Monday, 7 May 2012


Can companies pursue profits and yet be socially responsible? How do we run our business in a way which honours God? How can Christian businessmen and entrepreneurs work hand-in-hand with the clergy to impact the community?

Recently, in May, a group of US billionaires got together to talk about money. Not how to make more of it but how to give it away. Challenged by billionaire investor, Warren Buffet and his friend, Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates, they pledged to give away at least half of their wealth.

As they laughed and ate together, they compared notes on what should be done. They agonised over the various ways to invest their money to tackle the world’s major problems – poverty, education, the environment and other causes.

Giving is not just a matter of writing a cheque. It has been fine-tuned to an art – some have even started applying business analytical practices to philanthropy.

Since time immemorial, the primary goal of a business has been to generate profits for the owners or shareholders of a company. But, over the past few decades, there has been a steady shift in emphasis. The concerns and welfare of the community are beginning to feature more prominently in a company’s vision, direction and decision-making.

Those with a head for business are beginning to have a heart for society.


But it’s not just about giving aid. A company can be unscrupulous in its dealings with its competitors and public, make massive profits and then decide one fine day to give away part of its profits to assuage its “conscience”.

In contrast, a responsible company is one guided by ethical principles from its planning right down to its operations. There is a cardinal rule which transcends all faiths. It’s the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. And much of business ethics is based on this rule.

For example, a printer would ensure that the timber – from which the paper is derived – comes from sustainably managed forests. A doctor would source his drugs from reputable manufacturers and ensure that they are not expired. Milk companies must ensure that its milk is free from dangerous contaminants like melamine (which is added to boost its protein content). A globally-recognised coffee brand extends affordable loans to small-scale coffee growers and ensures they get fair prices for their products.

Biblical values

While ethics provides a basic moral framework for running a business, the Christian has to go a step further. If he explores the Bible, he will be pleasantly surprised to find role models, wisdom and instruction on business.

Those who have become rich through business should spare a thought for the poor. Boaz allowed Ruth to glean in the field after the reapers. He even told his workers to deliberately pull out some from the bundles for Ruth (Ruth 2:15-16). A group of ladies, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna, provided for Jesus during his travelling ministry (Luke 8:1-3).

Paul charged the wealthy to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up eternal riches for themselves (1 Timothy 6:18-19). As those who have been blessed, they are reminded to be a blessing to others and not to be proud or self-indulgent. 

How do we run our business in a way which honours God? As God hates dishonest scales (Proverbs 11:1), honesty and integrity are key values to be upheld in any business. This means we should not shortchange the client or consumer. Paying our employees sufficiently and on time should also be our practice as God is just and sees everything (James 5:4).

Jessie, a Christian who owns a shop selling organic products, goes out of her way to encourage and counsel her customers, many of whom are cancer patients. She is well able to empathise with them in their struggles as she has been on the same journey before. The rapport built up between them often opens up the way for her to share her faith.


Imagine what synergy can be achieved when Christian businessmen and entrepreneurs work hand-in-hand with the clergy to impact the community.
  • Outreach: While church ministries can be supported by tithing and special offerings, the mission of reaching cities and nations for Christ needs the resources from businessmen and entrepreneurs.
  • Social transformation: This will need huge financial resources if it is to impact the nation in a big way. Here is where socially responsible corporations can play their part in building affordable housing, schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals and retirement homes.
In return, the clergy can encourage, affirm and pray for these businessmen. They need special “covering” in prayer and accountability partners as they face temptations daily, and are more vulnerable to the lure of money, pleasure and power.

Social Entrepreneurship

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Based on this premise, entrepreneurs establish businesses which enable the poor and marginalised to work and fend for themselves.

Through Care Channels, a non-profit Christian organisation, mothers living around the Payatas dump site in Manila are trained in the art of making calendars using dried, pressed flowers. Slick logistics deliver raw materials to the women and distribute the finished products for sale. Apart from supplementing the household income, mothers can look after their families as they work from home. Over 500 families are currently reaping the benefits from this programme.

It’s not about dishing out aid, which is not a sustainable way of eradicating poverty. People must feel they are capable of helping themselves. Once empowered, they’re able to hold their heads up high – their dignity restored.

Kingdom Vision

Christians in business must not see themselves as second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. They should embrace their calling wholeheartedly, believing that God has called them into business and endowed them with the ability to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).

In her book, “Moving On And Moving Up In The Marketplace”, author and apostolic strategist Naomi Dowdy shares about an Indonesian businessman who had a three-fold vision. First, he had a vision to improve the standard of English education in the country. Second, he wanted to upgrade the standard of healthcare in the nation. Third, he desired to build schools and health clinics which are easily accessible to the rural poor.

He gathered a group of business people, bankers and investors and shared his vision with them. Working together, they built a top-notch English university with teachers from America. He used the profits from this university to build many rural schools.

Next, he established a state-of-the-art hospital where rich patients willingly paid full price for its services. Similarly, he ploughed the profits from this hospital into building basic healthcare facilities in remote locations.

When Christian businessmen are fired up by such visions, the church will begin to see breakthroughs, which Naomi believes include the following:

  • Entrepreneurs will receive revelation from God about business.
  • Prophetic intercessors will hear from God on behalf of companies.
  • Covenant relationships will be formed between business people, and between business people and apostles and prophets.
  • New coalitions will be formed among business people so they can expand their business together.
  • Strategies will be birthed to create new jobs and develop economies that will turn villages, cities and then nations around.
  • Work groups for city and nation transformation will emerge.

Sending it ahead

We have often been reminded that material wealth is only good for this side of eternity. It’s going to be useless on the Day of Judgment (Proverbs 11:4). “Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts which perish” (Psalms 49:12).

But believers can use every opportunity to “send their riches ahead” of them, thereby translating the transient into the eternal. That’s what the Bible teaches about laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

In this regard, all of us can do our bit. But successful businessmen need to heed the call in greater measure … because to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). And God is no man’s debtor. It will be paid back – “in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38).

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, June 2011, issue 43.3.

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