The Nobility of Business

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Wayne Grudem is the widely-published author of Systematic Theology. He has earned a Harvard BA in economics, a Westminster MDiv, and a Cambridge PhD in New Testament. When Grudem turns his attention to economics, he finds that commerce is to be commended as the source of great good. His book on the subject, Business for the Glory of God,1 argues that work in manufacturing and trade is a high calling. For one thing, it serves to alleviate poverty:

I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business. That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year. Therefore if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses.

In this next passage, Grudem captures an anti-business (and, ironically, pro-poverty) mindset perfectly. Of course, some businessmen abuse their trust, but it takes cruel caricature to disparage business per se. Grudem shows how this caricature might go.

If people think business is evil, they will hesitate to start businesses, and they will never feel real freedom to enjoy working in business, because it will always be tainted with the faint cloud of false guilt. Who can enjoy being an evil materialist who works with evil money to earn evil profits by exploiting laborers and producing material goods that feed people’s evil greed and enhance their evil pride and sustain their evil inequality of possessions and feed their evil competitiveness? Who wants to devote his life to such an evil pursuit as business? What government would ever want to establish laws and policies that would encourage such an evil thing as business? If business is evil, why not tax it and regulate it until it can barely survive? And so with the attitude that business is fundamentally evil in all its parts, business activity is hindered at every point, and poverty remains.

Grudem goes on to argue that against this negative perspective Christians should lift up business as a noble venture, full of promise for those in financial distress.

If attitudes toward business change . . . then who could resist being a God-pleasing subduer of the earth who uses materials from God’s good creation and works with the God-given gift of money to earn morally good profits, and shows love to his neighbors by giving them jobs and by producing material goods that overcome world poverty, goods that enable people to glorify God for his goodness, that sustain just and fair differences in possessions, and that encourage morally good and beneficial competition? What a great career that would be! What a great activity for governments to favor and encourage! What a solution to world poverty! What a great way to give glory to God!2

Footnotes:

1 Wayne Grudem, Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003).

2 Ibid., 80-83.

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