Why Business Matters To God (And What Still MUST Be Fixed)

Most Christians spend most of their time working, often in business. Many feel their work is meaningless in God’s eyes. But Van Duzer argues the opposite. Business is an essential sphere in the unfolding work of God in Christ. Given such a noble mission, maximizing shareholder wealth seems an inadequate purpose for business.

Van Duzer says no: “Nothing in this Genesis model supports the final outcome that business should be controlled for the purpose of maximizing profits” (p. Profit is a necessary methods to achieve these purposes. In the fallen world, business fails its commendable objective again and again. Van Duzer examines dumping in India, sweatshops in Nicaragua, fraud at Enron, child labor in Chinese kiln factories, racism at Texaco, cigarette ads featuring Joe Camel, and deaths due to faulty fuel tank design in the Ford Pinto.

He argues that maximizing shareholder results causes-or at least exacerbates-these failings. The Ford Pinto seems a clear-cut case. 50 million (p. 54). The work to maximize shareholder come back meant Ford was ethically destined to leave the threat unfixed, which resulted in several hundred burn off deaths. God wants more from business-or at least from Christians in business.

Christians in business should participate in the redemptive work of Christ in their business work. Although we can not here reproduce it, Van Duzer makes skilled use of the work of R. Paul Stevens, H. Richard Niebuhr, and Andrew Crouch to build up useful implications for business. In particular, business needs to be changed from self-enrichment to service, sustainability, and partnership with the rest of culture. He concludes by demonstrating that his model wouldn’t normally destroy a viable business sector, but actually strengthen it.

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Why Business Matters to God is a significant development in the theology of work. Van Duzer realistically can be applied the best theological materials to the actual practice of business. You could make business decisions based on his quarrels. He works within the marketplace system, but he assesses it not by its idolatries but by God’s word. His writing is clear, his debate demanding, and his conclusions specific. But has he damaged the nut? I’m not persuaded. On the one hand, I’m uncertain the major paradigm change he proposes is worth your time and effort.

The useful difference between Friedman’s model and Van Duzer’s is significantly less than you might predict. Friedman acknowledges that profit-seeking must be constrained by the statutory laws and honest norms of culture. Van Duzer acknowledges that business needs to make a reasonable profit. Both diverge only when a business could legally and ethically make a higher gain not providing needed goods and services or not providing significant jobs.