Blogs (Faith), Business, Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

What is the Main Purpose of Business?

In my usual meanderings through the Internet I’ve recently come across work from Jeffrey Van Duzer, the business school dean at Seattle Pacific University and a former corporate attorney. He has some interesting things to say, including that maximising profit is not the top priority of business.

In today’s culture, that’s quite a statement! It seems that you really only have two choices when it comes to work and business: (1) Make a lot of money or, (2) If making money doesn’t appeal to you, do something else.

For many, many people, they are very good at what they do but they struggle to buy fully into the culture of the day, and for good reason! It seems, however, that sensible people who are sensible about business and money often feel as if maybe they’re called to something else, since they can’t “play the game” as the world plays it. This leads to us also viewing work and business in a negative light.

But Van Duzer doesn’t say this without offering a healthier alternative worth pondering:

“Probably the most controversial aspect of this view of business is that it relegates profit maximization or increasing shareholder wealth to a means and a constraint rather than a purpose. That doesn’t mean profit is not important. In the business school, we still teach how to run profitable businesses, but profitability is what you need in order to attract the capital that enables the business to do what it should be doing, which is to serve in the ways I mentioned.

“(These are: business… helps provide meaningful and creative work for people to do, which is part of how people express their God-given identity. Two, it produces goods and services that enable communities to flourish.)

“The dominant paradigm says the purpose of business is to maximize profit and increase shareholder value. This approach turns that upside down.

“Profit is like blood in a body. If blood isn’t pumping through your body, we don’t have to talk about your purpose, because you’re dead. Similarly, if profit isn’t flowing through a business, we don’t have to talk about the business’ purpose, because it’s bankrupt. Few of us get up in the morning and say, “Today I’m going to live to circulate blood.” Blood is important, but it’s not our purpose, and similarly for profit.

(Quoted from the website Faith and Leadership)

With my craft, ghostwriting, I’ve often wondered how I can run a profitable business when my heart is actually to just serve people; do stuff for people; use my talents for the community; and enjoy meaningful work. I’ve never been that excited about the bottom-line, about making the money, but more about all that other stuff. But yet I’ve known, somehow, that making money is something I should be interested in doing. Van Duzer’s putting this in a way that really makes sense to me.

It’s worth exploring this more, I think!

Standard
Blog and writing news

In the World But Not of the World: Transformation


(Picture from here)

This is the last part on a series of posts that link to a sermon I recently did at my church, Church on the Square in Sandton, Johannesburg.

In the last post I mentioned that in this post I would talk about transformation, since the series has focused more on the separation of Church and State and how that means the following:

1) That the Church should never be the State and should never wield the sword. The State’s responsibility is to wield the sword. The Church is a people, not an institution.

2) Christians are transferred into a Kingdom which functions under a King named Jesus — ie. political opinions must be seen as separate to the Church. If you’re a socialist and I believe in democracy our core mission, the Kingdom, is the same — which is to love others sacrificially and unconditionally like Jesus did, and let the world know that they can find love, joy, peace, salvation, real eternal life, and much more in Jesus. We should make sure we understand that political opinions are not the same as theological opinions — democracy or socialism is not a theology, it’s merely just a political opinion. Sure, one might turn out to be better than the other, but that doesn’t mean it is necessary more Christian, because the only thing Christian in this world is essentially people.

3) That the Church (the people) should never mix world ideologies with Christian ones — ala thinking that democracy is of the Bible and the spread of democracy akin to the advancing of the Kingdom; living like capitalists with our money instead of Christians who give generously and don’t make upgrading their lifestyle their core mission in life; always exercising our rights over others and looking to have power over them rather than serve them as Jesus served/serves us; judging people according to their income, education; and so forth.

4) The Church should never run as the world does — ie. running a church like a democracy (pastors / elders are voted into their job); running a church like a socialist state; and so forth.

That summary shows how difficult it can be to understand how we are still to transform our world and make it into a better place. After all, Christians do pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Plus, the Kingdom works its way through the whole dough, meaning that it is meant to permeate every aspect of society in every way.

