Because entrepreneurship has potential to influence people, society, and culture, it deserves thoughtful, Biblical foundation by those who follow Christ. To do otherwise perpetuates the agenda of the Prince of the World.
Constructing one’s business in this way should also lead to the greatest personal fruit for the entrepreneur. However, this may not maximize value or financial wealth (although it could).
The most important question every entrepreneur of faith should ask themselves is this: “What are you building?”
Entrepreneurs are builders. To those who look at things that can be seen, they will point to their business: “I am building an online school. I am building a software-as-a-service. I am building a financial services company. I am building a restaurant.”
But Scripture poses a more probing question (emphasis added):
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as if through the flames.
(1Corinthians 3:10-15 - Berean Study Bible)
What are you building?
This passage refers to those that are saved.
The foundation is Jesus, and he is referring to those whose workmanship is built upon this foundation.
In fact, even if what is built does not survive the fire which “will prove the quality of each man’s work”....he will still be saved -- “he himself will be saved, but only as if through the flames.”
Entrepreneurs are builders.
The business itself, the product, the relationships, the way we finance and report our business, and ultimately ourselves are all built and part of this final workmanship.
The question every single one of us face is what “will be revealed with fire.”
We each make that decision.
Are we building from “gold”? Or are will building from “straw”?
IF, the decision is we want to build that which “survives” such that we can “receive a reward,” then the next question is this:
“What survives the fire which reveals?”
Entrepreneurs live and die daily by cash-flow. Run out of cash, no more business.
So this next passage about money holds a vital key to what survives upon the “Day [that] will bring [our workmanship -- the business] to light.”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19–21 (ESV)
What are the things that are eternal?
So the first question is whether what we are building are “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
This comes from the parable known as the “Tares and Wheat.” Jesus’ parable is describing the Kingdom of Heaven:
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30 - ESV)
This parable, if referring to the Kingdom, most likely refers to people.
Some people’s lives will be eternal. Some will not.
If we want to contribute to more lives living in eternity as a “store in heaven,” we should then ask ourselves, “How do I increase the numbers of people in heaven?”
We know we do not have any direct impact on whether not someone is saved:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 - ESV)
While no human being is the deciding factor for who is born of the Spirit, we do not what is a necessity. Those of the spirit must have faith.
And where does the faith come from? It comes from hearing the Word (my emphasis added):
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
Faith comes from hearing the word. From whom are those who are in the orbit of our business supposed to hear the word of Christ?
If our primary means of building that which will last and not burn...and if the final “product” of our business efforts are eternal lives....and if the means to eternal life starts with hearing through the word of Christ....
That means the building blocks of our business must share the Word of God.
Can behavior and attitude substitute for the Word?
A common reframe is that behavior leads one to Christ.
The argument runs like this: Being nice, polite, caring, gentle, generous....a God-centered behavior can bring people to Christ.
However, Scripture doesn’t appear to support this.
Will behaving in a regenerated way help? Yes, in fact, it’s probably the first step and certainly hard.
And the best outcome is, as a result of our behavior, we are asked before sharing:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
(1 Peter 3:15-16)
HOWEVER, waiting to be asked cannot be the only means of sharing the Gospel.
In fact, all Christians bear the responsibility to “preach the gospel”:
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
This phrasing is important for how we technically conduct ourselves in business. For “the gospel” to be good news, the hearer must believe there is bad news.
Therefore, limiting our spoken word to “God loves you” would not be the same as sharing the gospel. And hear those words, according to Scripture, may not lead someone to experience the freedom and hope of salvation.
Those words of God that should be shared should point to, or more likely, actually express the gospel, similar to what Romans (and many other passages) do:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
This raises the bar for how we conduct ourselves in our business!
What makes us reluctant to do so?
For this, I would turn to how Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4. After all, if these attack vectors were good enough for Jesus, certainly they are likely to be even more effective upon us mere mortals.
While this passage deserves an essay of its own, lets parse it quickly. The three temptations to not share the gospel in a business context are:
- Turn stone to bread (will I be unable to put food on the table?)
- Fall from the pinnacle (will I lose status or respect?)
- Kingdoms of the world (will I lose influence and power?)
I fear the loss of all three.
And in succumbing to them, I have succumbed to temptation.
There are many in our churches who lead in the workplace, who attain the title of elder, who also have succumbed and don’t even know it. (Which is why I created a course, “Eldership: Leadership Foundations for the Discerning Church”)
Why not do this?
I am working backwards with a “regret minimization” framework.
This means starting from the end-result. Back to the original verse from 1 Corinthians:
because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.
- Do I care whether or not what I am building now will be up in flames and there is no reward in heaven?
It can be easy to deceive oneself to answer yes, but in one’s heart to say no.
After all, I don’t even know what this “reward” would mean. Is eternal life sufficient? If so, then when would Scripture mention such a reward?
Would I care whether or not, despite being in heaven, I see that the fruits of my labor have been for nothing, and not counted as true treasure by Christ?
This begs the related question: How much does one really want to please God beyond being saved through faith?
To borrow from crypto-lingo: When it comes to God’s call upon my life and my ultimate obedience and joy in Him, alone, am I a minimalist, or am I a maximalist?
Unfortunately, I have yet to get over the hump where I prefer obeying Christ to maximize rewards versus falling for the temptation.
- I question whether sharing the Gospel, even in a low-key way, would hurt my ability to subsist and put food on the table
- I worry that optics/status could be damaged in my business, not to mention cancel culture risk
- I worry that I will not succeed at attracting those who can impact my business
1. So while there could be many additional verses, we must contend with these. God does not contradict himself (because if that were the case, it would mean some parts of Scripture are untrue).
In other words, while there are other perspectives of what it means to be a faith-driven entrepreneur, such as dominionism, that perspective cannot run counter to these.
2. Jeff Bezo’s Regret Minimization Framework