“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21

IS JESUS BAD FOR BUSINESS?

In at least half of my radio interviews I am asked, “Does Christianity and business work together?” The reason I am asked this question is, in our current society the prevailing feeling of mixing our faith with our business lives is out of step. Fundamentally and practically this concept of not mixing business and our faith is in error. Jesus and his values are strongly related to running a successful business.

First, let’s consider the reality of most lives. We all have bills to pay. To pay these bills most of us have to work. In fact, most people spend more than half of their awake hours working. The vast group of humanity has to and needs to work. But are they to leave their faith at home? Making them part time Christians. A difficult proposition for those who desire a personal relationship with God. Working is a necessity and so is a strong faith life, and they should be connected.

Second, there are businesses that are faith based and they thrive. Consider Chick-fil-a, a wildly successful business. While we can disagree with some of their positions on faith, they are Christian based and follow their beliefs. If you compare Chick-Fil-a to other fast food restaurants they exceed all in productivity and profits on a store by store basis. What makes this more remarkable is that they are only open six days a week versus seven for their competitors. They are closed on Sunday, every store.

Their customer reviews exceed those of other fast food places and their employees are always the happiest. Their lines are long every lunch time, but people will wait.

Many of the small businesses I meet that are Christian based, likewise have similar results. Their employees are courteous and congenial. The customer reviews are high.

What makes them successful, isn’t the pursuit of money, but the way they pursue paying their bills and earning profits. They think long term and not short term. They think about how they treat their customers and are not satisfied until the rankings are high. They think about making quality products. They create a great work environment for their employees. Jesus’ values are present in all these thoughts.

I know of a firm that has grown substantially over the last few years, that doesn’t embody these values. But warning clouds are on their horizon. Through skillful high pressure sales tactics they have amassed a large number of customers. But less than one percent of these customers are satisfied. When I discussed this with their management, I was met with surprise. They responded by saying, “But we are making lots of money.” True for the time being.

Looking at their reviews on line, a tidal wave of complaints is growing. It has become so large that it will swamp their business. They invest most of their activity in selling and making money;  little in satisfying their customer. Certainly, opposite of Christian values. Like all businesses with this direction, they will enjoy a period of success and inevitably fail.

In my book Jesus &Co.I talk about this disconnect between the ethical values and purpose of companies. Those that are inwardly motivated to generate profits through any means, typically stumble. Ethics and especially Christian ethics will solidify a company for the long term and help them avoid the disasters caused by short term thinking.

The reason short term thinking companies stumble;  is they serve to make money now and not to produce a great long term product. They use high pressure sales tactics to acquire customers and do little to satisfy. For the time being their money is growing, but it will soon dry up.

Jesus, who himself was a business person, makes a profound business statement when he says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” An insightful strategic thought. If we chase money as our only goal we will be captivated by that goal and ignore the real purpose of our company.

Customers shop where they are respected and employees work where they are cared about. Our goals should be long term and not in the short term pursuit of money.

Many of the Parables of Jesus center around this concept of fair play in business. More than half talk about how to exist in business ethically and sustainably.

The values of Jesus are always long term. They speak to fair dealing. They embody how to treat our customers and employees. They are always about fair play and decency. What employer wouldn’t want these values as part of their operating culture?

How do we as individuals bring these values into the workplace if we work in a non-Christian business. Simply act in a manner that is pleasing to our Lord. We don’t have to stand on the lunch table and declare we are Christian. We only have to bring the values to our behavior. Overtime our bosses and compatriots will notice that we are the ones who seek long term sustainable solutions. We are the ones who defend our customers right to a quality product. We become the person, people turn to for moral advice.

The goals of all businesses should be on achieving long term goals and not short term victories. Short term victories wane and long term success sustains.

We don’t need to declare we are Christian in the work place to be Christian. We need to act in a Christian manner that inspires others. Words don’t change people, actions do.

A business purely based on money will not survive in the long run, a business that has the long term values of Jesus will.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ben White

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