In Genesis 2:15 we read; “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This short verse has enormous implications. The command to work precedes the entry into the world of sin and the fall. In other words, part of God’s intention for every person is that he or she work, to harness the resources of the world in producing goods and adding value. This basic requirement also has implications for any government programs that encourage dependency rather than work.
Reinforcing this verse, there is a remarkable description of what God has provided for those who work the land. In describing the Garden of Eden and its setting in verses 8-14 of the same chapter, we read that God had provided trees and water but also, three precious materials: gold, aromatic resin, and onyx. In other words, alongside the command to work is the provision of precious stones, metals, and resins, all of which can be used in the development of bowls and plates, jewellery, and medicines – the production of goods and services. In the creation narratives, God provides both the command and the materials. Hence the creation of wealth is a spiritual imperative.
3. God has endowed us with skill and innovation
The third reason why wealth creation is a moral imperative is that God – the God Who created out of nothing, the God Who commanded us to work with raw materials – this same God has endowed us with skill and innovation. Thus, entrepreneurship is a gift from God.
In Exodus 35, Moses received instructions for the construction of a tabernacle to provide the focal point of worship while the people were in exile. In Ex. 35:30-35, he points to one individual, Bezalel, and asserts that God has filled him “with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” Moses adds that the Lord had also given him “the ability to teach others.”
We see here the coming together of crucial theological and economic concepts. Notice the centrality of the flourishing of the human person, who has been endowed with skill. But note also two other crucial economic concepts: growth (that is, adding value through the combined use of resources and skill), and human capital, that is education and the training for the acquisition of such skills. God endows with skill, innovation, and the ability to teach – key entrepreneurial attributes.
4. God calls us to work in the vineyard He has created
Fourth, the God Who created, commands and endows, also calls. In other words, Christian men and women do not work in this part of the Lord’s vineyard (the business world) either by accident or simply as a means to an end. Rather they are called by God to work in commerce, law, banking, manufacturing, service industries, IT, and so on. It is a basic, but fundamental concept. If we understand that our business and commercial life is part of our call from God to work in His economy for the common good of all, then we at once begin to deal with the ethical issues which arise. Recognising that our call is from God will help us make good business decisions, good ethical decisions, and act responsibly and well. This of course goes right back to Luther, but also note this from the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s document, The Vocation of the Business Leader, paragraph 6:
The vocation of the businessperson is a genuine human and Christian calling. Its importance in the life of the Church and in the world economy can hardly be overstated. Business leaders are called to conceive of and develop goods and services for customers and communities through a form of market economy. For such economies to achieve their goal, that is, the promotion of the common good, they should be structured on ideas based on truth, ﬁdelity to commitments, freedom, and creativity.
5. The life and character of our Lord Jesus Christ reflects His entrepreneurial and business character
Fifth, entrepreneurial wealth creation characterised the life of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Surely this cannot be the case amidst the marvellous miracles, unparalleled suffering, and work of Christ for our salvation? We must, however, consider the context. The Bible deals with the birth of Jesus and very early childhood and then His adult ministry. We know both that Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55) and that Jesus was also described as a carpenter (Mk. 6:3). Hence, it is entirely appropriate to describe Joseph and Jesus as running a family business. Indeed, the creator God of Genesis is also the divine creator Lord of the incarnation. What is more, in order to sustain the holy family through more than 20 years, it is also reasonable to suppose that the business was profitable – or else it could not have continued. (I hope they paid their dues and taxes!)