The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:10-15 (ESV)
Sometimes, just after starting my car, I say out loud, “Alright, Carola, the goal is to not hurt the humans. Jesus, help me to not hurt the humans.” I say this because in my rush to arrive somewhere on time or beat the traffic, I have oftentimes forgotten that there are other human beings around me—in cars, on bikes, on sidewalks—whose lives matter just as much as mine. When I do take for granted the preciousness of the lives of others, I find myself taking risks that, upon reflection, are not worth the potential cost.
In a similar way, business leaders can lose sight of the other humans that make up their businesses and are affected by their businesses. Volunteering with a labor-rights organization in Trenton, New Jersey, I heard the stories of men and women working in poor conditions for minimum wage, employed by companies of all sizes that seemed to be thriving economically. Yet, at what cost? Who is paying for those business leaders to flourish?
We can harm one another in many ways, but God has made us to join Him in cultivating the world and those in it to flourish. I get excited when I think about how business leaders can be part of God’s mission to glorify Himself in our flourishing through their businesses. What would it look like for businesses of all types across the country to be agents of human flourishing?
Businesses can be agents of human flourishing in many ways because humans can flourish in many ways—vocationally, economically, intellectually, physically, relationally, emotionally, etc. God graciously allows people to experience for themselves and to share with others His goodness in these many ways; yet there is one very special type of flourishing that is more precious than all the others. God invites humanity to enjoy a flourishing relationship with Him that shapes and transforms every other part of life. Having a flourishing relationship with God is at the very core of the fullness of life Jesus came to give, and at great cost to Himself.
Businesses can promote human flourishing in all these ways: through the goods and services businesses offer to the public, through how they create and distribute those goods and services, and in their team cultures. And businesses have a unique opportunity to create infrastructure that sustains a dedication to human flourishing across generations. Yet, a business’s commitment to human flourishing will come at a cost, just as it did for Jesus.
Business leaders across the centuries have been willing to pay that cost, as a love offering to the God who is committed to human flourishing. For example, when the people of Israel obeyed God’s commandment to leave the edges of their fields unharvested for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner to eat, they promoted human flourishing. When loans were given to the poor without taking away their means of livelihood, Israel promoted human flourishing. In both these cases, potential financial gains and security were sacrificed for the sake of someone else’s well-being. In the same way, Jesus sacrificed His own well-being when He chose to lay down His life for His sheep to have an eternal relationship with God. And God honored His sacrifice.
This kind of business leading is truly revolutionary and creates opportunities for people to personally experience God and His kingdom. Kingdom experiences hopefully lead people to desire God, seek Him, find Him, and enjoy a transformed and transformational life with Him, following Jesus’s example.
As you pray today, may God reveal to us His vision for human flourishing through business:
- Pray that God would convict us about the ways we are not promoting human flourishing through the businesses we lead or what we are consuming, and in our interactions with all people as we go about our business.
- Pray that God would empower us with love to be agents that transform culture to reflect Him in and through our businesses, both on a grand scale and in how we treat every person we encounter.
Carola A. Hernández-Cappas
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Princeton
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Business
AUDIO (1:26:35): Panel Discussion: Law
This panel discussion about the confluence of faith and law was recorded at the Christian Union Nexus Conference 2016. Nexus is an annual conference that equips students and professionals to seek God and to live out their faith and change culture. The panelists were Cristina Martinez Squires, Third Year Law Student at Southern Methodist University, Michael P. Schutt, Director of CLS Law Student Ministries and of the Institute for Christian Legal Studies (ICLS), and Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
BOOK (256 pages) Business As Calling by Michael Novak
This book explains the meaning of work as a vocation - that it should be more than just a job, it should be a calling. Novak argues that business is a profession worthy of a person's highest ideals and aspirations, fraught with moral possibilities both of great good and of great evil. He takes on agonizing problems, such as downsizing, the tradeoffs that must sometimes be faced between profits and human rights, and the pitfalls of philanthropy as well as examines the daily questions of how an honest day's work contributes to the good of many people, both close at hand and far away.
BOOK (207 pages): Redeeming Capitalism by Kenneth J. Barnes
In this book Barnes explores the history and workings of this economic system, and unpacks biblical-theological teachings on work and wealth. The book pushes the reader to consider a more just and flourishing capitalism for the good of all.