitalism or conscious capitalism, whose distinguishing feature includes doing good as a way of doing business, a notion business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates has brought to the forefront.

But change is slow and many still don’t fully grasp God’s intent for business, other than they believe they’ve done enough if they contribute to their houses of worship or missionary endeavors, said Van Duzer, author of “Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to be Fixed.”

God challenges people to take the vision for business to a deeper level, said Van Duzer. It starts with asking two “big” questions he referred to as “The Grand Narrative.” Why does business matter to God, and how should business be practiced?

The answers are important, partly because of an entrenched undercurrent in Christian circles that says those who are truly called of God should work primarily in full-time ministry or the helping professions, and “maybe a few in business to help fund the ministry,” said Van Duzer.

“They feel like second-class citizens,” continued Van Duzer. “Actually, business matters to God.”

To get a bead on what God originally intended for work, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 provide the requisite insight, said Van Duzer, which includes that humans were created to work, even before the fall of humanity. He said he realized this after he discovered the Garden of Eden had not reached perfection, even before the fall.

“My picture of perfection was static,” he said. “Look at Genesis 1 and 2, and the garden was intended to flourish. There were no crops yet, because God had not sent the rain and there was no humanity to work the ground. God’s purposes on earth are to be advanced through our work.”

So in essence, businesses exist to provide goods and services that enable a community to flourish, said Van Duzer.

“We don’t let profits, cost of investments and ROIs be a means to an end, but a means to attracting capital to serve those two aspects of profit maximizing: to provide good products and to provide good jobs,” said Van Duzer.

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