Business ownership is a relevant topic for many Christians today. With an estimated 30.2 million small businesses in the United States alone, it’s likely that you as a Christian either own a business yourself or know other Christians who do. But what guidance does the Bible provide on this important subject?
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the Biblical principles and passages related to business ownership. Whether you currently own a business or aspire to in the future, understanding the scriptural foundation for this endeavor can help provide wisdom and direction.
- Business ownership is viewed positively in the Bible when done ethically
- God calls some people to be entrepreneurs and provides gifts to equip them
- Christians are to manage their businesses with integrity and guard against greed
- Businesses should deal honestly with employees and provide fair wages
- Generosity and care for the poor are vital responsibilities for Christian business owners
- Wise business practices and stewardship are encouraged by various Biblical examples and verses
With these principles in mind, let’s explore what the holy scriptures say about this timely subject.
Owning a Business is Viewed Positively When Done Ethically
A common misconception among some Christians is that business ownership is somehow less spiritual than working for a nonprofit organization or church. However, the Bible contains many examples of godly men and women who were merchants, tradesmen, and skilled craftspeople.
For instance, in the Old Testament, skirt makers, bakers, metal workers and jewelers applied their trades to construct the tabernacle (Exodus 35:30-36:2). The Book of Proverbs praises the virtuous woman who considers a field and buys it to plant a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16). And in the New Testament, Paul collaborates with Aquila and Priscilla, tentmakers like himself, to share the gospel throughout the ancient world (Acts 18:2-3).
King Solomon summarized the dignity of work and business activity this way:
“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” (Proverbs 22:29, NKJV)
The key qualifier when it comes to owning a business is to do so ethically. As 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 states:
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NKJV)
Running an upright business is a worthy endeavor that can lead to success, influence, and independence provided it is pursued honorably.
God Calls Some People to Be Entrepreneurs and Provides Gifts to Equip Them
Some Christians discern a clear direction from God to start a company. Far from being a compromise, their business is an outworking of their spiritual giftings and calling.
In Exodus 35, we read how God singled out Bezalel and Oholiab to lead craftsmen constructing the tabernacle. As Exodus 35:30-33 states:
“And Moses said to the children of Israel, ‘See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.’” (Exodus 35:30-33, NKJV)
Like these Old Testament artisans, some modern-day entrepreneurs discern God’s giftings and direction to launch a business. Their work is fueled by faith and dedication to excellence.
The Apostle Paul affirms the diversity of spiritual gifts when he writes, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:4, NKJV) For business-minded Christians, their startup or company can be sanctified as part of their calling.
Christians are to Manage Their Businesses with Integrity and Guard Against Greed
According to the Bible, the motives behind operating a business are just as important as the activities themselves. Christian business owners are repeatedly instructed to maintain ethical practices and proper motives.
For example, 1 Timothy 6:6-11 provides this guidance:
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:6-11, NKJV)
Christian business owners are called to find satisfaction in serving God, not gaining riches. The love of money can corrupt even noble commercial endeavors, so Christians must guard their hearts.
As James 5:1-6 warns:
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord.” (James 5:1-6, NKJV)
Rather than cheating employees or customers, Christian business owners must manage with integrity.
Businesses Should Deal Honestly With Employees and Provide Fair Wages
Not only should Christians avoid greed in their own lives, but also in their treatment of employees. Business owners have a responsibility to deal honestly and pay fair wages to those who work for them.
Many verses communicate this obligation, including:
“Look, the pay you withheld from the workmen who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts” (James 5:4, BSB)
“Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1, NKJV)
“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.” (Jeremiah 22:13, NIV)
As Christians seek to honor God through business, they must remember their biblical mandate to deal honestly and generously with all employees. Paying fair wages is a key component of running an ethical business.
Generosity and Care for the Poor Are Vital Responsibilities for Christian Business Owners
While building a profitable business is important, Scripture also provides cautionary tales about being so consumed with commerce that we neglect the poor. Sometimes Christians become so engrossed in professional ambitions that they ignore those in need right around them.
But the Bible offers this admonition:
“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13, NIV)
Caring for the poor and generously giving of resources are presented as essential virtues for those who are prosperous. In fact, often in Scripture economic blessing follows generosity.
For instance, both the Israelites and early Christians experienced seasons of abundance as they faithfully gave:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Malachi 3:10, NASB)
“They did not require the disciples to give up ownership of any personal possessions, but they distributed to anyone as he had need. And Josephus was surnamed Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement) by the apostles (which is, being translated, Son of Consolation). And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:34-37, NKJV)
Christian business owners do well to remember that their financial increase comes with spiritual responsibility to generously share and meet needs around them.
Wise Business Practices and Stewardship Are Encouraged by Various Biblical Examples and Verses
At times, Christians can be overly passive about business matters because they feel unspiritual. But Scripture provides many examples of wise business practices that led to success and prosperity.
For example, the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30 tells of a master who entrusts money to his servants for investment before going on a journey. Two of the servants make wise business decisions and double the money, resulting in the master’s commendation.
Proverbs also extols the virtues of diligence, planning, attention to detail that contribute to business success:
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23, ESV)
“The plans of the diligent lead only to plenty, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5, HCSB)
“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenty, But the thoughts of the lazy tend only to poverty..” (Proverbs 21:5, NKJV)
Christians business owners have the green light from Scripture to exercise sound judgment in operating their companies. Wise planning and stewardship of resources are inherently biblical concepts.
In summary, the Bible speaks extensively to the topic of business ownership. While Scripture elevates character above profits, operating an ethical business is viewed positively as part of one’s calling and stewardship. Key principles for Christians in business include:
- Pursuing excellence with pure motives and an aim to glorify God
- Managing with integrity and guarding against greed
- Dealing honestly with employees and providing fair wages
- Giving generously and caring for the poor
- Making wise decisions that lead to provision and prosperity
The holy scriptures provide practical guidance to help believers navigate both the blessings and potential pitfalls of owning a business. With prayerful study and reliance on biblical principles, Christians can partner with God to start and operate companies that honor His Kingdom purposes. Though challenges will arise, keeping Christ at the center of all business activities allows entrepreneurs to experience the fulfillment and joy of prospering according to His perfect will.