I’ll have to be honest, I’ve not always considered the activity of business and all that it entails to be particularly glorifying to God. As many times as I (along with many people in the world) have been deceived, cheated, or suffered hardship in employment, business has not always been viewed as a positive field to pursue or participate in. One certainly does not think of glorifying God when he hears the term business. But in his book, Grudem applies one of the most fundamental doctrines in all of Scripture to the practice and convention of business. This foundational doctrine is being created in the image of God, and Grudem shows how this doctrine is illustrated through the means and activity of business. In fact, not only is business an excellent way to demonstrate this truth, it is even a necessary way to demonstrate it. The basic premise of the book is that the various aspects of business provide many opportunities to glorify God (because we are created in His image), but also many temptations to sin (because of the Fall). The many components that make up what we consider to be business are clear expressions of the responsibilities and privileges that come with being created in the image of God. Grudem deals with all of the individual aspects of business, expounding on how each of them reflect God’s perfect attributes that were meant to be displayed in us because we have been created in the image of God. According to Grudem, being created in the image of God (as Genesis 1:27 portrays) is imitating Him and having His wonderful attributes reflected in us. And in more ways than many of us have ever considered, business accurately and vividly displays God’s attributes, as we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects His character in us.
First, Grudem explains how ownership of possessions imitates the character of God. Basically, it does so because just as God exercises absolute sovereignty over the entire universe, we as humans created in His image can also exercise sovereignty over a tiny portion of the universe. But as with anything that God created good, and because of the effects of the Fall, ownership of possessions can also provide many temptations to sin. Second, he discusses productivity and how it reflects the character and nature of God. It does so because just as God has wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, and creativity, we can also imitate those attributes by inventing and creating goods and services that will be beneficial to others. Again, there are also temptations to sin in productivity, such as focusing on material things for their own sake. Third, he deals with how even employment exhibits God’s character. We can glorify God in our employer/employee relationships by imitating the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The temptation to sin in this way comes from an improper exercising of authority in employer/employee relationships. Fourth, he analyzes the subject of commercial transactions, and how they relate to God’s character. We can imitate God’s character every time we buy and sell, if we do so with honesty, faithfulness to our commitments, fairness, and freedom of choice. We can even reflect the interdependence and interpersonal love among the members of the Trinity by doing so. Still, temptations to sin are very present. We can sin by being greedy, or having our hearts be overcome with selfishness.
Fifth, he points out how making profit(s) from business portray God’s attributes and character. It goes back to being created in the image of God, for through obtaining profits, we make good and efficient use of the earth’s resources. We exercise dominion over them. Additionally, we can reflect God’s attributes such as love for others and wisdom as we make profits from our goods and services. Once more, there are temptations to sin in making profits, just as there are in any other aspect of business. Sixth, he describes how money relates to reflecting God’s character. It is a means to invest and expand our stewardship and imitate God’s sovereignty and wisdom. Through it, we meet our own needs and imitate God’s independence, and we can even give it to others, reflecting God’s mercy and generosity. And as Grudem points out in every chapter, the temptation to sin is prevalent with the use and possession of money. But the distortion of a good thing like money should not lead us to believe that it is inherently evil. Seventh, he explains the issue of the inequality of possessions, and how it can be glorifying to God. Grudem points out how God has unequally entrusted stewardship to various people. This is because He has gifted everyone in different ways. Eighth, he deals with competition and how even this can glorify God. It does so by providing many opportunities to manifest the God-like abilities that we’ve been granted by God. What competition does is enable each person to find a specific role in which they can contribute to society and the good of others. Ninth, he discusses borrowing and lending and how they relate to the glory of God. Borrowing and lending are closely related to the use of money, for proper practice of the two actually multiply the usefulness of money many times over. It multiplies our ability to enjoy God’s material creation, and thus increases our opportunities to be thankful for those things. In addition, we can show forth God’s trustworthiness, His honesty and wisdom, as we borrow and lend. But there are several temptations to sin, but nonetheless, it is a good thing fundamentally.
In the final part of the book, Grudem deals with the most fundamental facet of doing business: the attitudes of our heart. If all the activities of business are to be glorifying to God, then we must engage them all with a heart attitude that is pleasing to God. All business activity tests our hearts, according to Grudem. While ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, borrowing and lending all provide the opportunities to glorify God and demonstrate His character—the temptations to distort those things (which are fundamentally good) are very present. But if we love God above all, we will reflect the character of God in all of the aspects of business. And finally, in the last chapter, which serves as sort of a footnote to the entire book, Grudem discusses the impact that business can have on the poverty-stricken world. He argues that the practice of business, of selling goods and services for a profit is the only way poverty can be defeated in places where the economy is very poor. Having read the entire book, I highly recommend it to not just people with a negative view of business in general, but also to Christians who seek to understand what it means to be created in the image of God.
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