It’s become increasingly common for Christians to openly ponder and discuss the ways in which we might glorify God through our work. Yet even with this newfound attention, it can be easy to forget that the very businesses launched to harness and facilitate such work are themselves declaring the glory of God, albeit in subtle, unspoken ways.
In an essay posted at Christianity 9 to 5, author and theologian Wayne Grudem explores this angle a bit further, affirming the variety of ways we can glorify God through business — worship, evangelism, generosity, faith — but focusing more closely on one in particular: the act of imitating God. “God created us so that we would imitate him,” Grudem writes, “and so that he could look at us and see something of his wonderful attributes reflected in us.”
To imitate God is to glorify him, Grudem argues, and business, in its basic design and function, has enormous potential to imitate God through a variety of activities. Grudem offers the following five.
1. Producing Goods
We know that producing goods from the earth is fundamentally good in itself because it is part of the purpose for which God put us on the earth. Before there was sin in the world, God put Adam in the garden of Eden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15), and God told both Adam and Eve, before there was sin, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The word translated “subdue” (Hebrew: kabash) implies that Adam and Eve should make the resources of the earth useful for their own benefit, and this implies that God intended them to develop the earth so they could come to own agricultural products and animals, then housing and works of craftsmanship and beauty, and eventually buildings, means of transportation, cities, and inventions of all sorts.
2. Employing People
In contrast to Marxist theory, the Bible does not view it as evil for one person to hire another person and to gain profit from that person’s work… Paying another person for his or her labor is an activity that is uniquely human. It is shared by no other creature. The ability to work for other people for pay, or to pay other people for their work, is another way that God has created us so that we would be able to glorify him more fully in such relationships.
When the employment arrangement is working properly, both parties benefit. This allows love for the other person to manifest itself, because if I am sewing shirts in someone else’s shop, I can honestly seek the good of my employer and seek to sew as many shirts as possible for him (compare 1 Tim. 6:2), and he can seek my good, because he will pay me at the end of the day for a job well done. As in every good business transaction, both parties end up better off than they were before… So if you hire me to work in your business, you are doing good for me and you are providing many opportunities to glorify God.
3. Buying and Selling
Buying and selling are necessary for anything beyond subsistence level living and these activities are another part of what distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. No individual or family providing for all its own needs could produce more than a very low standard of living (that is, if it could buy and sell absolutely nothing and had to live off only what it could produce itself, which would be a fairly simple range of foods and clothing). But when we can sell what we make and buy from others who specialize in producing milk or bread, orange juice or blueberries, bicycles or televisions, cars or computers, then, through the mechanism of buying and selling, we can all obtain a much higher standard of living, and thereby we fulfill God’s purpose that we enjoy the resources of the earth with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5; 6:17) while we “eat” and “drink” and “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
4. Earning a Profit
The parable [of the ten minas] has obvious applications to stewardship of spiritual gifts and ministries that Jesus entrusts to us, but in order for the parable to make sense, it has to assume that good stewardship, in God’s eyes, includes expanding and multiplying whatever resources or stewardship God has entrusted to you. Surely we cannot exclude money and material possessions from the application of the parable, for they are part of what God entrusts to each of us and our money and possessions can and should be used to glorify God. Seeking profit, therefore, or seeking to multiply our resources, is seen as fundamentally good. Not to do so is condemned by the master when he returns.
5. Borrowing and Lending
[T]he process of borrowing and lending is another wonderful gift that God has given to us as human beings. These activities multiply the usefulness of all the wealth of a society. My local library may have only one copy of a reference book, but 300 people might use it in a year, thus giving my community as much value as 300 copies of that book if each person had to buy one. I only own one car, but because of the process of borrowing and lending, I can fly into any city in the United States and have the use of a rental car for a day, without having to own a car in that city. Without the existence of borrowing and lending, I would have own thousands of cars in order to have the same ability.
Read the full article here.
The article “How Business Glorifies God” originally appeared in the collection, On Kingdom Business: Transforming Missions Through Entrepreneurial Strategies.