27 Sep #192 – “Leading Faithfully” Basics – First Things – Love
ESSENCE: The first step on the ancient path from the “as usuals” of business as usual, work as usual, and faith as usual to “a better way” is RENEW, and the first step of RENEW is reordering disordered priorities to “Keep First Things First”. When “all the Law and the Prophets” depend on the commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way must understand how the Biblical first principle of “Love” relates to business and work. The first principle of Love helps us see that: a business is a creation of God’s image-bearers that serves as a platform for those image-bearers to become more human, beautify the world and, in so doing, glorify God; work should be an opportunity for people to pursue the Great Commandments of Matthew 22 by living out Imago Dei, obeying the Creation Mandate, and using their God-given gifts to love others generously through service; and leading with faithful integrity requires cultivating a work culture of Shalom and stewarding an organization in a way that encourages and facilitates those faithful human pursuits and maximizes the flourishing of all people it touches, while recognizing God’s limits of respect and sustainability.
“Leading Faithfully” Basics is about going back and re-examining the basics of leading faithfully through business a better way–business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. You can find more “Leading Faithfully” Basics posts at Integrous | “Leading Faithfully” Basics (integriosity.com)
We have examined business as usual, work as usual and faith as usual and considered the problems they can create, and the missed opportunities to which they can lead, for organizations, faithful leaders and the creation (particularly humans) they touch.
We are now diving deeper into an alternative to “as usuals”–a “better way” we call leading faithfully with faithful integrity through business a better way. The first step on the ancient path to that “better way” is RENEW, and the first step of RENEW is “Keep First Things First” by reordering disordered priorities. In this post we will look at the “First Thing” of Love.
Keep First Things First–Love
Integriosity® and faithful integrity are about aligning the purpose, values and culture of an organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. A key element of the RENEW step of Integriosity is re-ordering disordered priorities, because business as usual — business in “the way of the world” or, more precisely, according to “the kingdom of this world”–generally puts “second things first”.
In looking at Biblical principles for work and business, it is important to go back to first principles by asking what the Bible tells us are the keys to everything else. And then we have to “Keep First Things First” by pursuing those first principles and not the “everything else”! Four key principles are captured by the word Integriosity. The key Biblical principles that form the foundation of Integriosity are embedded in the word itself–Integrity (and its components Righteousness and Kingdom) and Generosity (and its components Love and Humility).
In recent posts, we have taken a dive into the “Integrity Priorities” embedded into Integriosity–Righteousness and Kingdom. Let’s now begin to look at the “Generosity Priorities”–Love and Humility.
While it is hard enough to understand the intersection of faith and work/business, an initial reaction to the intersection of work/business and love might be to start thinking of Tina Turner singing “What’s love got to do with it.” But if “all the Law and the Prophets” depend on the commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), how can “love” not be a Biblical first principle and how can it not be essential to an organization operating with faithful integrity? It can’t.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
We hope you will see that:
• A business is a creation of God’s image-bearers that serves as a platform for those image-bearers to become more human, beautify the world and, in so doing, glorify God.
• Work should be an opportunity for people to pursue the Great Commandments of Matthew 22 by living out Imago Dei, obeying the Creation Mandate, and using their God-given gifts to love others generously through service.
• Leading with faithful integrity requires cultivating a work culture of Shalom and stewarding an organization in a way that encourages and facilitates those faithful human pursuits and maximizes the flourishing of all people it touches, while recognizing God’s limits of respect and sustainability.
This all flows from the first principle of Love.
Loving Generously–Faithful Presence
In his book To Change the World, James Hunter introduces a concept he calls “faithful presence”. After concluding that the various ways in which the Evangelical church has been engaging culture in America is doomed to fail, Hunter proposes faithful presence as an alternative theology. He describes it as follows:
A theology of faithful presence calls Christians to enact the shalom of God in the circumstances in which God has placed them and to actively seek it on behalf of others. . . . What this means is that where and to the extent that we are able, faithful presence commits us to do what we can to create conditions in the structures of social life we inhabit that are conducive to the flourishing of all.
Faithful presence is a way of living out love your neighbor in our daily life–even while working or leading an organization. Let’s look at some key ideas in Hunter’s description:
• Enact the Shalom of God. “Shalom” does not just mean “peace”. Dr. Anne Bradley defines Shalom as: “universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight, representing the way things ought to be.” We define Shalom as “an environment in which truth, beauty and goodness are valued and people and institutional cultures flourish by doing what God designed them to do in the way God designed them to do it—assisting in God’s restorative plan for His Kingdom by adding to its beauty“. This ties to Part 4 of the BIGGER GOSPEL we discussed in post #190 (First Things-Kingdom)–it is what the world will be like when Restoration is complete. Enacting Shalom is “building for God’s Kingdom“.