‘In the world but not of the world’ is probably the best way to explain this. I think that the principle way transformation is done is through love first, which puts us on a relational level with others or those in power. Only then can we suggest (and only suggest) what might be good in a particular situation, or point politicians towards the basic principles espoused in the Bible, leaving it to them to work it out in detail, as that is, after all, their job.

Christians should also get involved with social causes as much as they can, as long as the social causes don’t become the core focus. We can bring as much food to poor people as we want, but until their hearts are changed (by Jesus himself as they believe in Him) they will not be able to truly break out of the systems of thought and spiritual entanglements that hold them in poverty.

Poverty is perhaps the easiest way to show what I mean. It seems pretty obvious that God has a big heart for the poor and so should we. This means that we should encourage our government(s) to look after the poor in various ways. But HOW that is done is a matter of political and economical opinion, not biblical opinion. It probably makes more sense to work in helping poor people be lifted out of the systems of thought that hold them captive rather than just give them hand-me-outs, but there is a time for hand-me-outs too. How that is worked out is not mentioned in the Scriptures — the Scriptures merely show us that we SHOULD care for the poor and for justice, but it’s up to us to work that out in the details, and to work with the State as best we can to work it out, but only as advisers never anything more.

Something like freeing people from slavery is an obvious evil to work against. But there are evils that are not so obvious, especially when it comes to things such as whether the State should allow homosexual couples to get married. (I realise this is controversial but it’s worth saying and it might stir up some conversation.)

After all, is it fair for a State to give benefits to heterosexual couples but not homosexual couples? Shouldn’t it view all people equally? Aren’t all viewed equal in the sight of God? The argument for or against it can be quite persuasive both ways.

I believe the Bible speaks against homosexuality as a lifestyle, but that’s something for Christians. Whether or not the State should allow such couples to get married is more a matter of political opinion than of anything else. Sure, I think a healthy country boils down to healthy families, but how this is all worked out in detail is a matter of opinion. What I do know, however, is that the State should never force the Church to marry homosexuals, as much as the Church should never enforce its morality through the State. Both have disastrous consequences.

People should come to Christ willingly. Our job is to love them sacrificially and unconditionally so that they would choose our God, enjoy the life He gives, and then choose His morality and lifestyle for themselves. The legalising of homosexual marriage I don’t think makes our job any harder than it already is. We love people just the same and counsel them just the same. Sometimes we have to love through difficult situations, but we ought to do it just the same.

Through the changing of hearts society itself will look more Christ-like, which is what we want, but that would be through people exercising a freedom to choose, rather than being under a compulsion — either socially or legally — by the Church. And it will come through us loving and living like Jesus.

Standard
Blog and writing news

In the World But Not of the World: Ideologies Do Not Rule Us


(Picture sourced from here

Because the Church and State are two separate entities and serve two different functions — the State serving to keep justice in the land, the Church serving to love others sacrificially — Christians can hold different political / economical opinions and yet still work together in the same Kingdom, because the Kingdom is our primary concern.

In Jesus’ day Simon was called a Zealot, which indicates that he held a certain political opinion. Basically, the zealots believed the Romans should be chased out of Israel by brute force.

On the other hand, Matthew was a tax collector, who effectively was working with the Romans and collecting tax for them. It’s easy to see that these two men held two vastly different political opinions, but Jesus calls them to the same Kingdom and they work together for the same end. That’s how the Kingdom works.

Likewise, you may be a socialist and I may be a capitalist. Or, rather, to prevent those ideologies from being our identity (calling you a socialist makes it your identity, which it isn’t) let’s rather say that you may believe a socialist form of government / economics will work, while I believe a capitalist economical system will work for the nation. We may hold extremely different viewpoints politically / economically, but we can work together because we agree on the same things in the Kingdom — we both agree we should love all sacrificially, that we should tell people that God loves them and wants them to know Him.

There are a couple of points that can be highlighted here.

First, neither capitalism or socialism is more biblical than the next, because the New Testament makes no comment on how a country should be run, but more on how a Christian should live. There are some basic principles that a country should do (uphold justice), but there are no detailed policies listed in the New Testament. As I said in my previous post, Christians are called to turn the other cheek, the State is not.

