Business ethics for Christians: Developing a proposal

What, if anything, does Christianity offer to the business  and the ethical decisions that people must make?

Honesty? Fairness?  Trustworthiness?   The Golden Rule?  Honoring God by the way we conduct ourselves?

Yes,certainly. But if that is all we have to offer, it’s not substantially different than other faiths.  Are Jews to be fair, trustworthy, and honest? Of course. Muslims? Of course.  This degree of similarity isn’t surprising considering the close geographical, historical and cultural proximity of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Christianity emerges from Judaism and Islam develops in a world shaped and influenced by Christianity and Judaism.

So again, what, if anything, constitutes a distinctly Christian business ethic? Perhaps we ought to ask, is there a uniquely Christian business ethic?

If Jesus claims all of our lives, how can Christians not have a business ethic?

How about the idea that Christians, in all parts of our lives, are to love God and love our neighbor? Still not uniquely Christian position- remember Jesus is summing up the teaching of Torah when he says this.

Never the less, lets think about this for a bit. What would that look like in the business world? If loving God and our neighbor means something like working toward shalom, wholeness, and the flourishing of all, what does that look like in business?

Sometimes you hear business people talk about a “win,win” situation. You and I both “win”, whatever winning is.

But perhaps Christians are called to a “win, win, win” situation? You , I win, and society wins also. If I own a local factory, or a local business, should I be concerned about my companies impact on the local community? As a Christian, am I obligated to do more than the law requires concerning (for example) the environmental impact of my business? Do I have an obligation to my employee’s families? Does my business have an obligation to the local schools, parks and senior center?

Does the story of the “good Samaritan” have anything to do with business? Are Christian business people called to go out of their way to help another? Are Christian business people called to accept help from the “other”, the stranger, the foreigner, the enemy?  Does this affect who I hire? Who is welcome in my store?

Does “love your enemies and pray for those who curse you”  have anything to do with business?  What does it look like for a Christian business to love it’s enemies? Are we to love our competitors?  What sort of business practices are appropriate in advertising? May I try to ‘steal’ another companies employees?  If I have knowledge of an upcoming situation that might adversely affect my competitor, am I obligated to tell them?

What about the story of Zaccheus? If I defraud someone by legal means, am I required to make restitution? Can I take advantage of others if it is accepted business practice?

What do you think?

What constitutes a distinctly Christian business ethic?    How can we know if the way we conduct our work life is distinctly Christian? Would others know? How could they tell?

I’d like to know, what do you think?

8 thoughts on “Business ethics for Christians: Developing a proposal

  1. I keep returning to your question and wondering about business ethic that is uniquely Christian. i can’t answer that one, but for whatever reason, I would think that however one answered this question, parallels in the other Abrahamic faiths can be found. Good thoughts to ponder Nancy!

    1. There is a bit to think about on this topic.I think there is a uniquely Christian business ethic, but it may be practically impossible to follow in today’s business world. I think I’ll stick with this topic for a bit and see what develops. I will appreciate hearing what you think as we go forward.

  2. I think what distinguishes Christian business ethics has nothing to do with “what to do” or “why you should do” but “to whom he should do.” The New Testament insists that “whatsoever ye do, do it with all my heart, as unto the Lord, not men.” The distinctive Christian is not the ethical imperative, but in whom the states – it is the Kingdom of the Messiah (Christ). That’s what I think …

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