This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 19:45-46. We see Jesus rebuking people selling in church, yet in Luke 19:12-27, Jesus tells a parable that seems to have blessed the combination of responsible investing, hard work and stewardship- all elements of business ownership.
I think Jesus loves capitalistic, entrepreneurs; business owners. They work hard, show their faith and trust in action through tough risk. They use and expand their God-given talents. Business fails more often than it succeeds, and God uses failure to teach and grow us more than success. Business owners create jobs, provide health and other benefits, enabling people to work hard to provide for their families. Entrepreneurs give back to society through charitable donations, business is financially healthy for communities, and they often invest in other businesses that have the same benefits. The Pope recently commented some about the negative sides of big business; exploiting the poor and ruining the environment. This is true at times, however business and capitalism isn’t immoral – it always comes down to the motivations of its leaders. Sounds like to me, they need the influence of Jesus and from other Christian business owners.
I’ve even heard some people in the faith community say they prefer a more socialistic system, that provides for the poor better. However, capitalistic democracies like the U.S. provide more for the world’s poor, than any other system. Is it any wonder, people from other countries are pouring into our country through our southern border? Where else do you see this except in war-torn areas? Corruption and immorality of its leaders will always exist in any type of economic or political system, but in socialistic systems there is always more poverty. Checked democracy and capitalism, although far from perfect, is just the most efficient system of freedom and distribution of goods and wealth.
So back to the Bible verse noted at the beginning, Luke 19:46-47: “When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Was Jesus condemning business people selling stuff; putting down capitalism or entrepreneurship? Was Jesus saying that business was unholy? I don’t think Jesus was saying these things at all. Jesus was disgusted that a place of worship was being used as a means to make a profit. He hated that faith was being used, either for worshipers or leaders as a way to line either of their pockets. The main focus of church should be the trinity, and not our financial profitability.
So how do we reconcile Luke 19:46-47 and Luke 19:12-27? One on hand Jesus is quite harsh on those whose main faith motivation is for financial gain. Yet in the earlier verses in Luke, he praises good business stewards. In the technology sector, we hear about “China Walls.” Chinese paper walls are thin; sound and light travels through them. Each room is connected, yet separated by thin walls. For Christians, our China walls should be the checking of our heart’s motivations. Our faith should influence how we operate in business, and business is good for faith as well. However the litmus test is to ask ourselves; “from where do our motivations come?” We should err on the side of caution.
Business owners are under great pressure. In many business sectors, profit margins are low, costs of supplies and human resources are high, and business is extremely competitive. Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft, said that intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana; and all business owners know that they have to keep changing and work hard to maintain competitiveness. At the end of the day, business owners need a growing faith to survive, so their work lives need to become more closely aligned with faith, yet to be extremely alert to the motivations of their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, from the four Gospels, with this approach: Jesus is shepherding us in our finances, for our good, to help us help others and for the Kingdom. Jesus leads us with grace through this difficult area of life, and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do amazing things. This is the fifty-seventh post in this series.