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In Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teachings on the Moral Goodness of Business, author Wayne Grudem discusses the biblical perspective of broad business fundamentals. The essential themes he covers include ownership, productivity, employment, transactions, profit and money, inequality of possessions, competition, borrowing and lending. Each chapter of the book details how God responds to different elements of business, how individuals can imitate God’s character in business, and common temptations associated with wealth, possessions, and business relationships and transactions.
Referencing Scripture and basic macro- and microeconomic theory to combat the common negative perception of business basics, Grudem provides a simple explanation to what the Bible says about the righteousness of business ventures, pursued in the right heart and focus on God; for example, Grudem argues that “many aspects of business activity are morally good in themselves, and in that they bring glory to God,” and not in the atypical measures of evangelism and charity (Grudem, W. , 2003).
Reviewing In Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teachings on the Moral Goodness of Business, I found myself in agreement with author William Grudem’s statements on productivity, profitability, and competition as means for raising the standard of living in an economy. His explanation of business restrictions and the negative viewpoint of business as primary obstacles for solving world poverty was another compelling argument. However, Gruden did make some unagreeable statements regarding the government’s place as a welfare provider and the obligation of the wealthy to provide a greater share to the needy.
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Overall, the book’s take on business and our “God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems” provided an inspiring message for Christian business owners and workers. As a student of economics and finance, most of the basic elements Grudem discussed align both with my theory of economics and my biblical worldview. For instance, throughout the entire book, Grudem mentions how individual and thus economy-wide productivity and competition work hand in hand to multiply wealth in an economy.
In The Power of Productivity, author William Lewis explains “the key to improving economic conditions . . is increasing productivity through intense, fair competition” (Lewis, W. W. , 2005). Productivity breeds competition among productive members, and competition increases productivity. Grudem uses the classic example of product accessibility to explain this phenomenon. For example, the first computer cost thousands of dollars to make; as more computer manufacturers entered the market to capture the demand for computers, competition increased; over time, we have watched the cost of computers fall and the functionality of computers rise.
With an expanded computer market, computer based jobs, services, and corporations are created in addition to a risen overall standard of living. In Genesis 1:28, God calls us to “subdue the earth . . . doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful,” saying “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Grudem, W. 2003) (King James Version). Discussing the role of poverty in an economy, Grudem makes some agreeable statements about the position of government in hindering the ability of business to provide a long-term solution to world poverty; he mentions business restricting regulations, anti-competitive activity, implies socialist government effects on business success, and governments that “do not enforce contracts or establish a sound banking and court system” (Grudem, W. , 2003).
While it is important for the national government to provide protections for incredible market failure, constitutional rights, and inefficiencies in legal matters, most governmental “red tape” to provide anti-competition protection from corporate giants damages the large infrastructure of small business inside state boundaries. Grudem points out these obstacles and suggests that “another large reason business activity has not yet solved world poverty is negative attitudes toward business in the world community” as inherently evil (Grudem, W. 2016); thus, removing regulatory boundaries faced by businesses today and raising awareness to business’s righteous place in providing the world with a much-needed benefit would ultimately alleviate the problem of poverty throughout the world.
Although Grudem makes some fantastic points on government restraint of business ventures, in the chapter covering competition, Grudem claims that “we should support such efforts [by governments and charitable organizations] to provide a “safety net” for those unable to take care for themselves” (Grudem, W. , 2003).
While 1 John 3:17, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him,” calls Christians to be generous and selfless with those in need, the government’s place as a safety net and welfare bank for those in need is questionable, as is the “need” of those disabled individuals, whereas the church was the traditional means of charitable works in the economy. The definition of “disabled” in the United States has become increasingly vague as many attempt to abuse the welfare system for personal gain.
For example, “the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity,” including those who have record or are regarded as having those disabilities, but don’t actually or currently have a disability (ADA National Network). While Christians are called to be merciful and gracious, we are provided with the God-given ability to question and use intellect in decisions on giving. Matthew 10:16 says, “behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.
Just as Grudem explains the government’s lack in providing a free market for businesses, the government has been extremely flexible in providing unjust reimbursement and protection to individuals under the welfare net. Next to claims about governmental safety nets, Grudem also makes a broad statement in regards to the wealthy which not only stands against his economic stance throughout the book, but can also be considered imprudent from a biblical perspective.
Analyzing 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Grudem states that “those who are right have more opportunities and also have more obligation to give generously to the poor” (Gruden, W. 2003). Without a doubt, this statement does hold some logical merit; however, 1 Timothy 6:17-19 speaks more to the temptations of the heart and motives of the wealthy, reminding them to be generous and avoid becoming prideful. In terms of economics, Grudem broadly portrays trickle-down economics as a means for improved standard of living for all levels in an economy and preaches the position of business owners and competition among them as drivers of economic productivity.
A theory of trickle-down growth and development outlines the method of wealth passing down the classes and explains that “as more capital is accumulated in the economy more funds may be available to the poor for investment purposes” (Aghion, P. , & Bolton, P. , 1997). With a higher percentage of money taken from the wealthy for welfare purposes, in terms of taxation, less money is available for these corporate incomes to reinvest back into business ventures; ultimately, this reduces competition, innovation, and overall economic well-being.
Knowing this, it is important that the wealthy not be “discriminated” against for their wealth, but from a biblical perspective, wealthy Christians are called to a higher financial responsibility with the greater financial blessing they have received from the Lord. Throughout In Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teachings on the Moral Goodness of Business, author Wayne Grudem provides common sense examples to explain what the Bible says about often disputed elements of business.
These include ownership and possession of personal property, productivity, employment relationships, commercial transactions of buying and selling goods and services, the righteousness and effectiveness of profits in a business, the love of money, inequality of possessions, competition in the economy and among individuals, and the misconceptions and biblical perspective on borrowing and lending. Concluding his analysis of these business themes in a biblical and economical point of view, Grudem explains how God is looking to the motives of our hearts in business and that our goals should align with God’s purpose and guidance in our lives.
Secondly, he makes a compelling case for business success as a means to alleviate world poverty and describes the obstacles businesses face that prevent this long-term solution. Ultimately, Grudem’s simple explanations proved almost entirely Scripturally based, and most of Grudem’s economic theory aligned with my beliefs. For example, he made a great position on productivity, profitability, and competition as positive effects in raising the economic well-being and providing the means for individuals to pursue their God-given gifts; in addition to this, I agreed with his final case for the removal of government barriers to business success.
On the other hand, some statements made by Grudem were arguable; for example, I refuted his claim of governmental place to be a “safety net” for incapable individuals with a call to question the “need” of those claiming welfare to ensure we give to those who actually need it. Secondly, I called out the contradiction in his claim that the wealthy are obligated to give more with biblical context and economic stance on trickle-down economics as a means for overall economic success.