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business

September 07, 2009

Today is Labor Day, a holiday here in Canada, and it seemed a good opportunity to post a short excerpt from Wayne Grudem’s book Business for the Glory of God. In this book Grudem seeks to show the moral goodness of business and one of the ways he does that is by discussing the goodness of the employer/employee relationship. Here is what he says:

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Employer/employee relationships provide many opportunities for glorifying God. On both sides of the transaction, we can imitate God, and he will take pleasure in us when he sees us showing honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, wisdom and skill, and keeping our word regarding how much we promised to pay or what work we agreed to do. The employer/employee relationship also gives opportunity to demonstrate proper exercise of authority and proper responses to authority, in imitation of the authority that has eternally existed between the Father and Son in the Trinity.

When the employer/employee arrangement is working properly, both parties benefit. This allows love for the other person to manifest itself. For example, let’s say that I have a job 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 along with attention to quality (compare 1 Tim. 6:2), and he can seek my good, because he will pay me at the end of the week for a job well done. As in every good business transaction, both parties end up better off then they were before. In this case, I have more money at the end of the week than I did before, and my employer has more shirts ready to take to market than he did before. And so we have worked together to produce something that did not exist in the world before that week—the world is 500 shirts “wealthier” than it was when the week began. Together we have created some new “wealth” in the world. This is a small example of obeying God’s command to “subdue” the earth (Gen 1:28) and make its resources useful for mankind. Now if we multiply that by millions of plants, millions of workers, and millions of different products, it is evident how the world gains material “wealth” that did not exist before—new products have been created by an employer hiring an employee to manufacture something.

Therefore if you hire me to work in your business, you are doing good for me and you are providing both of us with many opportunities to glorify God. It is the same way with hiring people to produce services—whether hiring teachers to teach in a school, doctors to care for people in a clinic, mechanics to fix cars, or painters to paint houses. The employer/employee relationship enables people to create services for others that were not there before.

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And so, as Christians, we know there is dignity in labor; there is dignity in being an employee or an employer. So as we rest for our labors today, we can rest knowing that tomorrow we return to a good and noble task.

June 20, 2008

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” So begins what is undoubtedly the most famous (or most notorious) chapter of Proverbs. Written by King Lemuel, this chapter, the thirty-first, includes a poem praising the excellent wife. It has provided fodder for shelves of books and for countless sermons. You know it well, I am sure. Though the verses are most often preached and applied to women, within the context of the book it seems to me that the verses were really meant to be for young men. In this passage they are to see the kind of woman who is so unlike the temptress, the sluggard and many of the other characters in Proverbs. Of course it also stands as a valuable challenge to godly women.

There is much we can say about this excellent wife, but lately my thoughts have been drawn to one aspect of her life. Throughout the poem we read lines that suggests this excellent wife runs a small business—she is an entrepreneur. As part of her life as a mother and wife she buys and sells, builds and trades. She supplements the family income and gives to the poor through the money she earns in this business venture.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

It merits mention that nowhere in the Bible would we find that this portrayal is normative for all women; we do not have to believe that a woman cannot be a faithful wife and mother unless she runs some kind of business. But I do know many women, aspiring Proverbs 31 women, who have begun businesses. In fact, I’ve been impressed lately in the ways I’ve seen Christian women exercising a lot of ingenuity in emulating that Proverbs 31 woman. They are finding ways of turning what they love to do into small businesses. The context has changed, of course. I do not know too many who are buying and selling fields and planting vineyards. But I have seen many reacting to the new realities of the twenty-first century by creating other kinds of businesses. They are Proverbs 31 women for the twenty-first century.

Here are just a few examples:

The common thread with these jobs is that they can all be done from the home and they can all be done in “spare time” (something of an oxymoron when it comes to mothers!). These women are doing jobs that allow them to adapt to new realities and allow them to place their families first, even while earning supplemental income.

I would love to know of other similar examples of how Christian women today are creating their own small businesses (and in the future I hope to create a post showcasing some of them). If you have such a business or if you know someone who does, please leave a comment and tell us about it.