Forbes recently ran a profile of Christian billionaire and Hobby Lobby CEO David Green. According to Forbes, Green is “the largest evangelical benefactor in the world,” giving “at upwards of $500 million” over the course of his life, primarily to Christian ministries.
Yet, for Green, his strong Christian beliefs don’t just apply to how he spends his wealth; they’re integral to how it’s createdin the first place:
Hobby Lobby remains a Christian company in every sense. It runs ads on Christmas and Easter in the local paper of each town where there’s a store, often asserting the religious foundation of America. Stores are closed on Sundays, forgoing revenue to give employees time to worship. The company keeps four chaplains on the payroll and offers a free health clinic for staff at the headquarters–although not for everything; it’s suing the federal government to stop the mandate to cover emergency contraception through health insurance. Green has raised the minimum wage for full-time employees a dollar each year since 2009–bringing it up to $13 an hour–and doesn’t expect to slow down. From his perspective, it’s only natural: “God tells us to go forth into the world and teach the Gospel to every creature. He doesn’t say skim from your employees to do that.”
Economists have increasingly recognized the ways in which healthy stewardship and property rights are linked—how increased ownership leads individuals to weigh costs and benefits more thoughtfully and effectively. Green’s comments add a slight twist to this approach, calling Christians in particular to reconsider who the “owner” actually is and how we might weigh particular costs/benefits and subsequent action accordingly:
“If you have anything or if I have anything, it’s because it’s been given to us by our Creator,” says Green, sweeping his hand over the acres laid out before him. “So I have learned to say, ‘Look, this is yours, God. It’s all yours. I’m going to give it to you…”
“…I don’t care if you’re in business or out of business, God owns it,” says Green. “How do I separate it? Well, it’s God’s in church and it’s mine here? I have purpose in church, but I don’t have purpose over here? You can’t have a belief system on Sunday and not live it the other six days.”
This conscious act of redirecting the very source of our economic decision-making enables us to reach beyond humanistic and materialistic constraints and push instead toward a renewed, transcendent process of value creation — one less defined by convenient, narrow dichotomies of “self-interest vs. sacrifice” and more by what is true, good, and beautiful.
As Green explains:
“Woolworth’s is gone. Sears is almost gone. TG&Y is gone. So what? This is worth billions of dollars. So what? Is that the end of life, making more money and building something?” Green asks, answer already in hand. “For me, I want to know that I have affected people for eternity. I believe I am. I believe once someone knows Christ as their personal savior, I’ve affected eternity. I matter 10 billion years from now. I matter. Someone that does all this doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, it’s gone.”
When the market serves as a mechanism for this—for channeling energetic pursuits of real transcendent value—we can spend less time debating over profits vs. losses, deficits vs. surpluses, and more time pushing toward the higher things wealth was meant to enable and empower in the first place.