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Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to Be Fixed

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Jeff Van Duzer grew up thinking business was the source of much damage and evil in the world, the work of greedy capitalists polluting the environment. Thirty years later he was dean of a business school. In the course of that remarkable transformation, Van Duzer found cause for both hope and concern. He discovered many business people achieving a great deal of good for so Jeff Van Duzer grew up thinking business was the source of much damage and evil in the world, the work of greedy capitalists polluting the environment. Thirty years later he was dean of a business school. In the course of that remarkable transformation, Van Duzer found cause for both hope and concern. He discovered many business people achieving a great deal of good for society as well as a lot of illegal and unethical behavior. Along the way he found some who thought that merely being honest and kind was what made business Christian. Others said they'd never ask pastors for business advice because they had no interest or experience in their work. After all, wasn't "full-time Christian service" what the church was all about? This book explores the nature and meaning of doing business and finds it calls for much more than most think. Van Duzer presents a profoundly Christian approach that integrates biblical studies with the disciplines of business and economics. Looking beyond the place of ethical principles and the character of the individual, Van Duzer displays a vision of business that contributes to the very purposes of God.


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Jeff Van Duzer grew up thinking business was the source of much damage and evil in the world, the work of greedy capitalists polluting the environment. Thirty years later he was dean of a business school. In the course of that remarkable transformation, Van Duzer found cause for both hope and concern. He discovered many business people achieving a great deal of good for so Jeff Van Duzer grew up thinking business was the source of much damage and evil in the world, the work of greedy capitalists polluting the environment. Thirty years later he was dean of a business school. In the course of that remarkable transformation, Van Duzer found cause for both hope and concern. He discovered many business people achieving a great deal of good for society as well as a lot of illegal and unethical behavior. Along the way he found some who thought that merely being honest and kind was what made business Christian. Others said they'd never ask pastors for business advice because they had no interest or experience in their work. After all, wasn't "full-time Christian service" what the church was all about? This book explores the nature and meaning of doing business and finds it calls for much more than most think. Van Duzer presents a profoundly Christian approach that integrates biblical studies with the disciplines of business and economics. Looking beyond the place of ethical principles and the character of the individual, Van Duzer displays a vision of business that contributes to the very purposes of God.

