This article was written by Mats Tunehag and published by Faith Driven Entrepreneur
He who marries the latest trend will soon be a widower.
In times of crisis, things are sifted. We often see and then focus on what is important. A crisis can reveal what we really value and should prioritize. It applies when we get seriously sick, when there is an upheaval in our family, or even during a pandemic. The sifting process may also show what really stands the test of time, and what is a mere short-lived trend.
The global crisis and cataclysmic disruption in recent times has clearly shown that Business as Mission, BAM—God honoring and people serving business—is not a flickering trend. But as we continue to pursue business for God, people, and planet, we must be well grounded in the Holy Scriptures and deeply rooted in history as well as in the teachings of the Church.
It is of utmost importance for the global BAM movement to dig deep into its roots, to draw on the rich heritage we have. We must recognize our roots, understand our history, and
acknowledge that we are standing on shoulders of giants who have gone before us.
Remember that Martin Luther was a Catholic, and Jesus was a Jew. Our worldview and business practice must be thoroughly infused and constantly informed by a few millenniums worth of Judeo-Christian thought.BAM and faith driven entrepreneurship did not start with us, even though it is experiencing a global surge in our generation. But it will only have a lasting impact if we are deeply rooted for the future.
Our Jewish Heritage
The late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, an intellectual giant, wrote an essay 20 years ago which helps us understand our Jewish roots when it comes to a worldview conducive for problem solving and innovation, the sanctity of work, and the role of business for human flourishing.
Biblical thought has demythologized nature, which can be rationally understood and thus stewarded for creative solutions to human needs. Furthermore, a linear concept of time is essential to human progress. We are not stuck in an endless, repetitive, and meaningless circle of life. God Himself is orchestrating a narrative from the garden to the city. Yes, history is His story. These are essential ingredients shaping our worldview and, consequently, our
involvement in business.
The Genesis account of the creation mandate is clear: “God,” taught Rabbi Akiva in the second century, “deliberately left the world unfinished so that it could be completed by the work of man. Industry is more than mere labor. It is the arena in which we transform the world.”
The BAM movement is aligned with this aim of transforming the world. It is related to what the Jews call tikkun olam: repairing the world. Tikkun olam means co-creating with God and bridging the gap between the world which is and a world as it ought to be.
Work is Sacred
Work, creativity, and human dignity are related because we are created in God’s image. Rabbi Sacks contrasts animals and human beings: “Work, in other words, has spiritual value, because earning our food is part of the essential dignity of the human condition.
Animals find sustenance; only mankind creates it.”
This relates to the Hebrew word Avodah which means to work, worship, and serve. Thus, BAM pursues a seamless integration of work, worship, and service. The thirteenth-century
commentator Rabbenu Bachya said: “The active participation of man in the creation of his own wealth is a sign of his spiritual greatness.”
Professor Angelo Nicolaides expresses an Orthodox Church perspective on this: “In Old Testament times work was the way in which one worshipped God.” He goes on to say:
“Christians should thus view work as a mission.”
Judaism values work, wealth creation, and a framework of freedom which accommodates dignified work and the creation of wealth through business. Jews do not struggle with the sacred/secular divide which so often is prevalent among Christians.
But as we search our roots and traditions, we will discover—thankfully—that the Church has never endorsed this dichotomy. Bishop Barron: “When God came among us in Christ, he effected the work of repairing his broken and hurting creation. He is not interested simply in souls but in bodies as well.”
Work and business are reflections of the trinitarian God and also of who we are as created in His image. God is love and collaboration; God created in community and for
community. So, being a faithful worker individually and being creative collectively—also in business—are both deeply divine and deeply human.
As Angelo Nicolaides rightly observes: “The notion of business is recognized within the creation account where it is clear that man cannot work alone.”
The right to private property is intrinsically linked to freedom and human dignity. This is a long and strong Judeo-Christian tradition, and the teaching is clear.
Rabbi Sacks again: “For a ruler to abuse property rights is, for the Hebrew Bible, one of the great corruptions of power. Judaism is the religion of a people born in slavery and longing for redemption; and the great assault of slavery against human dignity is that it deprives me of the ownership of the wealth I create. At the heart of the Hebrew Bible is the God who seeks the free worship of free human beings, and two of the most powerful safeguards of freedom are private property and economic independence.”
