How should Christian values impact business ethics in the office?

2 Min Read

I remember having a discussion a few years ago in the boardroom of one of the Fortune 500 corporations here in the United States. I was speaking to the chairman of the board, the president, and several vice presidents of this corporation on the issue of the relationship between theology, philosophy, and ethics. At the end of the discussion the chairman of the board looked at me and said, “Do I understand you to be saying that ethical issues—that is, policies that we have in our business organization—touch the whole question of ethics, and in turn those ethics touch the question of philosophy, and in turn philosophy touches theology? Are you saying to us that how we run our business ultimately has theological significance?”

I said, “Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say.” And it was like the lights came on in this man’s head for the first time in his life. It astonished me that he thought this principle to be so obscure.

When we use the term ethics, we’re talking about doing what is right. From a Christian perspective, we believe that the ultimate norm and ultimate standard of rightness is the character of God and his perfect righteousness. So biblical principles of ethics have great relevance for the business world. I’m talking about simple things like God telling us it’s wrong to steal. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate honesty and respect for private property in the business community.

I once talked to someone who was astonished because they gave $5,000 to an automobile salesman in Orlando, Florida, to have some work done and the guy took off with the $5,000 and never did the work. His wife was really upset, saying, “How can people do that? That’s crooked business.” One doesn’t have to be a Christian to feel violated when a businessman steals one’s money. The Bible tells us to honor contracts, to pay our bills on time. What businessman doesn’t appreciate it when his customers pay him what they owe him? The Bible has much to say about false weights and measures. How do you like it if you are buying “short measure” in perfume or in ketchup? That’s a business consideration. All of these are very practical, concrete principles of ethics that touch the very heart of doing business.

Honesty, industry, integrity—we know that the Christian has no corner on these particular virtues. These virtues are significant in every realm of business and, most important, how we treat people in the realm of business. Do we treat them with dignity? That is a top priority of Christian ethics, that we treat our customers, our employees, our personnel with dignity.

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