• Where God Has Placed You. Faithful presence and loving your neighbor does not require you to go on a mission trip to a developing nation or volunteer at a soup kitchen (though you may well choose to do those worthwhile things as a way of loving your neighbor). In fact, faithful presence is much more demanding! It is one thing to do a once-per-year (or once-in-a-lifetime) “mission vacation” and feel like you have checked off love your neighbor, but it is quite another to begin living it out where God has placed you–in your neighborhood, in your school, in your community, at work, in the marketplace–EVERY DAY.
• Actively Seek It On Behalf of Others. Faithful presence is not about creating our own personal paradise of Shalom. It is derived from love your neighbor, which means it is about creating environments of Shalom that benefit everyone, whether or not they share your faith.
• Create Conditions in the Structure of Social Life. Faithful presence is not just about loving individuals. It is about transforming social structures, which includes organizations, businesses, departments, working groups. In To Change the World, Hunter argues that cultures change through institutions more than through individuals. Where God has given you influence over or in a social structure such as a business, love your neighbor commands you to do what you can to move it toward Shalom.
• Conducive To the Flourishing of All. Faithful presence and Shalom are about human flourishing, and they are about promoting and facilitating flourishing for EVERYONE in the social structures you or your organization touch.
While it is easy to think about how to love your neighbor when it comes to being kind to people or helping an individual or a people group in need, James Hunter’s faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses. Remember, an organization is simply a group of people working together toward a common goal. If people are called to love their neighbor, then organizations must exist to do the same. The goals of faithful presence–Shalom and flourishing–are central to what we believe are the three BIGGER purposes of work and business as ways to operate with faithful integrity.
• Humanize: People are more “fully human” and able to flourish when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity and creates economic prosperity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity.
• Beautify: An organization adds to the beauty of the world and assists in God’s restorative plan for His Kingdom by creating opportunities, economic prosperity, goods and services that help families and communities to flourish and by extending its culture of Shalom to all people it touches. In the process, the work of the organization takes on deeper meaning for its own people.
• Glorify: An organization glorifies God and loves its neighbors principally through serving people–by providing opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identities in creative and meaningful work, by providing opportunities, economic prosperity, goods and services that enable families and communities to flourish and by creating a culture of Shalom conducive to the flourishing of all people it touches.
Loving Generously–Being “Godly”
Being created in the image of God—Imago Dei–has important implications for how we live. It means that in order to be fully human, we must live out our God-mirroring characteristics. In his book My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes “The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness.”
There is one Biblical passage in which humanity is commanded LITERALLY to mirror God–to be “Godly”–in a very specific way. The command came from Jesus in John 13:34:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
There are several ways in which embedding faithful presence in the culture and heart of an organization is conducive to its people (and, as an assembly of people, the organization) expressing Imago Dei and expressing more fully their humanness:
• Love Like God. Faithful presence is living out the commandment to love your neighbor, and John 13:34 tells us that this is mirroring God.
• Be Covenantal Like God. In presenting faithful presence, James Hunter notes in To Change the World that it “generates relationships and institutions that are fundamentally covenantal in character”. The God of the Bible is a God of covenant.
• “Build for the Kingdom” Like God. Hunter also asserts that faithful presence will have an impact on the “ends” of relationships and institutions. He says those ends will be “the fostering of meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, belonging, and fairness—not just for Christians, but also for everyone.”
That sounds like Part Four of the Four-Part Gospel–Restoration–that we described in post #190 (First Things-Kingdom). Embedding the Biblical principle of love your neighbor in an organization through the theology of faithful presence represents and facilitates mirroring God through partnering in the restoration project for His Kingdom. It will create an environment of Shalom in which people touched by the organization can experience their full humanity by mirroring God in “building for God’s Kingdom”.
Embedding the Biblical principle of love your neighbor in the culture and heart of an organization is essential to faithful integrity, because it is essential in order for each person in the organization (and each person the organization touches) to be fully human by being “Godly”, which itself is essential in order for them to flourish.