30 review for Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to Be Fixed

  1. 5 out of 5

    Donovan Richards

    Separate Spheres, Like the Sun and Moon In most home, work, and church settings, a clear disconnect exists between Christianity and business. In general, the average Christian relegates his or her faith to the personal sphere. Beliefs and practices resulting from Christian tradition are channeled primarily within the family with the purpose of creating moral individuals and healthy relationships. When an application of faith to business is pursued, one of two extreme postures is typically taken: Separate Spheres, Like the Sun and Moon In most home, work, and church settings, a clear disconnect exists between Christianity and business. In general, the average Christian relegates his or her faith to the personal sphere. Beliefs and practices resulting from Christian tradition are channeled primarily within the family with the purpose of creating moral individuals and healthy relationships. When an application of faith to business is pursued, one of two extreme postures is typically taken: Christians understand the business world to be in conflict with the life of faith, thereby pursuing their work lives independent of their spiritual lives. Or, they see little or no moral tension between economic and spiritual pursuits, resulting in “business as usual” with no resulting changes in actions or outlook. The pulpit, similarly, avoids mingling these two topics. Apart from rhetoric encouraging parishioners to live Monday through Friday in an identical manner to Sunday, pastors rarely mention the theological merit of work. For this reason and certainly many more, numerous Christians value business for its instrumental contributions to “morally elevated” occupations such as church, missionary, and nonprofit work. Business as Service Van Duzer questions these assumptions in Why Business Matters to God. While value certainly exists in the contributions business makes to the nonprofit sector, Van Duzer contends that business in and of itself contains intrinsic value. Leaning theologically on the Reformed rubric of God’s activity in the world — creation, fall, redemption, and New Creation — as well as theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s classic work in Christ and Culture, Van Duzer suggests a new framework in which to imagine business. He recommends supplanting the generally accepted business practice of maximizing shareholder value with a “business-as-service model,” which he contends is more closely aligned with God’s purposes for economic enterprise. What is the “business-as-service model?” Van Duzer defines it simply when he writes, “The purpose of business is still to serve in two key aspects: (1) to serve the community by providing goods and services that will enable the community to flourish, and (2) to serve employees by providing them with opportunities to express at least a portion of their God-given identity through meaningful and creative work” (114). In a certain sense, Van Duzer’s business-as-service model resides within the realm of ideas reacting against the dominant view of maximizing shareholder value such as stakeholder theory, social entrepreneurship, conscious capitalism, and creative capitalism; and on top of new ownership structures, like the B Corporation, that facilitate a legal framework from which to pursue multiple bottom lines. More importantly, though, Van Duzer’s position re-imagines business through a practical theological lens. The Messy Middle Whether business models itself in service or shareholder value, it operates in what Van Duzer calls the “messy middle,” a state on the theological timeline between the resurrected Jesus and the promises of glorified perfection yet to come. The Jewish and Christian scriptures promise a perfect, future city that exhibits all that God originally intended for humanity. Yet brokenness keeps us from fulfilling these promises in our current time and context. For Christians, a perfect application of the “business-as-service model,” therefore, is impossible until the full Shalom in Jesus’ return is made manifest. Although work is currently tainted by the fall, it presents Christians in the business world with the opportunity to exercise both creative and redemptive work. God first illustrated the calling of humanity to engage in creative work through the naming of the animals by Adam. Similarly, business people in modern times engage in creative work when they develop new software, begin an entrepreneurial venture, or engage in other additive ventures. Intermingled and as equally important, business also focuses on fixing and restoring that which is fractured, a necessary measure because of the full import of the fall. While the “messy middle” hinders the full realization of a perfected business-as-service model, redemptive and creative work offers Christian business people a navigable compass in our less-than-perfect world. God’s Economy: The Household Theologically speaking, Van Duzer’s business model emphasizes the community over the individual. Typically, when managing decisions, the modern business person applies a self-interested ethic often under the umbrella of consequentialism. Authors such as Milton Friedman continue to cite — perhaps incorrectly — Adam Smith’s invisible hand as the root of all actions in the free market. Business as service, on the other hand, stresses the importance of other people. In this way, business serves the economy, or better translated: the household. Just as the triune God exists not as an individual but as three persons in relational community, so too business exists in relational community with the rest of the economy and with other important, mediating institutions of culture. Theologian, M. Douglas Meeks writes in God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and the Political Economy, “All the persons of the triune community have their own characteristics and their own tasks. Yet they are constituted as persons precisely by their relationships with other persons of the community. The same should be said for human economic community. There is in reality no such thing as a radically individual and isolated human being. We are what we are as a result of being constituted by our relationships with other members of the communities in which we live. All social goods are given to us communally.” A theologically minded Christian in the marketplace must remember that his or her actions affect the local community and the global community. Where self-interested or narrowly focused decisions directed toward increasing shareholder wealth often neglect other stakeholders, the business-as-service framework offers an important and theologically grounded foundation to serve the broader community. Why Business Matters to God God created work and declared that it was good. Why Business Matters to God contends with the schismatic notion that business and Christian practices reside in divergent spheres. Where the popular ideologies suggest that the positive nature of business subsists in its instrumental value — its capability in funding work that actually matters — Jeff Van Duzer asserts that business, when understood as service to the global community, maintains intrinsic value — significance by its created purpose to both create and restore a hurting world. Whether your occupation involves managing a large company or you just recently entered the job world, this book is a must-read for those interested in the relationship between Scripture, work, and business. Originally published at http://spu.edu/depts/sbe/cib/reviews/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Great book that explores the theology of work from some key biblical texts and how they might apply to the modern business world. As a whole the books points out the importance of thinking biblically in every sphere of life includes business decisions. When there are texts that might lead to speculation, he acknowledges the limits, when there are some difficult issues in tension with each other, he acknowledges that and presents multiple ways offered by others as to how to resolve that tension. Great book that explores the theology of work from some key biblical texts and how they might apply to the modern business world. As a whole the books points out the importance of thinking biblically in every sphere of life includes business decisions. When there are texts that might lead to speculation, he acknowledges the limits, when there are some difficult issues in tension with each other, he acknowledges that and presents multiple ways offered by others as to how to resolve that tension. One main issue I saw a few times in the book was simply a misunderstanding of the cause of some problems in the economy. I.e. free market forces caused the bust in 2008. I firmly believe the bust can be sourced to the suppressed interest rates maintained by the Federal Reserve. Such views are commonplace and don’t destroy the main thrust of the book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Latshaw

