As business professionals we bring our talents to the marketplace every working day. We exercise influence, get things done, and move our enterprises forward. Our professional tool kits are full of the latest and greatest in new ideas and strategies—we are leaders, managers, and individual producers.
Underneath these worthwhile endeavors are our core values that fuel the process. These values are the foundational principles that shape our motives and impact our decisions. The products and services we deliver will change from time to time, but our core values remain the same.
God Owns Everything
Businesses and their people can possess any number of noble core values, but what sets Christians apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we recognize God as the owner of our businesses and careers. For this reason our first and most important core value is the principle of biblical stewardship which is: God owns everything and he gives some of it to us to use and manage on his behalf.
Psalms 24:1 speaks to this principle when it declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
A steward is someone who manages the property of another person. In the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), it is the steward who calls and pays the laborers at the end of the work day and not the vineyard owner. Matthew 20:8 reads, “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages.’” “Steward” used here in the NKJV is translated “manager” in the AMP. When it comes to our profession lives we are the stewards-managers and Jesus Christ is the owner. Jesus is the principal and we are his fiduciaries.
Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” The fact is God calls each of us to make good use of the resources (i.e., the people and the things) he gives us and we do this in ways that reflect his character.
Anne Bradley is Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) which is a non-profit Christian research organization based in McLean, VA, and she says the following about our work lives and the stewardship of God’s gifts:
“Work is what we do and stewardship is how we do it. Stewardship refers to all of our decision-making: how we choose to use our time, our talents, and our energies. It’s where we draw the boundaries on our commitments. It is reflected in all of our choices, from the mundane to the monumental. This is whole-life stewardship, and it requires a paradigm shift. Stewardship is not just about whether we tithe, or how we manage our personal finances or how we preserve fossil fuels. These are important aspects of stewardship, but whole-life stewardship is so much more. It concerns every decision that a person makes, and it requires intentionality and effectiveness.” [i]
Anne describes our stewardship of God’s resources as both a call and a mandate—we don’t have the luxury of misappropriating God’s resources. As Christians we are called to be intentional and prudent when using all the things we hold dear. It is our duty to see the value of the things God gives us and to put them to work in their highest and best uses according to God’s standards.
Mark Canlis is the co-owner of Canlis, a Seattle-based restaurant and one of the top 20 restaurants in America as rated by Gourmet Magazine. He is a marketplace Christian who understands biblical stewardship as a core business value and actively applies it to his own enterprise.
In addition to his restaurant, Mark leads a non-profit entity called Centered that equips others to serve God in their everyday work. In his role at Centered Mark says the following:
“Stewardship first and foremost begins with ourselves. It means living fully into who we were created to be. If we don’t begin with this understanding of taking care of all the gifts and resources that we ourselves have been blessed with, how could we ever hope to take care of anyone else’s time or money?” [ii]
Also, Mark says this about the challenges of following Jesus in his work:
“I don’t think my work has kept me from following Jesus. If anything, it gives me focus and purpose and insight into how to follow Him–or what that even means. The reality is I don’t have 6 hours in the morning to read scripture. That’s awesome, but that’s not me. Me is three kids, breakfast, school, and then 95 employees to care for. Work isn’t a distraction from becoming who I want to become, it’s a vehicle for it … As followers of Jesus, we have one life to answer the singular call to know, love, and serve God … There is only Jesus—at the center of any and everything we do—who we live through and for in our churches, our homes, and even our work.”
Mark is an example of someone who sees his professional life is a vehicle through which he lives out his divine purpose. Mark’s business life is not a spiritual distraction but a calling through which he serves Christ and others.
In conclusion, the first and most basic core value for marketplace Christians is to apply the principle of biblical stewardship to our businesses and careers. This core value begins by recognizing God as the ultimate owner of all the talents, resources, and opportunities we use on a daily basis. God calls us to use and manage the things he gives us and to do this in ways that honor him. This principle of biblical stewardship shapes our motives and influences our decisions—it sets us apart from the rest of the world in ways that glorify our Savior, Jesus Christ.
[i] Anne Bradley, PhD, Whole-Life Stewardship: The Call to Greatness, The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, 2014 (tifwe.org).
[ii] Mark Canlis, Centered and Canlis (centered.org and canlis.com).
This article by Patrick Layhee was first published in The Kingdom Economy blog at The Center for Christianity in Business at Houston Baptist University (hbu.edu).