Business for the Common Good

September 14, 2011 — 4 Comments


As part of the Christian Worldview Integration Series, Kenman Wong and Scott Rae’s contribution focuses on a Christian view of the business world. As the authors themselves say:

The idea that business can be a calling is becoming more widely appreciated and accepted. Yet the question of what exactly business is a calling to needs much more exploration. This is the central topic of this book. Based on the contours of a Christian worldview, we hope to address this question by developing a faithful understanding of business at the individual, organizational and systemic/structural levels. In sum, we will be employing wisdom from an ancient tradition in order to contribute to the development of a “new story” of business. Business we will argue, is a calling to serve the common good through transformational service (p. 33)

Elsewhere, they will refer to their book as a kind of “theology of business” (p. 37), and you can see from the above vista how they intend to flesh that out. The topics they dig through include:

  • The inherent nobility of work (chapter 1)
  • Business as a specific calling (chapter 2)
  • How God uses the business world to spiritually refine individuals (chapter 3)
  • A biblical theology of wealth, ambition, and success (chapter 4)
  • Business in the context of a global, multicultural world (chapter 5)
  • The stick issues surrounding business ethics (chapter 6)
  • Leadership as a means to serve employees (chapter 7)
  • Marketing as a means to serve customers in a godly way (chapter 8)
  • Environmental concerns for Christians in business (chapter 9)
  • New directions toward solving social problems through the business world (chapter 10)

In each chapter, the authors weave in stories from people they know who have confronted the integration of a robust Christian faith and a life in the business world. This keeps their work down to earth and not overly theoretical. By doing this and always seeking to make practical connections, I think this volume in the Christian Worldview Integration Series is clearly a success.

If you are someone who struggles yourself with the integration task, or are close friends with someone from church who does, I would highly recommend passing this book along. The writing style is clear and the thoughts are organized. The chapters do not necessarily build on one another, though they are connected in some ways. You would definitely want to read the opening 2, and maybe 3 chapters as a unit, but from there you wouldn’t lose anything by skipping ahead to read about servant leadership before coming back to read about wealth and ambition.

It is those opening chapter though that they really lay out a theology of business and even argue for the validity of business as a ministry. The chapter on business as spiritual formation I think is especially helpful. In my own experience, working at Starbucks was a vital part of both my personal and professional development. But it also helped grow me spiritually by contributing to my cultivation of Christ-like leadership skills in a context that was not connected to church ministry. With the lens provided by the authors of this book, you yourself could begin to look at your own job in the business world as capable of a similar transformation in their own life.

A later chapter that helps flesh this out even further is the one on ethics in the workplace. Unfortunately, many companies have an “avoid jail-time and we’re good” mentality when it comes to how their leadership conducts themselves. The radical notion that a Christian worldview bring to the table is that there is much more to ethics than that. As the authors put it:

[E]thics goes beyond mere compliance. Obeying the law is the moral minimum. It is the moral floor, not the ceiling. Most ethical issues have to do with how far above and beyond the law we are obligated to go. We haven’t done anything morally praiseworthy by simply obeying the law (p. 176)

In this way, ethics is focused on values, not law following. At bare minimum, you should comply with the applicable laws. To help cultivate consistent ethical behavior in the workplace, Wong and Rae offer these 5 components:

  • Have a companywide credo establishing the values your company aspires toward
  • Institute a code of ethical behavior
  • Consistently model ethics from the top down
  • Cultivate narratives about people who had the courage to do the right thing
  • Reexamine performance measurements and reward systems

A quick glance at these principles suggests to me that they might be at home in a church context as well as the business world. In either case, an organization that implements these measure consistently is at least on the right track toward fostering an ethical workplace that is values driven and not jail-time avoidance driven.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Like the other books in this series, it tackles an issue that confronts Christians and requires some level of integration. Thinking Christianly about living in the business world is no easy task but Wong and Rae offer sound advice and clear principles to keep you on the right track. Not everyone will find this book helpful or even worth reading, but if your life has significant intersections with a career in the business world, this book should probably find its way onto your shelf and its ideas into the forefront of your mind.

  • Paperback: 288pgs
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830828168
  • Amazon

Thanks to IVP for providing me with a review copy of this book!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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