Christian values, asset or liability?

If you ask a Christian baker whether Christian values are an asset, they may just answer with a quick, “DUH, are you kidding?” And based on current cases in Oregon, Colorado and elsewhere you can understand why. 

Every business operates off of a set of values. The owner may not have articulated them, or even realized the value set that guides their business, but there always is one. Pragmatism is the prevailing value set in most businesses, unfortunately including Christian businesses. Pragmatism can be defined as, “If it works, it must be good.” Business is an undertaking that must work profitably to survive and have any chance of flourishing, so it is logical why so many businesses operate using “Pragmatism’s” manual.  

But pragmatism has limitations and offers little guidance except, “Get the job done, don’t break a law, or generate negative publicity.” Pragmatism provides no boundaries, nor guidelines for uncharted waters, new product offerings, or difficult people-issues. It is vapid and silent on issues that require moral judgments or impact long-term value creation. Today’s large public corporations, owned by 1,000’s or 10,000’s of owners are perfect illustrations of impersonal bureaucracies, run by managers, not leaders, whose only values are dictated by pragmatism. They dance to the current market tunes. Fads run through industry leaders: selling assets one year; consolidating the next; acquiring the next; and then liquidating that which was acquired. People, products, suppliers, and customers are chess pieces on a detached game board to be moved, removed and taken. 

Some of the most successful businesses have been run by individuals who were led by an over-riding value. Ritz Carlton’s founder instilled in associates, “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” For years they dominated the premium hotel space. In its early inception, J.P. Morgan led his banking enterprise with, “We do first class business in a first-class way.” For decades Morgan Bank and Morgan Stanley dominated their respective sectors. Sam Walton was driven by an overwhelming desire to have Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, “Provide steak cheap, not cheap steak.” He drove prices down and efficiencies up and millions benefitted. Since Sam died the firm has lost its edge. 

Each of the values that drove these men trace to biblical origins. Ladies and gentlemen derives from a profound respect for the individual, which comes from “God as Creator of mankind in His image.” First class business in a first class means, derives from a biblical belief that there is a right way to do things and wrong way; and the right way is “best!” Seek it! Providing steak cheap was Sam Walton’s way of serving his fellow man with a valuable service. Servant-leadership in the flesh! 

Biblical Christian values provide a guiding plumb line that is invaluable and inexhaustible. Will these values always work best in the marketplace? No! Will they eliminate hardships/problems? No! Will they guarantee a business success? Absolutely not in this life! There are no guarantees, but Proverbs assures us that the probabilities are very good, for the faithful practitioner. 

If you ask a Christian business owner, who allowed God’s Word to set the corporation’s values, at the end of a lifetime of usage and testing, whether Christian values are an asset, they may just answer with a quick, “DUH, are you kidding? Nothing could have been more helpful, nothing could be as satisfying. I slept well, looked myself in the mirror with integrity, and God knows, I have done God’s business, God’s way, to the best that God has enabled me to do so! What more could you ask of life?” 

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