Review: Why Business Matters to God – Jeff Van Duzer [Vol. 4, #7.5]

April 1, 2011 — 1 Comment

 

838882: Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed)

A Review of

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


By Jeff Van Duzer
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner

Too often, a Christian view of business is couched in terms of pros and cons. Jeff Van Duzer, in his theologically saturated business book Why Business Matters to God, reorients the discussion to focus not on the worthiness or ethics of business, but why it matters in the first place.

Building his case for business on a vocational theology defined by the creation story, Van Duzer expands the role of business beyond just being a means to an end for workers and businesspersons alike. In the creation story the material world is forefront and “good,” which for Van Duzer is a starting point for redefining the role of business. If the material world matters to God, then what we do with our material goods?the creativity, the entrepreneurship, the buying and selling of goods and services?is a furthering of God’s original creation. Next, Van Duzer does something interesting. Taking the theological perspective of Miroslav Volf and the creative theory from the Tolkien/Sayers camp, he defines the role of the Christian business and business leaders:

as stewards of God’s creation, business leaders should manage their business (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish and (2) to provide  opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity. (42)

This defining role for business removes the discussion of business from traditional economic perspectives such as free-market capitalism and socialism and defines business withing God’s economy (not the world’s). For Van Duzer, “Christians engage in business with a sense of hope and meaning” because their actions are meant to serve the world, not serve shareholders (97). Trying to operate a business like it is in God’s economy while still in the world’s economy is a complicated issue, and one Van Duzer does not take lightly: he calls it the “messy middle.” Realizing that we live in an already/not yet paradox, Van Duzer views business as operating in a dissonant marketplace where “Adam Smith’s invisible hand and the hand of God may point in opposite directions” (119).

Operating within this “messy middle” between Fall and the Kingdom requires businesspersons to approach business from a kingdom mindset. Too often, in Van Duzer’s perspective, this has meant lowering businesspersons down to second class citizens in the kingdom, whose only purpose is to make money and tithe. Businesspersons, when trying to bring God’s economy into the “messy middle,” are engaged in vocations that are pleasing to God. This means that all the cornerstones of a modern conception of business, even profit, are seen as tools to further God’s economy. When defined from a community and servant perspective, business is not about quarterly profits and share prices?”the business of business is to serve the world” (201).

  • This is why economics can be so much fun, and (in my view) the only true social “science.” Economics is all about human choices and why we pursue the things we do. The Bible has a lot to say about human desires and choices.