Loving by Serving–Nature of Work
By our nature as creations in the image of God, we are given gifts of creativity and productivity through specific skills and physical and mental abilities. Some are given a gift of physical strength, some an artistic ability, some a logical mind, some a mathematical mind, some a poetic mind, some a business mind, some a gift of nurture and care, some a gift of ideating, some a gift of craftsmanship, some a gift of executing, some a gift of elocution, and some athletic ability. Work is the platform God created for putting these gifts to creative and productive use for His glory.
Gifts and the Creation Mandate.
Through our work, these gifts come together to permit us, collectively, to pursue the Creation Mandate to cultivate and steward God’s creation. We do that by taking the raw materials God created and applying our image-bearing creativity and productivity to produce new things that bring and promote flourishing, including by solving problems, restoring brokenness and allowing economic prosperity, culture and society. Work is a VEHICLE for pursuing the Creation Mandate.
Gifts and the Great Commandments.
1 Peter 4:10-11 declares that we are to use these gifts–the basis of our work and stewardship–“to serve one another“:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Humans are meant to serve one another through work by applying their gifts to steward creation and promote flourishing of that creation. We are also meant to glorify God in all we do. When we reflect the image of God by exercising our God-given gifts through work to serve one another, we are also living out the commandments to love God and love one another. Work is a VEHICLE for living out those commandments.
Embedding the Biblical principle of work as service in the culture and heart of an organization is essential to faithful integrity, because it is essential in order for each person in the organization to be fully human by understanding that the work they are doing is using God-given gifts to serve others for a BIGGER purpose, which itself is essential in order for them to flourish. It also reinforces the importance of relationships, which is another of our Imago Dei characteristics. The quote from Jeff Van Duzer bears repeating:
When humans engage in creative, meaningful work that grows out of relationships and gives back to the community they become more deeply human.
Loving by Serving–The Nature of Business
Cultural commentator Seth Godin observed:
A business is a construct, an association of human beings combining capital and labor to make something. That business has precisely the same social responsibilities as the people that it consists of.
We believe Godin’s statement about social responsibilities holds true for Biblical purpose as well. Organizations (including businesses) are platforms that facilitate humans working together in relationship–living out their purpose to use their skills to love each other through service.
However, organizations are not merely constructs–they are CREATIONS that become part of God’s creation. An organization such as a business is a product of the Creation Mandate–it is created by humans exercising their God-given authority and mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it“.
Remember, the Creation Mandate extends beyond merely putting together raw physical materials. It includes “subduing” through the creation of culture and social structures such as organizations. Organizations such as businesses have intrinsic Kingdom value because they are a creation of God’s image-bearers that provides the platform and the opportunity for humans to come together in relationship to express and fulfill their humanity through work by producing and promoting flourishing and “building for the Kingdom” in ways that could not be accomplished by people working alone.
Although the nature of an organization is that it has intrinsic value because it is a creation of God’s image-bearers fulfilling (whether or not knowingly) the Creation Mandate, an organization’s full intrinsic Kingdom value–the flourishing it could unleash–can only be realized if its purpose, values and priorities align with Biblical purposes, values and priorities–with God’s restoration plan for His Kingdom.
In posts #180 (The Stumbling Blocks of “Faith as Usual”) and #181 (The “Side Road” Detours of “Faith as Usual”) we explained the Placebos and Side Roads of faith as usual that can prevent leaders and organizations from reaching their full potential. We also detailed the consequences of leaders being detoured off the ancient path of business a better way onto a Side Road: missed purpose for the organization, missed calling for its leaders, missed flourishing for its people, increased misery, increased hypocrisy, and unsustainability.
James Hunter captures it well in this quote from his book To Change the World:
To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform.
Love by Serving–The Purpose of Work and Business
What does this first principle of Love teach us about the purpose of work and business? The pieces of the puzzle are coming together and falling into place.
We concluded (1) the nature of work in God’s design is that it is how we use our skills to obey His commandments through SERVICE and (2) the nature of business in God’s design is that it is a vehicle through which people come together to live out the purpose of work (i.e., SERVICE).
Faithful integrity in an organization requires promoting and facilitating flourishing for EVERYONE touched by the organization through the creation of opportunities, economic prosperity, goods and services that help families and communities to flourish and by extending its culture of Shalom to all people it touches.
Using the “Integrity Priority” of Kingdom to explore the role of work and business through the lens of a BIGGER GOSPEL, we concluded that it was to Humanize People, Beautify the World and Glorify God.
So let’s put some pieces together!
