This article is drawn from The Monday Christian podcast series, in which Paul Kim and Sibs Sibanda explore the ways we can practically, thoughtfully, faithfully, and fruitfully connect the dots between Sundays and the rest of the week. Sibs Sibanda is the Managing Director of Nexus Open Systems (Harare), and works with Resource Global (South Africa) in training young Christian professionals for gospel renewal in their cities. Over the last 20 years, he planted and led a number of churches in Johannesburg and Harare, while also working as a strategy consultant and business developer for various organisations.
Work is sometimes viewed as a necessary evil, and even among those with a more biblically aligned view, it can certainly feel like that sometimes. Which is why a discussion of love in the context of work may come as a bit of a surprise. In this article, we will explore the relationship between love and work, and make a case for why believers should view all work, and business in particular, from the perspective of love.
Let’s start at the very beginning. When the curtain of human history opens in the first chapter of Genesis, God is predictably on the scene. What is perhaps not as predictable, is what he is doing. The all-sufficient, all-knowing, all-wise God is not seated on his throne surrounded by worshiping angels, as we might expect – his sleeves are rolled up, and he is working. There is so much we could unpack about what God intended to communicate to us through this opening scene, but for the purpose of this article, let’s think about why the eternal, triune God, who, according to Acts 17:24 does not need anything or anyone, chose to create the cosmos and human beings in the first place.
The short answer is evident throughout Scripture – God created the world for his glory. Consider the key verses in Isaiah 43:6–7: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” John Piper comments, “Even if the narrowest meaning here is ‘I brought Israel into being for my glory’, the use of the words created, formed, and made are pointing us back to the original act of creation. This is why Israel ultimately exists, because this is why all things ultimately exist – for the glory of God.”
But, taking it a step further, when we consider that at the core of God’s being is love (1 John 4:16), we can see that any and all of his purposes in creation are an overflow of this perfect love. So, we can say with certainty, ‘In love, God created all things for his glory’. And so from the very beginning, work (in God’s case, creating and sustaining) was an expression of love.
Now, as we follow the creation account, we see that when God had completed his work of creation, he commanded human beings (created in his image to reflect his glory) to do exactly what he had been doing – namely, to work. The only difference was that where God created out of nothing (ex nihilo), our creativity would be expressed through the development of the latent potential of the earth for his glory, and the good of all creation. And just as God worked as an expression and overflow of love, it was his intent that we too should view our work in this way. So from this perspective, we might say that work is a multiplier of God’s love through us.
Take for example, a business that starts off with a handful of people serving a small community, which grows to employ hundreds, and serve the entire country. Throughout this process, a growing number of people are being given the opportunity to find work, which provides dignified platforms for their God-given creativity, empowers them to look after their families and be generous to others, and allows them to contribute meaningfully to the flourishing of society. As the business grows, these valuable expressions of God’s love and providence are ‘multiplied’ to reach more and more people – not to mention the growing number of beneficiaries of the goods and services they produce.
In the rest of this article, we will see how we as believers are called to follow the Maker’s pattern of working as an expression of love – love for God, love for fellow human beings, and love for the natural world.
Business as love for God
When asked about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36–40, Jesus replied by saying it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is one of the first truths we teach new believers, but for some reason, the question of how to actually do this is not one we pay much attention to. Sure, there’s the usual instruction about the importance of being an active member of a local church and maintaining our ‘spiritual disciplines’. But when you consider that the average business person spends more than half of their waking hours at work, it’s clear that church attendance and spiritual disciplines cannot account for the level of commitment set out in the commandment – namely, all of your heart, soul, and mind, or as David put it in Psalm 103, “All that is within me.”
This begs the question, “How does Jesus expect Christian business people in this fast-paced modern world to love God with all things, and at all times?” Thankfully Scripture is not silent on this matter, because in 1 John 5 we are told exactly what love looks like for all believers of all ages. Verse 3 reads, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.” In other words, love for God is not primarily an emotional experience – it is tangible, concrete obedience to what he commands us to do.
