In God We Trust   Leave a comment

Christians sometimes try to segregate God from areas that we consider to be “our” businesses. For example, we don’t think God really has much to say about the job we work in or how we conduct our businesses. I’ve heard Christian businesspeople respond when someone questions their faith because of dishonest business practices that “my faith has nothing to do with my business.”

Businesses exist to make profits for their owners/managers and to provide jobs for their employees that keep up with inflation and reflect the profit the employees help the company to make. You will get no support from me if you believe that profit is evil and that owners/managers should make less money than their employees. They take the risk, they put in the hard work of building a business, and in most small businesses the boss is the first there in the morning and the last to leave at night.

Jesus’ parables teach eternal truths, but they also offer surprisingly practical lessons into human interactions. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus taught about how we use God’s grace. We call the parable of the talents and it really is about spiritual matters. However, as with many of the parables, it teaches on more than one level. While it would be a mistake to brush aside the primary spiritual lesson Jesus was teaching, this parable also touches on the material world. It is a story about capital, investment, entrepreneurship, and the proper use of scarce economic resources.

It’s also a direct rebuttal of those who see a contradiction between business success and living the Christian life.

A rich man was going on a long journey. He called his three servants to him and told them to be caretakers of his property while he was away. He assessed the natural abilities of each. He gave five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to the third. He then left. The servants went forth with this capital. The servant with five talents went into business and doubled his investment. The servant with two talents did likewise. The servant with one talent hid his master’s property in a hole in the ground. When the master returned to settle his accounts, he praised the two investors. The one who “saved” the single talent, however, did not receive praise. The master wanted to know why he hadn’t at least put the money in the bank so that he could have gotten interest. He then gave the talent to the servant who had 10 talents.

Profit is not wrong! Using our resources, wit and labor to better our lives is not against God’s law. In fact, this parable suggests that passively preserving what we are given naturally is against God’s law. Jesus seems to be encouraging His listeners to face insecurity of life with entrepreneurship.

So what did Jesus mean when he said “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye?” First, you have to understand that the “needle’s eye” was a cultural reference to the man-door in a city gate. A camel could walk easily through an open city gate, but if the gate was closed for the night, merchants sometimes had to unload the camel of all of its goods and then the camel would crawl on its knees through the door. That seems less impossible than threading a camel through a sewing needle eye, but still a lot of effort.

The other thing to recognize is that Christian principles are often set in tension with one another. We have freedom in Christ, but also a voluntary obligation to avoid sin. We are to love sinners, but not excuse their sin. We may drink alcohol, but getting drunk is a sin. We are allowed to be angry, but not to let our anger become rage, which is sin.

Christians are allowed, even encouraged, to be in business and to make a profit. Our Savior said so. But there are some behaviors common in business that Christians should not be part of. And therein lies the discussion.

Posted November 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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