Here is the finished puzzle: the BIGGER purpose of work and business is to Humanize People, Beautify the World and Glorify God by serving people in a way that maximizes the flourishing of all people touched by that work or business. In thinking about the Biblical purpose for business, we are inspired by what Jeff van Duzer concludes in his book Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed):
Leaders should manage their businesses (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish and (2) to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity.
Van Duzer recognizes both an internal and an external way that businesses SERVE. We agree, and we express the internal as “HUMANIZE” and the external as “BEAUTIFY”.
A business operating with faithful integrity SERVES people internally by providing opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identities in creative and meaningful work that generates economic prosperity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity and SERVES people externally by providing opportunities, economic prosperity, goods and services that enable families and communities to flourish and by creating a culture of Shalom conducive to the flourishing of ALL people it touches, including owners, vendors, customers and communities. In doing so, the business GLORIFIES God.
There is a wonderful way in which humanizing and beautifying create a virtuous circle–the promotion and facilitation by an organization of flourishing internally serves to promote and facilitate further flourishing externally, and the promotion and facilitation of flourishing externally serves to promote and facilitate further flourishing internally.
For example, by SERVING through the creation of goods and services that Beautify the World, an organization increases the sense of BIGGER PURPOSE felt by its employees, thereby facilitating Humanizing. Similarly, by SERVING through the creation of an organizational culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity that Humanizes its employees, an organization facilitates flourishing of its people that leads to better physical and mental health, better family relationships and stronger communities, thereby Beautifying the World.
We believe the Biblical purpose of a business is to maximize human flourishing, but the flourishing it could unleash can only be realized if its purpose, values and priorities align with Biblical purposes, values and priorities. It can only be realized when a leader has the courage to put profit in its proper place–as a means rather than an end. In the words of Ken Eldred:
Profit is like oxygen. You absolutely need it to win the race. But that’s not the objective. The primary objective of business is serving others to the glory of God.
The primary objective of business is serving others to the glory of God. (Ken Eldred)
Love by Recognizing God’s Limits–Respect and Sustainability
Keep First Things First means going back to Biblical first principles, and we have been looking at the first “Generosity Priority” embedded into Integriosity–Love. We have explored the generosity and service aspects of Love that lead us to the purpose of work and business (maximize flourishing by Humanizing, Beautifying, Glorifying), but there are also respect and sustainability aspects of Love that flow from the “Integrity Priorities” of Righteousness and Kingdom–Love through recognizing God’s limitations inherent in the Creation Mandate. Here it is again from Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
Without a proper understanding of context, the translation of words like “subdue” and “dominion” regarding the earth and every living thing are ominous and, on their face, could be misunderstood to justify unfettered use and even abuse of natural resources and even people. But theologians seem to be pretty confident that the terms means “stewardship”.
We are to care for all God’s creation as its STEWARDS. It is worth remembering the words of Tim Keller from his book Every Good Endeavor:
We are called to stand in for God here in the world, exercising stewardship over the rest of creation in his place as his vice-regents. We share in doing the things that God has done in creation—bringing order out of chaos, creatively building a civilization out of the material of physical and human nature, caring for all that God has made. This is a major part of what we were created to be.
We believe “caring for all that God has made” translates practically into two things–Respect and Sustainability:
Respect: Respect for all humans God created, which means treating all stakeholders of an organization with dignity (owners, employees, vendors, customers, communities).
Sustainability: Sustainability across all aspects of a business, including its utilization of all forms of capital that drive the business and its relationships with the stakeholders related to those forms of capital. We have frequently turned to Jeff van Duzer’s book Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs To Be Fixed), and its insights on the breadth of sustainability are worth quoting: “Sustainability, however, can be understood in a much broader sense as well. As a business pursues its purposes, it must do so in a way that is sustainable across all of the dimensions of its interactions with its stakeholders.”
In considering the broad concept of sustainability embedded in the Creation Mandate, it is useful to look at the different forms of capital on which a business depends. In their book Completing Capitalism, Bruno Roche and Jay Jakub identify four key types of “capital” needed by a business: natural, human, social and financial (the thesis of the book is that the problem with “capitalism” is that business has focused on just one “capital” and failed to steward and manage appropriately the other three–for “capitalism” to work, it must be “completed”).
What does sustainability look like across all forms of capital and taking into account all stakeholders? Interestingly, in Completing Capitalism the authors describe how the Mars Corporation (their employer) did a study to ensure that Mars was not extracting an unfair amount of profit at any stage of the value chain, thereby weakening the chain. Mars undertook this study because its leaders recognized that a weak value chain is not resilient (i.e., sustainable). This resulted in the development of an entirely new business model–the Economics of Mutuality (a very Biblical principle!).
