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The prospects were not good. Actually really bad, even disastrous. The city was under siege, and everything pointed towards a defeat. People would be assaulted, hurt and killed; houses burnt down and the remaining citizens of Jerusalem would be deported to a foreign land.

In this doomsday context the prophet Jeremiah was told by God to make an investment – in the doomed city! Sounds like bad advice, like buying property in war-torn Syria today. (Maybe we should?) But it was supposed to be a prophetic action by doing real business.

Jeremiah conveyed the message loud and clear: God will restore his people and the city, and the signs of a restored nation would be found in a functioning marketplace.

Jeremiah buys a field from a relative, using his birthright. Payment is fair and done in front of witnesses. Deeds are issued and kept for posterity.

This is a prophetic purchase: For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” (Jer. 32:15)

After war, destruction, despair and exile, restoration will come, and it will come from God. The indicators of the restoration are seen in marketplace functions.

Jeremiah did a prophetic act when purchasing the land. It involved a financial transaction, title deeds and archives, and a long-term investment with a potential return many years down the road. These are all present and future indicators of a God approved economy. These are signs of a transformed society, of justice in the marketplace. The wider context in Jeremiah talks about benefits from building businesses and growing the economy; wealth is created, there is joy, there are festivities and gratitude to God.

“The restored people would have lives of work, enjoyment, feasting and worship all tied into one. The picture of planting, harvesting, playing music, dancing and enjoying the harvest depicts the pleasure of work in faithfulness to God.” [1]

Jeremiah chapter 32 shows that God wants business and growing businesses. A God inspired nation has a legal and societal framework conducive for business development.

Let me list a few things that are implied or explicitly mentioned in this Biblical narrative, all part of a marketplace for peace and prosperity:

  • A Rule of Law society
  • Birth certificates, some kind of officially recognized identity
  • Property laws
  • An established currency
  • A functional system for economic transactions
  • Honesty and transparency in business dealings
  • Title deeds, records, archives
  • Buying and selling worked
  • Return on investment, and long term thinking

Other lessons we can learn:

  • There was a willingness to take risks
  • The importance of acknowledging God and honoring the Covenant in business
  • Readiness to follow God’s instruction, and take steps of faith
  • Rejoice in the harvest / profit
  • Work and worship was integrated
  • Wealth was created, and prosperity came to the city

We see a God who is engaged in the marketplace. It is part of God’s mission in the world and through history. The events in Jerusalem with Jeremiah show God at work in history. Business as Mission, BAM, is also a part of that story – His story

As David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby put it: “There is a God, and He’s not averse to business. He’s not just a ‘Sunday Deity’. He understands margins and spreadsheets, competition and profits.” [2]

Lastly, “it is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith, and to do common business with an eye to the providence and promise of God.” [3]

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[1] Theology of Work Bible Commentary

[2] More Than a Hobby, by David Green. Thomas Nelson, 2005

[3] Matthew Henry (1662-1714) in a comment on Jeremiah 32. Commentary on the Whole Bible

 

 

 

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As we do business, we create wealth – not only financial wealth, but also social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual wealth. The Bible talks about wealth in three ways: wealth creation, sharing and hoarding. The last is condemned. Wealth sharing is encouraged and is often facilitated through NGOs and churches, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. Wealth creation is a godly gift; God says that He gives the ability to create wealth. (Deut. 8:18)

Let’s look at the context of this statement in Deuteronomy chapter eight. The people of Israel have been brought out of Egypt and are about to enter the Promised Land. God tells them what to expect and what to do. He explicitly states that there are good business prospects in mining and agriculture. People are admonished to seize these opportunities. As a result, wealth will be created. But then a danger arises, or rather, two potential pitfalls.

Firstly, God says there is a risk that people will think and say that they themselves have created wealth, failing to acknowledge the Lord in it. This is what precedes verse 18. So God reminds them that He is the one who gives the gift and ability to create wealth.

Secondly, wealth creation is put into the context of the Covenant. God entered into a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants that He blessed them so they could bless others – locally and globally. But, one could say blessings are beyond words. To bless others is to create all kinds of wealth and in turn, share it. This is indeed a part of the Covenant. And one mustn’t forget God – the initiator of the Covenant.

Wealth creation processes, done through business, should be mindful of both God and others. We should always have this dual goal: to do business for God and the common good. It makes a difference. Noah and his sons undertook a massive engineering project with this perspective and it led to the salvation of mankind and creation. An equally impressive construction project was the Tower of Babel. However God was left out of this project, and, built on selfish motives, it led to the breakdown of society.

The gift and calling to create wealth is beyond a micro finance loan or a single small or medium size business. It is about building nations, and seeking the welfare of cities.

