As we covered last time, "free market capitalism" is not an economic system based in greed, but it does allow for it. And that means just what is says, a free market based economy will allow people to be greedy under certain broad parameters. In a truly free market economy, the only justifiable prohibitions in commerce would be for things such as fraud or extortion.
That means people can engage in commerce being driven by nothing more than profit. Businesses can operate solely for maximizing the bottom line. People can seek something for nothing. Companies can pay as little as an employee will accept, employees can demand as much pay as a company is able to afford. In a free market economy greedy behavior is allowable so long as the terms of the negotiation are transparent and accurate.
But greediness is not required.
Christians are forbidden to be greedy, ever. We are forbidden by God to be greedy in our personal lives and we are forbidden by God to be greedy in business decisions. We are forbidden by God to be greedy when negotiating deals, seeking discounts, quoting jobs and paying employees.
Being in a free market economy which allows greedy behavior by law does not mean Christians are free to be greedy according to God's LAW. It would be a good thing to remind ourselves of that every now and then. Just because something is allowed by civil law does not mean it is morally permissible for a Christian to do it. God's law is much higher than civil law, His standard is much higher than man's standard.
Christians are called to that higher standard, and that standard applies to business. Christians ought to conduct business differently than the way the world conducts business. There ought to be a noticeable distinction, I'm not so sure the peculiarity is very apparent overall these days. Far too often Christians make business decisions simply on the basis of what will maximize profits alone. Far too often Christians are driven by profit above all else. That, loved ones, is called idolatry.
"So, what are you saying? That we shouldn't pursue profits? We shouldn't attempt to save money by negotiating a better deal?" No, not at all. Profits are a good thing! We all need to make a profit on our investments of time and money, or else why invest time and money in the first place? In fact, if we are not profitable, we cannot care for our families, cannot support our churches, cannot pay our taxes, cannot hire new employees, cannot give raises or bonuses to current employees and could certainly never be generous with the poor! These are the "Christian" motivations behind seeking profits. Nothing in the life of the Christian is about "me", that goes for business just as much as anything else.
Christians are living on this planet to be a blessing, period. At home, at church, in business. There is no sphere of life where the Christian is not being motivated to bless first and foremost. We are to seek out how to bless God with our lives in worship. We are to seek out how to bless the people we cross paths with. The Christian motivation in business, as in all of life, is to be a blessing.
So, if a Christian lives to honor God by blessing people, how will that affect business decisions they must make? The world obviously operates according to worldly standards, how is a Christian approach to business different? Here are a few examples to think about: The Christian employee desires to be paid for his work, but more than that he works as unto the Lord which will result in him being a blessing to his employer, coworkers and clients! The Christian employer desires to grow her business and to be profitable, but more than that she desire to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing in faith that as she does, He will add all of the things she needs in order for her business to glorify Him. She can't do that and be greedy, she can't do that and contrive ways to get away with paying her employees the absolute bare minimum in order to maximize her profit margins. Her driving aim as a Christian isn't to maximize profit, it's to bless. Do you see this distinction? She can't bless unless she's profitable, so yes, she must be profitable. But her drive to create profit is not for the sake of profits. Profit isn't KING in the mind of the Christian businessperson, Christ is! Her drive to be profitable is to honor God, to reflect His values to her employees, venders, clients and even to her competitors.
She should hope her employees genuinely feel that working for her is a blessing to them. Her clients should feel like her service is a blessing to them and adds value to their lives. Her venders and partners should also feel blessed for their relationship with her and her business.
A free market system allows for greed, that however is no green light for Christians to conduct business the way the world does. Just because it is legal to do something, to charge something, to pay someone something, to cut costs doesn't make it right. Business decisions are only right if they honor God. Sometimes God honoring business decision are hard, somethings it means someone gets laid off or doesn't get a bonus. A business is not a charity, it cannot operate at a loss. The point is that the Christian's allegiance is to the Lord, not to maximized profit margins. This may mean the Christian business owner pays her employees more than she could get away with or charges clients less than her competitors do, clears less for herself personally or operates her business at a smaller profit margin than she potentially could if she applied wordly standards to her business decissions. That doesn't mean she must do those specific things, but she might.
Christians are called to a higher standard. Christian business owners are called to a higher standard. Christian employees are called to a higher standard.
Christians are called to bless others (even in business).
Christians are called to generosity (even in business).
Christians are called to put others first (even in business).
Christians are called to serve others (even in business).
Christians are called to glorify God (even in business).