Ten Commandments for business
“To all God’s beloved…who are called to be saints…” — Rom. 1.7
Are you beloved? Are you called? Is your work vocation? Or is it drudgery? Do you start Monday, skate through “hump day” and hope for TGIF?
Vocation. Too often, we think of vocation as God calling someone to the priesthood. God calls every one of us to witness in whatever work we have chosen. Yet the moment we enter work, we seem to forget the lessons we learned on Sunday. We fail to be zealous in answering His call.
We Christians are in the midst of a cultural battle. Do you doubt it? Look around. We are a nation divided. We no longer know how to speak with one another, seeking to find the common truths of our existence and learning to live with difference. We have no common language with our secular opponents. Truth and logic are no longer relevant in today’s culture. Every focus of culture has become a battle to gain political power over the opposition.
Here is our greatest challenge in America. We have become so conformed to today’s culture that we are no longer recognized as Christians. Until we become “holy,” set apart — in this world, but not of it — we will not be effective witnesses for Christ.
That lack of holiness is rampant in our business lives. We have allowed our business to be compromised. Business has served the purpose of man rather than the will of God. In America, we surrendered the marketplace to secular forces long ago. It was easy. We were tempted by false promises of a freedom based in man’s choices. We businessmen were glad to profit from providing those choices.
Today we are told that God does not belong in business or at work. We are to keep our beliefs private, our Bibles at home and our crosses hidden from the public view. Yet, when we read through the Bible, we find that God is keenly focused on work. Throughout Old and New Testament, we see our Lord seeking us at work: From God setting Adam in the garden to “till it and keep it” (Gen. 2.15) to Jesus, who says, “My father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5.17).
Throughout the years, I have heard many Christians witness about how they brought Jesus Christ into their business lives. The power of that witness changed everything about how they treated employees, customers and competition. It transformed their businesses, their lives and their communities.
How did these people witness in their businesses? How should we? Is there a guide within the Bible? A primer for how we should work? We find that guide in God’s law, The Ten Commandments. Just as the Commandments direct our personal lives, they also provide a means to understand how we are to act in business. As we study The Ten Commandments more closely, we’ll find that they are not only right, but are practical, both for our personal lives and for our work.
Throughout the next months, we will see how each commandment applies to business by studying its positive corollary to show what we should be doing.
If we follow His commandments in business as we do in our personal lives, we’ll avoid the pitfalls of sin and error. Not surprisingly, we also will find that our business prospers and grows. The first commandment tells us:
The Sacred exists
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
It has been almost 3,500 years since the Ten Commandments were written by the Lord upon the tablets given to Moses. We have forgotten. We have forgotten God’s holiness. We have forgotten His power and might. We have forgotten that He is sacred.
We need to remember. The first lesson we learn from God’s law is that the sacred exists. God is God. I am not. My business is not. The Christian businessman knows that God is Lord of his entire life, including his business. That knowledge puts all that follows into perspective.
Yet, it’s so tempting, especially for the entrepreneur, the creator, the owner, to say, “This is my product. I created it. I’ve given all these people jobs. My service or product helps customers and creates wealth. My business benefits the community and I give more to charity than anyone I know.”
Do we hear the focus? “I, I, I.” That’s the common element in any of our sins. We want to be the one running things! The “I” syndrome is destructive for business, even if our goal is for a “good purpose.” When we give in to the desire to control, we place our own will above God’s.
How does Christian work differ from that of others? We’re passionate about it. Work is our mission field. We are all pastors, missionaries for Christ in every aspect of our work. Once we recognize that mission, we find vocation in whatever work God calls us to do. The employee ceases to be a human tool to be used … and becomes an associate in our task. The boss is no longer a tyrant, but someone whom we respect and for whom we provide our best effort. “The sale” becomes a real client, a person who demands our loyalty, our best work. The competitor is no longer an enemy, but a complement to our common goals of serving our clients.
In comparison to God’s work, how does the secular realm define business success? What if the sacred does not exist and material things are all that matter? Then, we make our own standards in business. Profit, fame and especially power become the coin of that realm. There is nothing to check our lust for wealth and for control. Everything becomes a commodity — employees, sales, services, products, sex, babies, children, life and death.
Our lives become a factor of economics. Success in our nation becomes wedded to economic growth. We crunch numbers to decide if we’re better off today than last year. We live by numbers — quarterly earnings reports, ROI tax brackets, unemployment numbers, inflation, stock reports, interest rates, Dow Jones at Twenty Thou! Man, we’re livin’ now! And what does it all mean?
Without God and our knowledge of His sacredness to anchor our work, we will inevitably end in loss and desolation. Our work, often stilted, commoditized, hopeless and passionless, ends in simple vanity.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher. All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? — Ecc. 1.02
Without God, we gain nothing. God sanctifies our work because He is sacred. He brings His sacredness into our work.
Joseph Stringer writes and speaks on Christian issues in culture and community. He retired from insurance and risk management with Anderson Insurance Associates and is currently the Charleston director for the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce. He may be reached at email@example.com.