It is important to understand that Biblical sustainability is about obedience to the Creation Mandate–recognizing that God owns it all, has given it to us to steward and is ultimately in control. Biblical sustainability is NOT:
• Motivated by fear of “existential” climate or environmental threats.
• Motivated by political agendas or narratives.
• Motivated by cultural pressures or movements.
• Motivated by regulatory requirements.
Biblical sustainability is about faithful integrity through business a better way. It is an aspect of Love.
The Importance and Role of Profit
In this and posts #189 (First Things-Righteousness) and #190 (First Things-Kingdom), we have been exploring the implications for work and business of several first principles embedded in Integriosity: Righteousness, Kingdom and Love. At this point (or a long time ago), you may be asking “That all sounds wonderful and Godly and caring, but let’s get real–what about profit?”
It is impossible to talk honestly about the WHAT, WHY and HOW of business a better way without addressing how profit fits in. In some sense, it is the “elephant in the room”. It is an important question, and its answer flows from the respect and sustainability aspects of Love inherent in the Creation Mandate.
Profit is NOT bad, and the creation of economic prosperity is good because it enables families and communities to flourish. That bears repeating–PROFIT IS NOT BAD! In fact, PROFIT IS NECESSARY for an organization (other than a non-profit organization) to be obedient to the Creation Mandate. However, faithful integrity through business a better way requires an organization to put profit in the proper perspective–as a means rather than an end.
Love Through Sustainability–The Role of Profit
If the leaders of an organization want to be obedient to the Creation Mandate, they must recognize that they are stewards of the organization. As stewards of an organization that belongs to God (He owns everything), one of their responsibilities is to keep the organization viable so that it can pursue its God-given purpose. This is where the role of profit comes into play.
• Profit is necessary for a business to be a sustainable enterprise. Without profit, a business will lose access to one of the four types of capital on which a business relies–financial capital. Without profit or access to financial capital, the business is likely to be unsustainable.
• Profit is necessary for the flourishing of owners. We have talked about the importance of a business pursuing faithful integrity to promote and facilitate the flourishing of all its stakeholders, and that includes owners. A business needs profit in order to permit its owners to flourish. If owners who support business a better way are not flourishing by earning a fair return on their capital, they may transfer their ownership to owners who force a shift toward business as usual (including Profit as Purpose).
• Profit is necessary to make the God-given purpose of the business possible. A business can only pursue its bigger “WHY” if it is a sustainable enterprise. In the words of David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, “Profit is not the proper end and aim of management–it is what makes all of the proper ends and aims possible.” A business that is “out-of-business” is not promoting or facilitating its bigger “WHY”.
The Proper Role of Profit
Profit is necessary for leaders of a business to be obedient to the Creation Mandate in stewarding the business, but profit must be kept in its proper role. Remember, Profit as Purpose is one (and the most important) of the four key aspects of business as usual–business according to the world’s beliefs, values and priorities–that lead to its brokenness.
One of the most helpful ways we have heard to understand the proper role of profit in a for-profit business is to compare it to the proper role of donations in a non-profit organization. It would sound quite strange for the leader of a non-profit organization to say that the “end” to which the organization is managed is raising donations. In a non-profit organization, donations are clearly seen as a means (and a very necessary means) to the bigger “WHY” of the organization. Without donations, the non-profit ceases to be able to pursue its real “end”–it lacks sustainability. Leaders who want their business to operate with faithful integrity through business a better way need to view profit in a similar light.
Faithfully Positioning Profit
Profit is not bad just like money is not the root of all evil. It is the love of money that the Bible tells us is the root of all evil. Like money, profit becomes bad when it moves from being a tool to being an idol.
Maximize Profit – Business as Usual: Profit as Purpose is the idea that the primary or sole purpose of a business is the maximization of financial profit for the benefit of shareholders. It is often referred to as the “shareholder primacy” model, and it has been predominant for the last several decades in America.
To recap, if profit is the end toward which a business is managed:
• People and the rest of creation can never be more than tools of production to be managed toward that end (“No one can serve two masters“, Matthew 6:24).
• People will be valued based on their perceived profit contribution, and value is likely to be based on short-term profit or stock value.
• Decisions will be made mainly based on financial metrics, because they measure profit and they are easily measurable.
