In my daily morning devotional, I recently read through the Book of Revelation, the “capstone” book of the Bible. Revelation can be difficult to understand and interpret, but the outcome is easy to understand: “God Wins!” While reading Chapter 18, which focuses on “The Fall of Babylon,” I found a “sidebar” in the commentary (NIV) entitled “How Can a Person Keep Away from the Evil System?” I found the six points mentioned as great principles for running a business. Here they are, with some additional thoughts on each:
1.) People must always be more important than products.
In concept, most people agree that organizations should put the needs of their customers, clients, or anyone they serve first, but even the most fundamental values can be challenging to uphold consistently. To help maintain a people-first focus, remember that all positive outcomes – whether that’s a well-engineered product or innovative service offering – ultimately end with a human connection. It is people who will buy what you’re selling, and it is people who will benefit from a job well done. Every transaction, then, is a chance to serve someone kindly and fairly.
2.) Keep away from pride in your own programs, plans and successes.
Being proud of what you’ve accomplished and built is fine (even healthy), but insisting that things be done only one way – your way – is a dangerous pitfall that can jeopardize positive company culture and be detrimental to your business as a whole. It is imperative to consider the contributions of others and be intentional about including multiple parties in decision-making. Doing so will foster trust among your team and remind everyone to value one another.
3.) Remember that God’s will and Word must never be compromised.
As Christian leaders, we must not lose sight of what truly counts – God’s will for ourselves and the world. God wants to give his children good things, and he also wants to see us be generous with those gifts. When we act with transparency, forgiveness, discernment, and grace, we reflect God’s character and act according to his will. Practicing these virtues also helps us stay centered when faced with the temptation to sacrifice values for personal gain.
4.) People must always be considered above the making of money.
Like putting people before products, we must also prioritize people over profits. Money is a fundamental part of our reality – there’s no avoiding the need for resources – but it does not have to overshadow integrity or compassion. We should always treat people respectfully and fairly, remembering that every person matters to God and to the world.
5.) Do what is right, no matter the cost.
In life, we will find ourselves faced with the choice to compromise our values to get ahead. This could mean doing something unethical to please a client or not owning up to our contribution to a problem. Although it is tempting to protect ourselves from disapproval and shame, or to shield our company from risk, it is unjust to make others take on the consequences of our poor decisions. Even if it seems like our actions will not cause harm, compromising values to get ahead may help us “win” in the short-term, but it almost always incites negative repercussions down the road. The best, and easiest, way to avoid the trap of moral compromise is to live a life that is above reproach.
6.) Be involved in businesses that provide worthwhile products or services – not just things that feed the world’s desires.
Doing business ethically goes beyond treating people well and acting honorably – we must pause to consider if what we do has real value. Being a business or nonprofit leader means you have a platform from which to inspire others, starting with your actions. And people are not easily fooled – they will sense if you act frivolously. Use your platform to push forward substantive ideas and products that benefit others, because the world does not need more widgets.
These concepts may seem obvious, but they become increasingly difficult to uphold in the face of challenges. To be clear – business is not the enemy. Moral compromise is. The essential question for us as Christian leaders is, “How can we do what we do with utmost integrity?” For it is only when we do this that we can ensure that when God inevitably wins, everybody has a chance to win.