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A Word to Christian Employers

How should the Christian employer view himself and his company in light of the great commandment to love God with all one’s heart and soul and strength? What is it about the Christian employer’s attitude that sets him apart from worldly employers, that demonstrates to all that this man is not a typical businessman? As Christians living in this world we are called by God to “come out from among them” and be separate (II Corinthians 6:17). The Christian employer too then must be clearly different from worldly employers in the way he thinks about things in the running of his company. He must demonstrate by his attitude and actions that he loves God and his neighbor.

Now as Reformed Christians we recognize that our love for God and the neighbor arises out of a most profound gratitude for God’s gracious salvation and is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Because of God’s wondrous grace by which he redeemed us from sin, we cannot but love God and our neighbor. We do it spontaneously. Finding that God first loved us (I John 4:19) and gave up his only-begotten Son for our sakes, we are overwhelmed by the desire to return that love to him. And by the power of grace which is the Holy Spirit we are enabled to live such lives of thankful love to God and the neighbor. Thus, love for God and the neighbor is the proper and natural attitude of the Christian employer which then sets him apart from the ungodly employers and businessmen of the world.

For a Christian employer, therefore, as for all Christians, it is vitally important that he view himself and behave himself before men as one who is saved by grace and thankful. He does this by demonstrating love for God and his neighbor. If he does not demonstrate this love he has no right to call himself a Christian or to be considered a Christian by others. The apostle James especially stresses this, saying that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). A faith that does not manifest itself with good works of love for God and the neighbor is a dead faith; it is no faith at all. It is the phony faith of the ungodly and hypocrites in the church. Thus, James urges us to a life of good works. He says this is the way one demonstrates his faith, i.e., that he is a saved-by-grace believer. In verse eighteen of the same chapter he says “I will show thee my faith by my works” (my emphasis). How then does a Christian employer show his faith by his works?

The Christian employer does this in the way he views himself and his business with respect to God. He does this by having an attitude of love and submission to God in his business. He does not only show his faith by going to society once a week and to church on Sunday, although he certainly does this. The Christian employer must love God in his particular place in the world. In other words, he must love God as an employer, as a businessman. In the building and running of a company, in the successes and failures, in the acquisition of power and wealth, the Christian employer must love and submit to God.

Loving God as an employer means recognizing and praising him as the source of all one’s authority, abilities, opportunities and wealth. Worldly business owners view themselves as “self-made” successes. They recognize only themselves as the source of their authority and abilities and wealth. They praise only themselves for their success (although they usually blame others for their failures). But this is not love for God. This is nothing but ugly pride and self-glorification. The law of God says “thou shalt have no other gods before me,” but this kind of employer serves the god of himself and bows to the god of filthy lucre. He serves not God, but mammon (Matthew 6:24).

The Christian employer must recognize and praise God as the source of all his authority. In his business he certainly has power and authority. He has authority over the running of the company, over decisions made from day to day. But love for God requires that he acknowledge him as the source of that authority. In Romans 13:1 the apostle Paul points out that “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” God is the real possessor of all power and authority. He gives it out to men to use in service to him. Thus Christian business owners must worship and bow down before God as the omnipotent one; they must recognize him as the one who gave them their power; and they must use their power and authority to serve him. They must seek to further the causes of his kingdom and seek to be good stewards of his creation.

Loving God also means acknowledging and worshiping him as the source of one’s talents and abilities. The apostle James has something to say about this too. He says that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). The business owner must recognize that his ability to read economic trends or understand good marketing ploys or anything else is a good gift in the form of a talent which comes down from the Father. Loving God means giving him thanks and praise for those gifts. It also means using those talents to the best of one’s ability. Jesus taught in the Parable of the Talents that one must take the talents given him by God and make them prosperous. The Christian employer must put his talents to work in a way that reveals the goodness of the giver.