Because neither is more biblical we should never use the Bible to promote a political / economical ideology. Many pro-democracy people, especially some Americans to be honest (I’m not slamming Americans), think that Democracy comes from the Bible, and that the Bible supports democracy, so if they spread democracy they believe they are spreading the Kingdom. But if you check it out there are scriptures to support socialism in the Bible as well, and there are many. The point is that the Bible isn’t interested in these ideologies.

Second, in reference to this, our ideologies do not rule us. We are born into a Kingdom with a King, who is Jesus. HE rules us. He tells us what to do and we do it.

Third, we should never bring these ideologies into the church. Churches must not run like democracies or social governments. They run according to the Kingdom, under one Head, who is Jesus, and work through relationships between those in the church.

So when it comes to how we live we don’t apply the principles of capitalism on how we should handle money. We may believe capitalism is good for the country and good for our business, but it’s not good for our personal lives, and it’s not good for the Church. Jesus said we cannot serve two masters. We serve God and Him alone, and we don’t run our personal lives or the church by ideologies like democracy, capitalism, socialism, collectivism, or any other of these types of ideas.

So do you run your personal finances like a capitalist or a Christian? Do you approach your income like a capitalist or a Christian? That’s the challenge for us in South Africa, where capitalism is becoming the culture.

Sorry for the long post. The next post will cover transformation — so how should we affect government / society / politics / economics then? Do we have nothing to do with these? Or do we influence them in some way? And how could we influence them without getting sidetracked and with keeping our focus intact?

Standard
Blog and writing news

Fatter: The Problem with So Much Business

Mr Greedy
(Mr. Greedy, every morning, used to eat 66 succulent sausages and 48 pieces of toast)

There’s a phenomenon called ‘escalation’. The dictionary defines at as when “something gets more intense step by step”. This phenomenon occurs in all sorts of areas in our lives, and one place where it annoys me more than any is in business.

Allow me to explain. I believe in progress, but not progress that throws to the wind sustainability, realism, justice, health and ecology. In short, it’s probably better for me to say I believe in development — that development is a good thing — but I don’t believe in endless progression.

In business, especially corporate business, this thing of endless progression rears its ugly head way too often. We want more profits this year than last, greater production this year than last, more time spent on doing things this year than last, and on and on we need to do better and better and better and produce more and more and more.

At the same time, I find that the kind of profits many companies expect to pull in doesn’t line up to what they are paying their staff or the actual amount of workforce they have. In other words, they provide an inflation based eight percent increase in salaries, but expect almost half more production than the previous year, and will hire fewer people than is needed to get it there.

This is one of the problems the Western world is facing in its present Capitalistic systems. We shout ‘more, more, more’ or, rather, the rich few shout ‘more, more, more’ but there is very little talk of sustainability. There is little talk of slowing down and implementing development ethics that take into account that people can only do so much, should only do so much, and enough is enough.

Many sales people have experienced this first hand. If this month we manage to exceed our target, next month’s target is placed higher than it may otherwise have been. If we reach it or exceed it, the next month’s target is placed even higher.

There comes a point when realism must be taken into account, but seldom is it. Once we reach saturation point and have run out of manpower, skills, or we’ve been working to the bone and no longer have the energy — and so we miss that month’s target — then someone needs to be fired.

Of course it isn’t fair. But it’s the philosophy of 110 percent. No one can give 110 percent all-year round without burning out sometime. But companies tend to always expect 110 percent, all the time.

Personally, I think a bad businessman gives 110 percent. A smart and healthy businessman needs to only give 100 percent.

Many people feel like a failure that they don’t exceed their goals. Why should that be the case? We never get to celebrate our successes under this philosophy either, because the goal posts are always moving.

That’s escalation. The philosophy of more. The philosophy of fatter. The rat race, as they call it. A deeply flawed philosophy. A successful business, in my mind, is one that manages to give better quality of life to all — not just to the few.

The philosophy of fatter provides no quality of life, no rest — it’s unhealthy — and therefore should be jettisoned from society’s philosophy.

Standard