MARKETPLACE CHRISTIANS: WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Conventional wisdom is that we go to church on weekends and the rest of the time is ours to make a living; be entertained; take care of home duties and have fun. Does that reflect the committed Christian—someone who believes that Jesus’ promised return is imminent? Does it reflect the self-employed, the professional, the manufacturer, the shop owner—those who make their living in the marketplace, but believe that His call, “Go ye,” includes them? Let us explore what Christians in the marketplace look like. Are they any different from their marketplace competitors?
A Christian knows that his work product, whatever its quality, will be a reflection of himself.
Should excellence be the standard of the Christian entrepreneur or professional? Scripture provides a standard of excellence in the life of Daniel, where even his enemies could find no fault in him or how he did his work (Daniel 6:2-5). Whatever we do, we are called to do all to the glory of God. Just getting by, getting on to the next project, deal, client or patient, will not work for the committed Christian. A Christian knows that his work product, whatever its quality, will be a reflection of himself. As such, others will evaluate both his faith and Jesus. To just “get by,” to meet merely the marketplace competitive standard is a poor reflection of faith. Following Daniel’s example, the marketplace Christian will be the “best mechanic in town;” a store owner known for fair dealing and quality products or services at a reasonable price; or the most caring physician, dentist, accountant , manufacturer or lawyer in the community. This person will always listen, always care beyond the immediate task. They will be people who merit a referral or whose products are reliable, durable and backed by the resources of the company. To use a clichéd phrase, the actions of such a person will reflect the answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?”
The Christian in the marketplace is respectful of his customers’, clients’ or patients’ time. He keeps regular hours, does not overbook and has adequate staff available to care for the people or projects that make it possible for him to pay his bills. Regularly causing people to wait far beyond their appointment time reflects poor planning and a selfish misuse of the customer’s time. We know that emergencies can preempt good planning, but the Christian professional knows that and factors it in when scheduling appointments. His staff is trained to courteously explain the reason for the delay and assure clients that they will be helped as soon as possible. The Christian entrepreneur also has knowledgeable staff members who are courteous and anxious to assist customers with their concerns.
A non-Christian friend noticed and asked, “I thought you Adventists didn’t drink beer?” My friend replied, “I’m just fudging a little.” His “fudging” took its toll on the reputation of the church and on those whose lives of consistency were tarnished.
A Christian in the marketplace is consistent in his personal habits and lifestyle choices—they’re not for show, but intentional because he lives a principled life. Early in my law career, I was acquainted with a well-established colleague. We attended the same church, our children went to the same Christian school, often we appeared in the same courts and were members of the same professional Lawyers’ Bar Associations. We shared a common circle of lawyer friends and judges. In social gatherings, it was common practice to find alcohol available. At one Bar Association picnic, my lawyer friend joined in with the beer drinking. A non-Christian friend noticed and asked, “I thought you Adventists didn’t drink beer?” My friend replied, “I’m just fudging a little.” His “fudging” took its toll on the reputation of the church and on those whose lives of consistency were tarnished. A Christian is aware that non-Christians are quick to notice inconsistency in the moral lives of believers. As a result, they think less, not just of the offender, but of all those who espouse the same beliefs.
Does the marketplace Christian spend his money differently from his worldly colleagues? Does it matter? Should it? Will there be any difference between how a Christian and non-Christian of the same economic status uses their money? Whose business or practice is it? After meeting tax obligations, it’s quite easy for the secularist to reason, I earned it, or at least I have it, and what I want to do with “my” money is no one else's’ business. Their use of money can reveal a person’s priorities for power, dissipation, display, greed, whim, indulgence or entertainment, limited only by imagination and resources. Our choices reveal our character. Even in the secular world, we see commendable examples of wealthy persons who have spent fortunes on libraries, public parks, medical care and research, starvation/disaster relief, education, and other worthwhile causes that have relieved much suffering. Unfortunately, this seems to be the exception, not the rule.
The key difference that separates the secularist from the Christian is the concept of stewardship. The secularist sees his prosperity as resulting from his own skill, intelligence, fortuity, or just plain luck.
The Christian who accepts Scripture as truth in his worldview will march to an entirely different drummer. He knows the Scriptures and Jesus himself had much to say about the poor, the rich, money, and how money should be used. A committed Christian will have a caring concern about others. Jesus reminded that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Mat. 22:38, 39, quoting Lev.19:18). But Christian stewardship goes back almost to the beginning of time when Cain, confronted about his brother Abel, responded to God Himself, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Scripture reveals stories of the wealthy and powerful, many beloved of the Lord: Abraham and Lot, Joseph, Moses, Boaz, David and Solomon, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea. In fact, God Himself directly prospered some of these (Gen. 39:3, 23). He wants all of His people to prosper in all things, both physical and spiritual (3 Jn 2, Ps. 1:1-3). The key difference that separates the secularist from the Christian is the concept of stewardship. The secularist sees his prosperity as resulting from his own skill, intelligence, fortuity, or just plain luck. Whatever its source, what he has is his own, to do with as he pleases. By contrast, the Christian sees God’s hand in all that happens, and asks the question, ”What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me” (Ps. 116:12). Even if gifted with great skill or talent, he recognizes that these, too, come from the Lord. He is then a steward of those resources and will ask the question: “What does God, as Owner, want me to do with what He’s given me to manage?” God’s answer is not obscure.
In one of Jesus’ early sermons, he dealt with the dilemma of how man should weigh the priorities between spirituality and “things.” In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly admonishes, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mat. 6:33). The Christian knows that the only safe treasure “bank” is in heaven, not on earth. No one can move his investments to another world. We cannot carry anything out of this world when life is over. We will go like we came—with nothing (1Tim. 6:7).
Christians who see themselves primarily as God’s stewards will be content with what God has supplied (1 Tim. 6:8) and happily support His Church. They will look for opportunities to help those in need and will be quick to defend against injustices (Ps. 82:13; Isa. 58:6-14). They will shun ostentatious display knowing that our Lord Jesus was rich, but became poor for our sakes so that through His poverty, we might become rich in his grace, (2 Cor. 8:9).
Perhaps the real question is not, “What do Christians in the marketplace look like?” but rather, “Who do they look like?”