This is all well and good, but what does that have to do with work? Remember the creation account? The primary reason human beings work is that we were created by God to do just that! It was God who commissioned us to work. It is by his design and decree that we wake up every morning to develop, market and sell goods and services; manage, empower, and remunerate our employees; pay bills, taxes and dividends – and so on. Doing your work well, is obedience to God – and obedience to God is love for God.
Obviously, the entry of sin into the world in Genesis 3 distorted this picture. Where work was intended as a means to glorify God, sin’s corruption turned it towards selfish ends. Which is why by the time we get to Genesis 11:4, “the whole world” gathered together in Shinar and said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
There are a couple of things to note here. First, although human beings were still working, and still developing the potential of the earth as instructed in Genesis 1, it was no longer for God’s glory. Work was now about making a name for themselves – which is classic idolatry (placing anything other than God in the place that belongs only to God). Secondly, their desire was to avoid being scattered over the face of the earth – which is the exact opposite of the mandate given in the first chapter to “fill the earth and subdue it”. So, not only was work self-glorifying, its direction was now directly opposed to God’s revealed purposes.
Here is why this matters. In saying that doing business is a genuine means of loving God, we must be quick to point out that doing business in and of itself, is not necessarily God-glorifying – as we see clearly from the account of the Tower of Babel. When business is fundamentally self-serving, it may be useful to society, but it does not glorify God – and it certainly cannot be considered as obedience to the Great Commandment. This is also true of businesses based on fundamentally immoral principles, such as human trafficking (to cite an obvious example).
In Colossians 3:23, the apostle Paul sets us straight on this issue when he says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” It is this disposition of heart, this earnest desire to do everything as unto the Lord, that renders our work as worship, and enables us to love God with everything – not just on Sunday mornings and in our ‘devotional’ times, but in board meetings, wage negotiations, product development and pricing, procurement, supply chain management. Basically everything the business person has to contend with on a daily basis.
Business as love for neighbour
Going back to Matthew 22:36–40, Jesus goes on to say that the second (greatest) commandment is like the first, to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” We tend to view this commandment from the perspective of overt altruism, such as contributing towards a blanket drive at church, or giving money to a homeless person. But let’s think biblically about this. The command to love our neighbour is taken from Leviticus 19:18, which says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Obviously, the original recipients of the command would have understood their neighbour to be their fellow Israelites, but God’s intent was much broader than that, as we see in the incident recorded in Luke 10, in which an expert in Jewish law, in attempting to justify himself, asked Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbour?” In response, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which he effectively turned the question around from ‘Who is my neighbour?’ to ‘To whom should you be a good neighbour?’ And of course, the answer from the interpretation of the parable is, ‘To those around you, not just those who are like you.’
Let’s consider this question from a business perspective by asking, ‘Who are the people around your business to whom you should be a good neighbour?’ Having identified them, a useful follow-up question would be, ‘What does love look like from a biblical point of view towards each of these stakeholders?’ In answering these two questions, you will be well on your way to obeying the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.
For most businesses, the answer to the first question is more or less the same. To whom should you be a good neighbour? Your investors and shareholders, employees, suppliers, competitors, customers, regulatory authorities, surrounding communities, and the state. With that in mind, here are a few examples of how to answer the second question:
It is worth pointing out that the mandate given to humankind in Genesis involves caring for the earth (Genesis 2:15). As such, our love for God and obedience to him must also be expressed through a love and concern for the natural world – for God’s world. In business terms, this means for example, “taking care to ensure that our products, services, and experiences have limited negative effects on the environment, and finding opportunities to restore the natural world.”
As we intentionally embrace this perspective of work as love for God, for one another, and for the natural world, not only does the King receive the glory that he is due – we, his citizens, can find increasing joy, meaning, and fulfillment in the day-to-day successes and challenges we face as Christian business leaders.
 Praxis, The Redemptive Business
 Praxis, The Redemptive Business