    The books aim is to show that modern business has intrinsic as well as instrumental value. The author states that the intrinsic purpose of business is to 1) provide the community with goods and services that allow it to flourish, and 2) provide meaningful work for employees. The first 4 chapters are good, back 4 are not.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Branton

    Every person in business needs to read this book, whether you are the lowest person on the “totem pole” or the woman in the corner office. There is nobility, value, and purpose in work. “The business of business is to serve the world.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    This fantastic book does an excellent job explaining the role of our faith in business. Too often, business is viewed as a necessity, but not a value in itself. This is a must read for any Christian in business.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Excellent, but long, sermon and academic study on the tensions and best practice to navigating God’s kingdom in the workplace. The author builds a great case for conscious capitalism that is bipartisan, in US Political standards.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Momanyi

    Next to the Bible, this is a book I hope I can read through every so often. Helps me put my business affairs into perspective.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elissa Mahler

    This is required reading material for my current doctorate-leveled program. The book is presented in a logical manner, and adequately relates Biblical principals to daily job-related life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mark Oppenlander

    Jeff Van Duzer is the Provost of Seattle Pacific University and the former Dean of SPU's School of Business and Economics. Prior to that, he was an attorney for many years (full disclosure: He was also my boss for a number of years). In this book, Van Duzer discloses that for quite some time he had a rather dark view of business - as a Christian he found it to be an institution that was, at best, fraught with peril for the believer and, at worst, was the source of much evil in the world. But Van Jeff Van Duzer is the Provost of Seattle Pacific University and the former Dean of SPU's School of Business and Economics. Prior to that, he was an attorney for many years (full disclosure: He was also my boss for a number of years). In this book, Van Duzer discloses that for quite some time he had a rather dark view of business - as a Christian he found it to be an institution that was, at best, fraught with peril for the believer and, at worst, was the source of much evil in the world. But Van Duzer's thinking on the topic has evolved quite a bit since that time and in this short but dense tome, he takes us on a journey with him to answer the question, "Does God have a purpose for business and if so, what is it?" If God cares about doctors because he cares about healing and if God cares about lawyers because he cares about justice then God cares about businesspeople because . . . why? Because he cares about making money? Not so fast. The answer to that question is that business exists to serve. Van Duzer sees that service play out in two areas - businesses provide goods and services that allow communities to flourish (the Biblical notion of Shalom) and serve as a mechanism to provide opportunities for people to use their God-given gifts and talents through employment. Profit, he argues, is a means to these ends and not an end in itself. When businesses use customers and employees as a means to make a profit rather than using profit as a way to serve customers and employees they have flipped this mandate on its head. To build in to this set of ideas, Van Duzer begins by framing business within the context of the Biblical narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption. He points out that the Garden was perfectly resourced, and yet humans were given tasks to complete to cultivate and steward it. In other words, they were called to be industrious - to pursue work - to get busy. He then goes on to show how work changed after the Fall, with toil becoming irksome and burdensome, and then he leaps ahead to how work will once again be a joyful part of human purpose in the New Creation. But we live in the space between Garden and New Creation. So the rest of the book explores how we might position ourselves to realize the best of what God has for business, while reducing those parts of it that can be troublesome or even lead to greed, environmental degradation, human rights abuses and other sins. Having worked with Jeff (and other SBE faculty) while he was writing this, I know a lot of this material almost by heart. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to see the full set of ideas laid out in one place. The book is scholarly and erudite, but I don't think it was inaccessible to any relatively well educated Christian. If you have people in your church or circle of friends who struggle with reconciling their Christian faith with their work in business - or even the institution of business in society - you could do a lot worse than handing them this to read. Van Duzer doesn't attempt to gloss over or right all of the wrongs perpetrated in or through business. But he does point us toward its remarkable potential to do God's will in the world - if we will reframe our understanding and listen for God's heart in the matter. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Smith

