I wrestled with this topic early in my faith journey. Many of you probably have too. That’s because a big swath of corporate America will tell you the topics simply don’t mix. That God has no place in your workplace. If your workplace is with the Government, they’re probably even more adamant in that stance. Even your pastor may not be so sure whether God and business go together.
Now if you’ve been following along with the latest content series, you’ll know I’m unequivocally in the “False” camp on this one. Since I grew up in my career as a systems engineer, and I’m still very much a “big picture, top-down” thinker … when I really got my head around the “whatever you do” of Colossians 3:23 and the “all your heart” of Deuteronomy 6:5, that was good enough for me. I KNEW that God wanted all of my life, including my work life on any random Tuesday, not just a few hours of my Sunday. It’s clear to me, from just those two scriptures, that God and business DO mix. MUST mix, really.
Now, I understand your brain may work differently, and maybe that explanation is just not doing it for you. If so, then you might consider these additional examples of God mixing with business in the Bible.
We could (should!) start with Jesus. While his three years of ministry launched a worldwide Kingdom movement that is still expanding two millenia later, He actually spent far more of his earthly years working as a carpenter than in his apostolic ministry. Jesus declared that He only did what He saw His father doing (John 5:19). We also know Jesus had absolutely no sin (2 Cor 5:21), and likewise, that the Father was “well pleased” with His beloved son (Matt 3:17, Matt 17:5, Mark 1:11, et.al.) In light of all that, I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume Jesus in the flesh was “at work with God”, with His Father’s explicit approval of and involvement in his business, even as a carpenter.
Jesus’ apostles were also fully engaged in business. When Jesus called the first few (Peter, James & John), it wasn’t some religious ceremony or sermon that convinced them He was the Lord. No, Jesus supernaturally blessed their business with abundance beyond their natural expectation or comprehension (Luke 5:1-8). Of course, after the resurrection, when they were out in their boats (their workplace), they only recognized the stranger on the shoreline as the Lord, when their business again reaped a supernatural blessing (John 21:1-14). Later in scripture, we also see that the apostle Paul was engaged in business as a tentmaker, and proudly so – as it allowed him to finance his own ministry.
Some might argue that Jesus was against business from the incident with the money changers in Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 2. But a careful read will show you He was not upset at “business” in general, but rather because these corrupt business people had turned a sacred place (“His Father’s house” was meant to be “a house of prayer for all nations”) into “a den of robbers.” Correspondingly, in Jesus’ revelation to the Apostle John in Revelation 18, He identifies the corrupt businesses and corrupt world economic system in which so many are ensnared as “Babylon” (aka the “little k kingdom”) – and then prophesies its destruction and judgment. It follows that since God judges this little k kingdom economic system and its corrupt actors for the evil way in which they’ve conducted business, He must have also established a righteous standard for business, the way it should be done. Which of course, is the way Jesus himself must have conducted business as a carpenter, righteously, without sin. In At Work As In Heaven, that’s what we mean by Kingdom business, named for the “capital K Kingdom.”
While the life of Jesus as described in the New Testament is a great place to start exploring how God and business mix, Jesus just amplified what He already spoke as the Word from heaven through the Old Testament (OT).
For example, in the early books of the OT, God commissions work:
- In Genesis 2:15 God gives man a calling (paraphrase: “you do this thing I’ve called you to, and you may freely eat”)
- In Genesis 3:19, the man sins, and thereby turns the pleasureful calling into a laborious job. Now he must work to eat.
- By Genesis 4, there are already multiple career paths emerging in response (farmer, shepherd, musician, metal worker, etc.)
- In Genesis 5, Lamech names his son Noah, because “work is hard.” (See, you’re not the only one who doesn’t like your job!)
- By Genesis 6, Noah is the only righteous person on earth. Noah was “in close fellowship with God.” If you read the account closely, you can see Noah was operating through an established system of sacrifice and worship. He knew what animals to eat, what animals he could not eat. Where did he get that from? Because back in Genesis 2, plants are given for food, not animals. He didn’t get it from the “Law”, because that was not established until much later through Moses! It had to come out of Noah’s “close fellowship” with God. God gives Noah a job, Noah is “at work with God,” and God provisions it, showing Noah “how to put food on the table.”
- Then in Genesis 8:22, God promises that after the flood, as long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest. (That is, in spite of the drastic changes caused by the flood, your work will continue to provide for you, as was initiated in Gen 3:19)
In subsequent books of the OT, God not only approves of, but also blesses work:
- In Genesis 12, we see that Abram is already a wealthy man, and yet God says He will bless him even further, make Abram into a great nation (clearly God wants Abram to prosper in his business!)