“This is what the Lord Almighty says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city.” (Jer. 29)

Here the people of Israel are in exile. They are in a country they didn’t choose. But they mustn’t sit and sulk, simply go into survival mode, or withdraw into religious ceremonies and meetings. No, they are commanded to start businesses, develop the local economy, and in doing so strive for shalom. Shalom is whole relationships filled with integrity. Business is about relationships with customers, clients, suppliers, staff, community, city, and environment. Seek shalom with all these partners and entities, as you seek to create wealth and prosperity for cities and nations.

Pope Francis writes: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” *

Wealth creation is a godly gift. Use it – for God and the common good. 

 

* Pope Francis Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 129

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Business is deeply divine and deeply human. Doing business reflects who God is, and who we are. God is the Creator; making good things for himself and others. The triune God created in community for community, including Adam and Eve. We are created in God’s image, and thus we also create – in this case, good products and services.

Genesis tells us that God did quality control at the end of each creation / production day, and found the products good.   We also strive for excellence in business.

God told Adam and Eve to work in the garden; by sowing one seed they could reap twenty. Thus they were involved in a value-add process. They received a good return on their investment, ROI, and made a profit.

Work, creativity, value added processes, profit, ROI, product development, quality control, and serving the common good – business fundamentals – are all found in the first chapters of the Bible.

The genesis of BAM* is in Genesis.

* Business as Mission. For more info click here

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Two video vignettes, about a minute and a half each.

1. Do Business Like Bach!

 Business is an instrument which we shall fine-tune to serve people and glorify God.

2. Wall Street vs. BAM Street 

The Wall Street model is too limited; we need a more broad and impactful BAM Street concept.

 

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By Ibec Ventures

 

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Remember the Soviet Union? It was communist country with a planned centralized economy, violations of human rights were prevalent, and it also lacked freedoms to act in the market place. I was there – witnessed a dysfunctional state first hand. It was like a giant statue with feet of clay, and it did eventually fall over and implode in December 1991.

One country became 15 countries. One currency became 15 currencies. One grand artificial and dysfunctional economic system crumbled and 15 new nations had to re-group and try to adjust to a market based global economy.

I kept traveling to the now former Soviet Union, and kept working in Central Asia, in the ‘stans’: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and so forth. But it wasn’t just geopolitical changes and turmoil. A lot of Christian agencies came to the region from all over the world. We also witnessed a quite remarkable growth of people from a Muslim background becoming followers of Jesus.

At the same time there was an exponential growth of unemployment and underemployment. It was on a scale that most of us find hard to fathom. With it came all kinds of social problems. How could we as followers of Jesus respond to this need? Business people were needed. But churches and mission agencies did not call upon the people qualified to address these challenges.

So in the mid-90’s we started to explore how we could engage, equip and connect Christians in business with the needs and opportunities in the Central Asia region. We started the Central Asia Business Consultation and ran it for ten years. The lessons learned, including developing processes and networks to listen, learn, share and connect, were foundational for the development of the global think tanks on Business as Mission.

A second game changer was the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. If our sole success criterion is church planting and growth, Rwanda was probably the ultimate success story in the history of church and missions. It went from 0 to approximately 90 percent of the population becoming members of various churches in about 100 years. But in the spring of 1994 about one million people were killed in just a few months. It literally was Christians killing Christians. Rwanda had people in church but not church in people. The gospel had not transformed ethnic relations, politics and media.

These tragic events forced me to review our mission. What is the mission of the church? How can we serve people and nations towards a holistic transformation, believing that God can transform individuals and communities, churches and nations? What does it mean to be a Christian in the marketplace? How can we do business as mission, law as mission, education as mission, and city planning as mission? How can we serve God and the common good? What does it mean in practice and what are the lessons learned regarding seeking the Shalom and prosperity of cities and nations? (Jer. 29) How do we affirm, equip and deploy business people to exercise theirs gifts of wealth creation for the nations? (Deut. 8)

20 years ago we could not credibly talk about a global BAM movement. Today – by the grace of God – we can. The two global BAM think tank processes, starting in 2002, have been instrumental in bringing about a global cohesion and understanding of the BAM concept. They have also created an unprecedented connectedness of people and ideas.

It has been an exciting journey, both surprising and overwhelming. But it is a true privilege to be a part of global community who are on a rediscovery journey of Biblical truths on work, justice, business, profit and creating in community for community. We are witnessing a great reawakening in the church worldwide. May this lead to a reformation, as we shape and reshape our businesses for God and the common good.

PS. See also previous article: Rwanda: The Death and Resurrection of a Nation

Good books on Rwanda:

* The Angels Have Left Us, by Hugh McCullum

* The bishop of Rwanda, by John Rucyahana

* Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing,
by Patricia Crisafulli & Andrea Redmond

 

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