• Because an organization manages to its purpose, a key role of the organizational culture of the business will be to drive profit. Business culture can be designed (or will just emerge) to drive or inspire people to perform at higher levels and contribute more to profitability through manipulative mechanisms like bonuses/commissions/promotions and the fear of elimination or demotion.
Business as usual and Profit as Purpose work against faithfully stewarding people and the rest of creation toward flourishing, which means they work against the Creation Mandate.
Optimize Profit – Business a Better Way: Business a better way requires changing the heart of the organization by putting profit in its proper place as a means rather than an ultimate purpose. Recognizing profit as a good and necessary tool toward a bigger WHY, a leader can focus on optimizing profit toward the maximization of that WHY. The Bible offers the ultimate WHY for our work and for business, because it is the ultimate WHY for all we do. We are called to use our gifts to “serve one another” in a way that glorifies God (1 Peter 4:10-11).
A business glorifies God principally through lovingly and generously serving people and stewarding all creation: (1) providing jobs that allow people to fulfill their humanity and purpose by living out Imago Dei, the Creation Mandate and the commandments to love God and love each other through service, (2) providing economic prosperity, goods and services that enable families, communities and creation to flourish, and (3) creating a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity that is conducive to the flourishing of all people it touches. In other words, Humanizing People and Beautifying the World.
Optimizing profit means generating the optimal level of profit to maximize the flourishing of all people touched in a way that recognizes God’s limits of Respect and Sustainability. It is seeking the level of profit that brings God the most glory.
Things Profit Can’t Be
In describing the role of profit in an organization, leaders sometimes characterize the role and priority of profit in ways that sound good but are not in line with Biblical principles or reality.
• Profit cannot be one of several “ends”. Some organizations say that they serve “social” ends as well as profit. The B-Corp model (“benefit corporation”) even requires a company to articulate a social purpose it will pursue along with profit and then subjects its pursuit of the social purpose to government accountability and even shareholder lawsuits. A Biblical principle is that only one “end” is the real “end” (“No one can serve two masters“, Matthew 6:24). The goals and priorities described as other “ends” of the organization (e.g., treating people well) are likely just means to the real “end”, which means will be sacrificed if they no longer serve the real “end” or if they jeopardize the real “end”. Leaders who want their organization to operate with faithful integrity must get honest about the real WHY of the organization. Faithful integrity is not supported by an “end” of Profit as Purpose.
Profit as Purpose cannot be transformed into a bigger “WHY”. Some leaders try to add some “faith” to an organization that is conducting business as usual (including having Profit as Purpose) in order to look like there is a bigger “WHY”. What we call The “Add Some Faith” Pill can deceive a leader into believing that the integration of faith and work is principally about sprinkling some “faith” pixie dust over the organization to make it look and feel “Godly”–and that leads down the Side Road of Cosmeticizing. These leaders can think they have created profit with a “higher” purpose, but Side Roads keep the leader and the organization off the ancient path to business a better way.
Biblical sustainability in the pursuit of faithful integrity requires understanding the necessity as well as the proper role of profit. Like a person, an organization can have only one ultimate ambition–one ultimate identity–one true “heart”. Without intentional leadership, that heart will be business as usual and profit over people. In the words of Max Depree:
Unless somebody articulates something different, you are going to adopt a secular standard without even thinking about it.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): The concepts of humanizing and beautifying do not sound like “business concepts”, which is why actually leading with faithful integrity (and not just happily strolling along a Side Road) is such a radical concept for a business leader. It is also why I keep writing that you can’t unleash God’s potential for business unless its purpose, values and priorities align with Biblical purposes, values and priorities. It is also why Integriosity may be hard for even faithful leaders to embrace. Changing the heart of a business is hard–it is far easier to just change some personal behavior (i.e., Individualize), give generously (i.e., Monetize), or implement some very overt faith practices (i.e., Cosmeticize). You will be affirmed by many people–you will feel good about what you are doing, and what you are doing is more than what the vast majority of leaders are doing! These questions even make me wonder (frequently)–how many faithful leaders have the conviction and will to actually lead with faithful integrity? For that matter, who needs faith at all–isn’t it enough to just be moral and ethical and try to do the “right thing”?
In moments of doubt, God has reminded me (often through friends) that a BIGGER Gospel matters for business, faith-inspiration matters for business, humanizing and beautifying matter for business, and Integriosity is worth the effort–there are plenty of faithful leaders who will be convicted to take the brave steps needed to actually lead with faithful integrity. It is about trusting God’s process, timing and outcome.