- By Genesis 13:2, Abram is now rich not only in livestock, but also in silver and gold. As is his nephew and business partner Lot.
- In Genesis 14, Abram won’t accept spoils from wicked king, even though he “earned” them – because Abram didn’t want the king to be able to say he made Abram rich. Abram wanted everyone to know it was God who blessed his work.
- In Genesis 26:12-13 Isaac harvests 100 times more grain than he planted, and became very wealthy man, because the Lord blessed his work.
- In Genesis 41, God provides a prophetic warning of an economic boom/bust cycle, and equips Joseph to help the nation navigate it.
- In Exodus 20, as the Law is given through Moses, the Lord actually allocates six days for “ordinary work “(NLT) or “you shall labor and do all your work” (NIV), because the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath. (God specifies you need to take a Sabbath day because it is assumed you will be at work the other days. Just like He said back in Genesis 3:19.)
- In Deuteronomy 14:20, God specifies the use of money rather than goods for the tithe in some circumstances. That is, business transactions – buying and selling – are explicitly sanctioned
- In 2 Kings 4, God provides for the widow through the prophet Elisha, but He doesn’t do it by simply giving her money. Instead He gives her an overflow of valuable inventory (olive oil), with the instructions to “go, sell the oil …” In other words, He set her up with a business.
- In many cases, God commissions a project – and business is explicitly involved:
- For example, in Exodus 31, Bezalel is chosen to lead construction of the tabernacle, and he’s already a master of every craft. He’s appointed with a special assistant Oholiab, to serve as trainer and mentor, as well as many other skilled craftsmen. That is, these people aren’t called into special service by God due to their religious credentials – they’re appointed to build God’s tabernacle because of their job skills!
- Likewise, God calls for the building the temple (2 Kings, 1 Chronicles) and then later rebuilding it later (Ezra). In both cases, there are many business transactions required to hire labor and procure supplies, which seems implicitly approved by God (these transactions certainly draw no recorded objection.)
Since God approves of and blesses work, through the Law, He further establishes “the right way” to do business.
- Exodus 20 is filled with instructions for fair dealings and addressing liability in transactions
- Exodus 23: 10 specifies a Sabbath rest , so that your fields (i.e. business resources) aren’t just selfishly used for you, but also help feed the community
- Leviticus 6:1-5 identify sinful actions in business transactions.
- Leviticus 19 covers personal conduct, again specifies “leaving gleanings” to help provide for others in community; specifies prompt payment to those you hire; and, issues warnings against fraud, deception, and dishonest scales and measurements in dealings.
- In Leviticus 26, God covenants that if people obey His command, He will prosper their businesses to overflowing.
Of course, these are just the early chapters of the OT, and if you’ll keep reading, you’ll find the rest of the Bible, is filled with business applications, of places where God and business do indeed mix. Of special note, is the book of Proverbs. Many who don’t even read the Bible still know expressions or hold practices drawn from this particular book, which is rich with wisdom directly applicable to business. The book starts a little more general in nature, focused initially on the subject of Wisdom; although even here sample business applications include:
- Proverbs 1:19 warns on the consequences of greed
- Proverbs 3:9-10 reinforces where you priorities should lie: honor the Lord with your wealth, He’ll multiply it
- Proverbs 6:1-6 warns about bad contracts
- Proverbs 6: 6-11 exhorts a strong work ethic (Psalms 12:24 later gives an even more explicit take on this proverb: “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.”)
By the time you get into Proverbs 10, a good majority of the proverbs from there through the end of the book have specific application to business, addressing various topics like integrity, work ethic, wealth building, corporate strategy, employee relations, corporate politics, investment strategies, risk taking, sales strategies, pricing strategies and much more. A few specific examples include:
- (This is one of my favorites) Proverbs 10:22 says “blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”
- Proverbs 13:11 elaborates further: “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.”
- Those involved in the hiring process, will want to heed Proverbs 10:26, because “Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.”
- The woman in Proverbs 31, who is justly famous in Christian circles, is explicitly praised for career skills, not only as a proficient craftswoman, but also an excellent business leader.
Of course, this is just a small sampling, nowhere close to complete or exhaustive. And yet, we’re already looking at what will likely end up being the longest blog entry to ever appear on the AWAIH site! People write whole books on “why” you should intermix your faith with your work, why God cares about your business and your work life. With just this cursory study, though, I hope you can see Bible is rich with application for business. Even moreso, that God explicitly commissions, blesses, engages, and instructs us in business! God and business do indeed mix. In fact without God’s direct intervention, starting all the way back in Genesis 3, there would be no business …
Still confused? Not sure where to start? Check out my videos on YouTube on Essentials for Building a Kingdom Business. If you found this post beneficial, comment below with the scriptures that were most helpful to you.