John Beckett is a Christ follower, business leader, and author of Loving Monday and Mastering Monday. This month, as we reflect on our Core Value: integrating physical and spiritual, we asked John for permission to repost some of his writings on integration of faith and business.
In Chapter 9 of Loving Monday, John writes:
For years, I thought my involvement in business was a second-class endeavor — necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary. The clear impression is that to truly serve God as a “real Christian,” one must leave business and go into full-time Christian service. Over the years, I have met countless other business people who feel the same way.
The reason is clear: Our culture is thoroughly saturated with dualism. In this view, business and most occupations are relegated to the lower, the worldly, the material realm. As such they are perceived to lack dignity, spirituality, intrinsic worth, and the nobility of purpose they deserve.
[Francis] Schaeffer, looking back over the legacy of nearly three millennia of Greek thought, proposes this radically different view of true spirituality:
“It is not only that true spirituality covers all of life, but it covers all parts of the spectrum of life equally. In this sense there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual.”
Indeed, there is a dramatically different way to view the world and our work — a view which liberated me to see business as a high calling.
But to have this view, I had to look through a different window.
John reflects on how “looking through a different window” impacted one real-world business dilemma*:
Some time ago, one of our customers clandestinely copied our product with the intention of competing against us. I fretted over how to respond, aware that if this customer’s plans succeeded our company could face painful decisions, such as laying off people.
Then, the Lord nudged me to “put Him first.” “How,” I asked, “should we work through this dilemma?” The answer came in a thought I knew was not my own: We would offer to buy the tooling and full rights to our competitor’s new design. They, in turn, would agree to a long-term commitment to continue using our products.
I vividly recall the tense moment when, during our face-to-face meeting, our competitor considered our proposal – then breathing a huge sigh of relief as they agreed to the plan. My earlier attempts (and “human wisdom”) to find a solution brought impasse after impasse. The workable and very elegant solution resided in God! Time has validated the approach. We have kept the business and, equally important, maintained a close relationship with this large customer.
So one aspect of putting God first is trusting Him first, above our own wisdom or cleverness. One evidence of that trust is whether and how I listen. When I’m in a business meeting I find I make the most effective contribution when I quietly ask the Lord, “What is Your point of view on this? How would You like me to respond?” Then I stay poised for His guidance: a nudge, a phrase, an idea.
I’m learning that putting God first is more and more comprehensive. It means first in the morning—beginning the day in the Word and in prayer. I used to be content to read the Scriptures any time I could squeeze them in, but I’ve found that when I put God first in the morning, something I’ve read or prayed about often applies to a business situation that arises later in the day. It’s as if God prepares and equips me in advance when I start my day with Him.
It also means God is first when I am confused or sense danger. It means first when my relationship with another person is under strain. It means first, before I try to do it on my own….
John goes on to reflect on the character traits God expects of His people in the workplace*:
When we put God first, He is able to shape our character to reflect His character. Each workplace challenge becomes an opportunity to reflect the character of the God we seek to honor, to be His representatives to our coworkers. Psalm 112 describes several specific examples of godly character.
For example, the person who represents God is compassionate (v. 4). In my experience, this is not a quality we come by naturally. Rather, we default to insensitivity and selfishness. But as we allow God to work His character through us, we discover ways coworkers are enduring difficulties: with children, health, finances, relationships. These challenges can become opportunities to extend compassion and grace. One day Wendy and I visited Dianne, an hourly employee who had been admitted to the hospital following an apparent heart attack. We didn’t think much about this small act of compassion, but years later Dianne said in an interview, “… and Mr. and Mrs. Beckett visited me in the hospital, and I will never forget it.” Why such an impact? Because our simple act of caring reflects the gracious, compassionate nature of our God.
God’s representative also conducts his affairs with discretion (v. 5). A businessperson with this character quality uses sound judgment, is careful in his or her actions, and is filled with integrity. Such is the merchant, the medical practitioner, the tradesperson you trust implicitly, who is excellent in every aspect of his or her business dealings, and with whom you just love to do business. Can you imagine how different life would have been for thousands of Enron employees if their leadership conducted their business activities with discretion?
God’s representative is generous (vv. 5,9). Do we think of God as the sole owner of everything and our resources as “on loan” from Him, placed with us for proper stewardship? As we are generous to others with His resources, we become to God “the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). His presence enters the scene—at the orphanage, the prison, the home for the elderly, perhaps even a worldwide TV audience.
The psalmist says the righteous man has “dispersed abroad” (v. 9). What does that mean? We often take abroad to mean “overseas,” but here it seems to mean “far and wide.” How does such giving apply in a business setting? A good starting point is to offer appropriate wages, benefits, and a wholesome environment for our employees. It means strategic support for those less fortunate in our communities, and, as we are able, undergirding national and international efforts to help the poor and needy.*These sections were reposted with permission from an article originally published in Discipleship Journal 2007. To learn more about John Beckett and to find helpful resources related to integrating faith and business, please visit his website. Image via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)