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Why Run a Business on Christian Principles?

This is an edited version of a talk by Steve Wilson, President of Hide-Away Storage Services, Inc., given at a company meeting.

I want our company to do its part to make our communities, our state, and our world a better place to live and work. Since we are a business dedicated to making a profit, you might be asking yourselves, “What does the company have to do with making a better world?”

The simple answer is to look at our company purpose statement which is To HONOR JESUS CHRIST by:

SERVING customers with EXCELLENCE
MANAGING assets with DILIGENCE and
BUILDING team members with CARE, and
ADDING
value to our COMMUNITY. 

It is my belief that we “Honor God” by observing Christian principles in every area of our lives, including our business activities. Christian principles truly are the foundation upon which we can build a better world for ourselves and our children. Christian principles provide the reason to work for the best, rather than just accepting a passive, or fatalistic view of life and saying, “It’s not my business what happens.”

Unfortunately, running a business explicitly on Christian principles sometimes is confusing or offensive to others. In fact, I once got a letter from a customer saying, in essence, “Keep your religion out of business.”

That is hard advice to follow, if I do not want to be a hypocrite. For instance, if I call myself a Christian, upon what principles should I run a business? Should I operate on someone else’s principles just to be sure to, “Keep my religion out of business”? That would be hypocrisy.

Or should I abandon all moral principles and do everything possible to get the most dollars regardless of any other issue? That would be blind greed.

I suspect what the man meant when he wrote, “Keep your religion out of business!” is that he did not want me to say anything out loud about my faith. He wanted the Christian principles, but he didn’t want any of the language that goes with it.

I think all of our customers, all of our “team members,” and all of our owners – if they thought about it – would want us to operate with Christian principles. The alternatives are hypocrisy or greed.

Giving An Explanation

It is important, however, for you who work with our company to understand some of the foundations for our thinking.

First, I think you need to know that I am not asking, requesting, or requiring anyone who is part of our company to agree with my Christian values. You are free to believe whatever you wish without incurring any unhappy consequences.

Second, I think it would be helpful to clear up the question that I’m sure some of you are asking which is, “Steve, what do you mean by saying you are a Christian? Isn’t everyone a Christian who does not murder or steal or do other really bad things?”

No. I would not say that just because you do not murder or steal or do other really bad things that makes you a Christian. Nor do I believe that one is a Christian just because one goes to church, any more than sitting in a garage makes one a car.

What Is A Christian?

If I may speak in very broad Biblical concepts, I would say that a Christian is someone who accepts and trusts Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior, and holds these two basic beliefs in common:

First, there is a literal heaven and hell, and everyone will spend forever either in heaven or hell. It is not our good works that determine our eternal home. Instead, whether we will spend forever in heaven or hell is based on how we relate to Jesus Christ.

Second, Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Each person who individually and personally accepts and trusts the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for the payment of our individual sin will go to heaven. If we reject the forgiveness of sin which comes through Christ’s work on the cross, we will go to hell, or be eternally separated from God. The choice is up to each of us, and God will honor our individual choice. The issue is NOT good works, but trust in Jesus Christ.

So Why Do Good Works?

So what is the point of doing good works if they don’t get you to heaven? The answer is that good works are important as a response, as a “thank you,” for the gift from Jesus of eternal life. Heaven is a free gift, and heaven cannot be earned. Good works are merely our way of responding to that gift from God of eternal life, which we receive freely from in Jesus by just believing.

 

I’m sure some of you are saying, “Steve, what makes you so sure of yourself? Isn’t this an awfully arrogant attitude?”

It is not my intention to be arrogant. The points which I’ve been making are merely facts that come straight from the Bible, whatever your version.

A Christian businessman operating according to Christian principles simply is operating according to Biblical principles. It has nothing to do with churches, Bible translations, etc. or any of that other “churchianity” that so often divides people. The Bible is the final authority for a Christian. Period. End of story.

How It Relates To Business

Christians believe that Jesus Christ sets the standard for our behavior in business as well as in our personal lives. And probably the best way to work that out in our day-to-day business activity is always to be asking the question “What would Jesus do?” We can see this “What would Jesus do?” decision-making criteria worked out most clearly in terms of how our business decisions deal with:

1. PEOPLE
2. MONEY
3. EXCELLENCE

In terms of PEOPLE, Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.” We strive to serve others. We do not try to manipulate others. We serve others as best we can.

In terms of MONEY, Jesus used money, but He was not controlled by money. The purpose of our business is to make a good profit, but there is more to it than profit.

In terms of EXCELLENCE, Jesus said we are to do ALL things well. Excellence is our goal, although we sometimes fail. But at least we strive for excellence.

The two obvious questions that arise at this point are:

First, “What does a business run on ‘Christian principles’ look like?”

And second, “What are the implications for each ‘team member’ because we are running a business by Christian principles?”

One thing I can say for sure about a company run on Christian principles is that it serves others as Jesus would. It also is a company that cares as Jesus would about the welfare of customers, “team members,” owners, vendors, and anyone else with whom it has contact.

It would seem that there are three principle areas of caring for others that need to be considered. They are:

First, helping people who do not know God to know God.

Second, encouraging people who only know God casually to know Him better and more intimately.

And third, sharing the love of God with others who are in need. Sometimes those needs will be in terms of financial matters, and sometimes in other ways such as comfort to the hurting or a helpful action when someone needs a boost.

A Christian company also promotes family values, because God values the family. As individuals and as members of the Hide-Away Storage “team,” we should be promoting family values in our community.

If we intend to run a company on Christian principles, we also should look at Christ’s life and do our best to apply principles and teachings of His life to our activities, both in business and privately.

Let’s ask ourselves, “What do we know about what Jesus taught?” One thing I would suspect that all of us know is that Jesus taught us to go the second mile. In our lives, how do we “go the extra mile” for others?

Jesus also said He came to:
• Give sight to the blind
• Heal the sick
• Cleanse the lepers
• Restore hearing to the deaf
• Raise the dead
• Share the good news of God

Our Challenge For Today

I ask you to consider the application of this teaching from Jesus. Who are the blind in our society? Who are the sick? Does “sick” only refer to physical illnesses?

What do the poor need, and how can we help? Does poverty refer only to financial issues? Is there a broader meaning to “poverty” that includes interpersonal and spiritual issues?

It seems to me that all of us should be wrestling with how these questions apply to our lives, both in business and privately.

We need to be thinking bigger, thinking “outside the box,” in terms of how we can serve others. This is part of how we maintain our company purpose statement which includes the commitment to “HONOR GOD IN ALL WE DO”.