Another way the business owner demonstrates love for God is by acknowledging him as the source of all opportunities that arise in the life of the company. This is probably something we do not think about so often, but confessing the sovereignty of God means recognizing him as the source of all our opportunities. He directs all things by his providence so that whatever happens is according to his will and by his power. So when the company is suddenly given the opportunity to gain new accounts or purchase new land or equipment or anything else, the Christian business owner does not heap praise on the market or some turn of events, but he thanks and praises God. He recognizes that God is responsible for that turn of events and he gives thanks and praise to him.

Furthermore, the Christian employer demonstrates his love for God, and the neighbor too, in his attitude toward the wealth he accrues. The successful Christian businessman, and there are many, inevitably accrues much wealth through his company. His attitude toward that wealth must be sharply antithetical to that of worldly businessmen. Ungodly employers view their wealth as entirely their own to use how they please. They put it in the service of their insatiable lusts for pleasure, power, and fame among other things. Their love of money is truly a root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6:10). But the Christian business owner must be in stark contrast to this.

The Christian employer who loves God must view his money in relation to God. All of his money comes from God, has its source in God. God owns everything in the world. For “the earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). It is God’s earth, his world. He made it; he controls it and directs it. So when wealth falls into our hands, how can we fail to recognize that it comes from God? How could we possibly think that it is all ours to do with as we please? It is not ours. Woe to the man who loves his money, who praises himself for obtaining it, who says to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). It may be that God will say to such a man, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (v. 20). Rather, the Christian employer recognizes that God possesses all things, even money, and he lends them to us. He expects us to be good stewards of those things. What does it mean then to be a good steward?

A good steward takes care of the money or possessions of the owner. He does not seize hold of that money as if it were his own and then go spend it all on himself. He understands that the money is not his own. He understands that he has a responsibility with respect to that money to use it in ways approved by the owner. This kind of stewardship must characterize the Christian employer’s attitude toward his wealth. He has been entrusted with it to use in ways approved by God. He is God’s steward with respect to that wealth. Well, how does God want him to use this wealth?

Jesus says that we must seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31). Now doesn’t it make sense that we should seek God’s kingdom first, seeing that we are stewards of God’s things? God’s kingdom is the number one priority for all believers, including Christian employers, with respect to their money. Jesus says that placing the kingdom first means giving alms to the poor (Luke 12:33). For us this means giving to the benevolence fund. Considering how wealthy we are today, the benevolence fund should never suffer lack. We must give abundantly to provide for our poor. Jesus also describes this seeking first as laying up “treasures in heaven” because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). Thus we must use our money to support heavenly, spiritual things. This includes all the “kingdom causes” of Christian schools, the mission work of the Church, and many other things. When we liberally support all these causes we will find that our hearts are in those causes. Our hearts will be on spiritual things and not earthly, carnal things.

Furthermore, seeking the kingdom first with respect to money means using that money rightly within the company itself. The Christian employer must have his heart set on heavenly treasures in his particular place of labor. The apostle Paul, after stating that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” says that the man of God ought rather to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (I Timothy 6:10-11). The Christian employer, then, must not be greedy and covetous, but rather one who loves his neighbor within his own company. He must treat his employees well. Paul says this explicitly in Colossians 4:1: “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” The Christian employer must be concerned for the welfare of his workers even as God the Master is concerned for his welfare. He must be kind to them; he must show mercy to them; he must provide for their needs; he must be hospitable to them; he must be honest with them (see Romans 12:9-21). In this way he will seek the kingdom of God first in his business.

When the Christian employer seeks the kingdom of God first, when his heart rests on the heavenly treasures, then everything else will fall into place. Jesus puts it this way: “All these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). If we were to apply this to the employer, Jesus means that the business will be blessed. It might not always experience what the world deems blessedness. It might not always experience fiscal stability. But it will be blessed nevertheless. This blessing is the spiritual blessing of God. This is the blessing of peace and joy and contentment. Pay no attention to the world’s idea of happiness as pleasure and power and fame. The spiritual blessing of God is true and enduring happiness.