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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Christian Business: How does that work?

Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby have probably been the two most visible representations of the phenomenon of "Christian" businesses. Chick-fil-A has been in the public eye for some time because of its well-known practice of closing its restaurants on Sundays to promote church attendance by its employees. Also, they have been in the news more lately because of their CEO's public statements against same-sex marriage. Likewise, Hobby Lobby has been in the news lately because of its Supreme Court challenge to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that mandate providing birth control coverage for female employees.

Nevertheless, these two companies are part of a much larger trend in American Society that involves many of the businesses in this country - large and small. Tyson Foods has placed chaplains on its payroll to minister to the spiritual needs of its employees. Marriot and Jet Blue are noted for their ties to the Mormon Church. In my own area, we have a lady who wears prominent cross-shaped earrings as she sells cars on television, and she can be relied upon to give a Christ-themed Christmas message every year during the holiday season. I've noticed that some local businesses even place notices in their doors and windows professing their belief in Christ or asserting their claim to be a Christian business.

So it occurred to me: What makes a business Christian? Does the business automatically adopt the religion of its owner or the majority of its stockholders? What if half of the people are Baptists and the other half are Methodists? Do they adopt a generic Christianity in those instances? How do they resolve doctrinal differences between people who work for the company? Or is everyone required to speak the party line? Are Christian businesses somehow superior to secular or pagan businesses (I've never seen anyone advertise themselves as a "pagan" business)? Do Christian businesses pay their employees better than other businesses and provide them with better benefits? Are Christian businesses more likely to forgive employee misconduct or mistakes and less likely to fire them? Do Christian businesses tithe on their profits? Do they contribute part of their profits to churches and charities? Can businesses be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or pagan like individual people?

In other words, does claiming to be a Christian business impose any kind of responsibility on the business to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ? Does paying employees at or near minimum wage qualify as paying your workers a fair wage? (Leviticus 19:13, Jeremiah 22:13, Malachi 3:5) Does failing to forgive an employee for some infraction of the corporate rules disqualify your business from advertising itself as Christian? (Matthew 18:35) Is providing for the needs of widows and orphans a priority for Christian businesses? (Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, James 1:27) Do all of the employees of a Christian business have to claim allegiance to Jesus Christ? (Matthew 10:32) Can a Christian business be counted on to never cheat or defraud its customers? (Proverbs 11:1) Are Christian businesses required to be truthful in their advertising? (John 14:16, 18:37, Ephesians 4:15)

In short, does claiming to be a Christian business carry with it any responsibilities on the part of the company, or is this merely a marketing ploy to draw Christian customers into the business? Merriam-Webster defines "business" as: "the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money." That being the case, I think it is legitimate to question whether most modern business practices are consistent with the Apostle Paul's statement to Timothy: "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." (I Timothy 6:9-10)

Maybe I'm being too judgmental, but I have a tendency to run in the other direction when I see one of those "Christian" business signs in the window! I wonder what God thinks about the claims of these businesses? What do you think?

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