    This is a very unique book. It combines theological exegesis of the basis of business with practical insights from the author's personal business experience. It is not merely idealistic, but eminently practical in scope. He begins with an unfinished parable of three students who ask a pastor for career advice. One is considering law school, one medical school and the final one is considering business school. The pastor says that God's purpose for law is his concern for justice; his purpose for m This is a very unique book. It combines theological exegesis of the basis of business with practical insights from the author's personal business experience. It is not merely idealistic, but eminently practical in scope. He begins with an unfinished parable of three students who ask a pastor for career advice. One is considering law school, one medical school and the final one is considering business school. The pastor says that God's purpose for law is his concern for justice; his purpose for medicine is his concern for healing. The parable ends there. God's purpose for business was not stated. I think this is how many who desire to serve God in the business world feel. What is God's purpose for business? He then discusses God's purpose for business. He makes the case that God's purpose is not merely instrumental (a means to another end). In other words, business is not just to earn money so it can be put to good uses. It has a much higher purpose. It requires us to dig a little deeper into the Bible, but the answer is there. He utilizes a "narrative hermeneutic": it looks at the larger biblical picture and draws conclusions. Here are the main ones: The material world matters to God Human beings are called to steward God's creation Human beings are made in the image of God Humans are made to live within limits God delights in variety The garden was incomplete God's purpose for business is two-fold: Business appears to be uniquely well situated to work the fields, to cause the land to be fruitful, and to fill the earth - what we might in modern parlance characterize as "to create wealth" Business is also the dominant institution (although obviously not the only one) equipped to provide organized opportunities for meaningful and creative work In the end, business is not just a matter of maximizing profits so investors gain a higher ROI (return on investment), it is a matter of finding ways to serve customers, vendors, communities and the entire culture. It is in this way that individual workers and business leaders maintain their motivation and do good in the world. While this is the main focus of the book, he also delves into bad business practices, unethical behavior, workaholic behavior, fair wages, environmental sustainability and employer-employee relations. He skillfully places business practices in the larger context of God's purposes in history. Notice that God has purposes for the present, nut just the ultimate end of all things. Recommendation I think that Christian business workers and leaders need to read this book. It gives the reader proper biblical motivation and practical ways to implement the vision of this book. I was certainly encouraged to see my work in a different light. It has helped me to more fully buy in to the mission of my work. I think to understand the "why of work" is extremely helpful for those who want to understand God's purpose for secular work. It is not just about doing a "good job", but it is also about serving others in a company or outside one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meepspeeps

    This book was too pedantic for me. It was hard to distinguish between business mattering to God and business mattering to a moral agnostic. Two things stood out: one, that business has been created by God for good, i.e. it's not an exclusive evil realm for the greedy; and two, it's okay to do the best we can as business people "straining to live within these limits." For the latter, he gave the example that we can want to pay everyone a living wage, but may be unable to sell our product or servi This book was too pedantic for me. It was hard to distinguish between business mattering to God and business mattering to a moral agnostic. Two things stood out: one, that business has been created by God for good, i.e. it's not an exclusive evil realm for the greedy; and two, it's okay to do the best we can as business people "straining to live within these limits." For the latter, he gave the example that we can want to pay everyone a living wage, but may be unable to sell our product or service for a high enough price to do so and still deliver a reasonable return to shareholders. I've been more inspired by other similar books.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anton Lukyanov

    This book gives an interesting pespective on business as a divine activity. My MBA program requires it for reading in one of the classes and I'm glad it does. A nice change from the usual "drive up the profits, drive down the costs" approach taught everywhere. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in alternative approaches to everyday business practices. On the side note, the information in the book is presented very clear so for a class reading, it is rather a fresh and engaging read (no This book gives an interesting pespective on business as a divine activity. My MBA program requires it for reading in one of the classes and I'm glad it does. A nice change from the usual "drive up the profits, drive down the costs" approach taught everywhere. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in alternative approaches to everyday business practices. On the side note, the information in the book is presented very clear so for a class reading, it is rather a fresh and engaging read (not your typical dry academic text).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    The book provides an interesting perspective on the purpose of business and of institutions in general but is quite repetitive. I had hoped that the book will delve further into the "what still needs to be fixed" component reflected in the subtitle. Instead it dealt with this topic in a very high level. As a Christian business owner, I do believe that there is value in reading the exegesis presented and the framework established within the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Seehausen

    Props to this guy for saying The Exact Same Sentence For Every Single Sentence. Worst book I've read in a long time. Wouldn't have finished it if I wasn't required to. Also, like that last sentence, he frequently ends his sentences with prepositions and it drove me insane.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joaquin Hernandez

    recomendado por TGC http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/t... recomendado por TGC http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/t...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Arnott

    Have only just started it but it looks excellent

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Excellent book exploring the correlation between the business and Christian world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Garry L. Krum

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan Archer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Studdard

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Lee

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Shaw

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carol Lawrence

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.W. van Strien

  26. 4 out of 5

    James Holden

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin N.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Seth Kuhn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  30. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

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