Affluence is Good, but Not Satisfying
You can beat the market without feeding your soul. You can make millions and leave your heart a beggar. You can retire young and rich and know you’ve missed it. ‘It’ is fulfillment. ‘It’ is soulish prosperity. ‘It’ can’t be bought. ‘It’ can be sold. No matter how high you set the sale price, it will be too low. The Devil is always there, checkbook in hand, looking to make a deal. His checks all bounce. He promises; he lies.
That’s another way of saying what Augustine said centuries ago, in what I consider the most profound statement in Western literature, when he said to God: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
In other words, affluence, while good, is not satisfying; nothing is, but God. You might try to satisfy your heart by many means; none works except the God who made it. We all have a God-shaped vacuum inside us, so to speak. Nothing fills it properly but God, nothing. You can try fame, power, riches, or ease, but none gives you rest for your soul or food for your spirit. You might run your new car on kerosene, on diesel, or even on some kinds of perfume, but that’s not how it was designed. It was designed for unleaded. Unleaded works best. If you run it on something else, your car might sputter and lurch down the road; it might move; but that is not good enough. You will not be satisfied. God is your soul’s proper fuel. He is your cosmic unleaded. Fill your inner life with Him or wish you had. Without Him, you might sputter and lurch down the road of life, but that is not how you were designed to live.
I can explain it all from another perspective: if, as Christians affirm, Christ is Lord, then He is Lord not merely of a few things here and there, but of all things, period. If He is Lord of all things, then nothing is properly secular. Therefore, anything pursued in a secular fashion is at least partly, if not wholly, mispursued. “All things” includes the public square, the laboratory, the academy, the arena, and, of course, the marketplace. For Christian entrepreneurs, the marketplace is their mission field. Their professional vocation is their spiritual vocation, and should be conducted accordingly.
Yes, but how?
Jesus once said that, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” (Matt. 25: 40). The principle of His comment is this: When you see others, great or small, you see Jesus. All your dealings with them are dealings with Him. The products you design and sell, the deals you negotiate, the quality and craftsmanship you employ, all are meant to serve His needs through serving the needs of others, those in his stead.
This, then, is the question behind all marketplace moves and transactions: “What would I do if I were dealing with Jesus — because I am?” Although others might not know your intentions or your manipulations, or not know your pricing schemes and corner cutting, He does. He knows it intimately well, and He will assess you accordingly. Imagine yourself dealing with the perfect and all-knowing customer because with every person who walks through your door, you are. When you see them, you see Him. What you do to them, you do to Him. He told you so Himself.
All business is God’s business.
Dr. Michael Bauman is Professor of Theology and Culture and is Director of Christian Studies at Hillsdale College, where he has been since 1988. He also is Scholar in Residence for the Summit Semester program of Summit Ministries. He is a former inner city pastor in Chicago, an honorably discharged Marine, and a former cycling world champion.