Pope Francis published an encyclical letter called “Fratelli Tutti” in October 2020. Some accused him of diminishing the right of private property or rejecting democratic capitalism. A problem with modern journalism is often the lack of understanding, or the will to
understand, historical contexts. To comprehend the Catholic church and its teachings, one has to review centuries of profound thinking, often expressed in encyclicals. More on this later.
Pope Francis “stands firmly in the tradition of St. John Paul II, who saw the market economy as an arena for the exercise of human creativity, ingenuity, and courage. … He also reiterates the teaching of the founder of the modern Catholic social tradition, the great Leo XIII, who, in “Rerum Novarum,” strenuously defended private property and, using a number of
arguments, repudiated socialist economic arrangements.”
In numerous Papal Encyclicals stretching from “Rerum Novarum” (1891) to “Centesimus Annus” (1991), there is an unambiguous affirmation of private property and, linked to that, the obligation to share with others, especially the poor.
While affirming private property, the Judeo-Christian tradition also acknowledges that God is the ultimate owner and stresses our responsibility to be generous stewards. Rabbis Sacks: “Ultimately everything belongs to God. What we have, we hold in trust. And there are
conditions to that trust—or as the great Victorian Jew Sir Moses Montefiore put it, ‘We are worth what we are willing to share with others.’”
Dignifying Way to Help the Poor
Caring for the poor and needy is a commonly held belief and practice among Jews and Christians along a broad spectrum. Christians have in general—and throughout history —focused on charity responses and handouts. But in the Jewish tradition, “the highest degree of charity, exceeded by none, is that of a person who assists a poor Jew by providing him with a gift or a loan or by accepting him into a business partnership or by helping him to find employment—in a word, by putting him where he can dispense with other people’s aid.”
Handouts never give dignity. Jobs do! How can we best help a poor child; what is a long-term and dignifying solution? Give the parents a job!
Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants on Wealth Creation
This leads us into the conversation about wealth creation and wealth sharing. Hoarding of wealth is wrong; both creating and sharing wealth are commended. But there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. Generosity is a virtue, but aid is not the ultimate answer to poverty.
“The sages were not so much concerned with the elimination of poverty through redistributive taxation. Instead, what they sought to create was a society in which the poor had access to help when they needed it, through charity to be sure, but also and especially through job creation.”
As we connect with our roots, we build a stronger foundation for the future. And if you want to build a skyscraper, you need to first dig deep and establish a firm foundation. As we build a BAM movement that will rise high and last long, we should pour Jewish and Christian lessons learned into the foundations of our businesses and other BAM related initiatives.
The value of creating different kinds of wealth through business is endorsed in both rabbinic and Christian traditions. As Pope Francis says: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
BAM Global, together with the Evangelical Lausanne movement, organised a globa consultation in 2017 around the issue of wealth creation for holistic transformation. Our findings were documented in seven papers, a summarising manifesto, and an educational video series.
The Wealth Creation Manifesto is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian thought but also adds to a firm foundation for our day and age. Excerpts:
1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that “ourishes with abundance and diversity.
2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.
3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
This is also mentioned within the Orthodox Church tradition. God is giving “wealth to serve His purposes.”
Each generation has to review and highlight old-age concepts and truths and see how they apply to today’s context. That includes various arenas and constituencies, like business, church, and academia.
It would be a costly mistake to neglect the intellectual wealth generated over the centuries in both Jewish and Christian traditions. Please allow me to recommend one of the better books I’ve read recently: Papal Economics, by Maciej Zieba. He does an insightful overview and critical analysis of a dozen Papal encyclicals published over 100 plus years. They deal with issues like work, business, wealth, property rights, democracy, market economy, socialism, and human dignity and freedom.
The author, philosopher and theologian Michael Novak, who has written the foreword says: “For a long time to come, this book may well be the definitive work on the economic teaching of the modern popes.”
Beyond an Academic Exercise
A tree can flourish and give fruit as long as it has roots through which it can draw life-giving water. An olive tree can produce fruit for over a thousand years—if rooted and nurtured. The purpose of this article is beyond an academic exercise. We want to serve God and people through business—among all peoples—in our lifetimes but also for generations to come. Thus, we need to be deeply rooted for the future.