Just Business

In a scene from the movie, The Godfather, one of the Corleone henchman is discovered to be involved in a plot to betray Michael Corleone, the new Godfather. The plot is discovered, and the henchman is led away to go "sleep with the fishes" or whatever. He says to one of the other henchman, "Tell Michael it was just business; it was nothing personal."

While most Christians (I would assume) aren't involved in organized crime, it is surprising how many do seem to subscribe to this "it's just business" philosophy. The business and financial and career world is a dog-eat-dog rat-race. And to survive, let alone thrive, one must race the rats and eat the dogs right along with everyone else. And so it is all too easy to adopt one set of ethics for business and career purposes and quite another when dealing with family and friends... and church.

In Deuteronomy 24, God through Moses gives Israel a series of laws that pertain to business and financial concerns. Now God understands that we must all make a living-- He came up with that idea! But all of these laws assume that there is a bond of humanity and brotherhood that is more important than getting ahead in business. Notice for example--

  • In verse 6, the Jews are forbidden to take a millstone as collateral for a loan; that would take away a man's livelihood and thus his ability to repay the debt.

  • In verses 12-13, when they made a loan was made, particularly to someone poor, the Jews were not keep the collateral overnight. Returning at night a man's coat given as collateral was seen as an act of righteousness in the sight of God.

  • In verses 14-15, wages were to be paid at the end of each day. The poor lived day to day, and they might not make it to a payday at the end of the week. So the payment of wages was done based on the needs of the worker, not the convenience of the owner!

  • In verses 17-18, special consideration was to be given to those who were at a particular disadvantage in financial matters-- widows and foreigners. (I wonder if running sweatshops in foreign countries that pay little and pressure workers to the point where some commit suicide applies here at all?)

  • In verses 19-20, the harvest was to be done in such a away that produce was left in the fields to be gathered by the poor.

The point here is not that we should expect Wal-Mart or Microsoft to do business like this. The point is that Christians should be governed by an unselfishness and heart for people that guides them in their business dealings. It is never the case that any part of our lives is "just business." Indeed, God is our business, and we are glorify Him in our business dealings.