I am entertaining the possibility of Christian influence on the secular business world for a number of reasons, but this exploration is simply a part of a fundamental tension with which every Christian encounters.
On the one hand, believers’ “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and the Lord Jesus reminds His own that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). On the other hand, while Christians are warned, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15)When John the Baptist cautioned the crowd who came to him, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” he also evidenced an awareness of the need for integrity in regular social interaction., we still exist in and engage the world. When John the Baptist cautioned the crowd who came to him in Luke 3: “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (3:8), he also evidenced an awareness of the need for integrity in regular social interaction. To tax-collectors, the Baptist warned: “Collect not more than you are authorized to do,” and to soldiers similarly: “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (3:12-14).
Divinely informed and empowered awareness of God and their own nature would alert believers to the ease by which temptation can negatively affect them, destroying their witness. Concurrently, Christians can still impact the realm of regular social interaction. As I mentioned in my previous reflection, Barrera’s work (“Economic Justice” in The Oxford Handbook of Christianity and Economics) provides some helpful guidelines for such impact. Believers’ can exhort and, more importantly, model these guidelines.
First, Barrera’s emphasis on the worth of a person, the worth of persons, makes justice alone an inadequate principle for human interaction in a community. He calls for charity as well:
Justice is about giving people their due; charity is about self-giving. Justice is rooted in laws; charity is founded on friendship. Justice is measured in what it dispenses; charity is unmeasured by its nature. Justice”s highest civic virtue is mutual tolerance; charity’s crown is love. Justice aims for the establishment of a juridic order; charity settles for nothing less than a union of hearts and minds (p. 540).
Barrera acknowledges the impact of original sin and its downward pull on the human heart. He thus insists on the exercise of justice for the sake of the development of true friendship (p. 541).
Second, Barrera holds that a concept of the common good could be a contribution to the secular business world. The Christian understanding is built upon “righteousness” which essentially “is about living up to the requirements of our relationships” (p. 541). He delineates five pivotal relationships (p. 541) that explicate the nature and parameters of such requirements. Sometimes laws are required to motivate the execution of responsibilities framed within relationships.
Finally, the Christian community can contribute a theological anthropology whereby an “understanding of the nature of the person, the nature of the human community, and the nature of the person in community,” can be enhanced (p. 541). The Christian community can model the balanced view that the person thrives in community and the community should work towards “the perfection of its individual members” (p. 545). Such a balance will enable the community to rise above “materialism, consumerism, and individualism” (p. 545).
Christians would do well to remember that these ideals require nothing less than the grace of God unleashed through the Holy Spirit, received in humble submission and obedience to Him.