Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity
The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.
Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.
Integrity and Ethics
When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum. It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.
On the other hand, Paul instructed the Philippian believers to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” What better place to do that than in the context of business. How different, how starkly distinct are those who apply the simple Kingdom Principles of truth, honesty, generosity, quality and compassion to their calling in the world of commerce! Jesus said “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Be men and women of your word. Be men and women of integrity…regardless of the cost.
Integrity and the Kingdom
There is a second and deeper dimension to the concept of integrity. It is more than just being an honest business person—although that reality alone could change lives. Integrity at its root means “whole” and “undivided” and “without separation.” To be a person of integrity means to be wholly linked in every way to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It means to live in and for the Kingdom of God. It means to see all of life and every sphere or sector as under the rule of God, equally sacred and fully blessed.
We in the West live disintegrated lives. We compartmentalize our existence into separate boxes that seem to have no relation to each other. Sunday is disconnected from Monday. Family is distinct from church. Business and other pillars of society have no interaction with each other. Consequently, the principles of the Kingdom never impact the various parts of our lives.
Business as Mission is the tip of the sword in breaking down these false dichotomies. It represents a wonderful opportunity to understand and live out the reality that business, as with all things, is a special part of the Kingdom—instituted by God and therefore inherently good. As business people who love Jesus learn that God has not given them a secondary vocation but a high and holy calling on par with every other and that they can intentionally connect their career or company to God’s grand eternal purpose of redemption the false boundaries begin to disappear. Integration, seamless integration, is the result and the Kingdom expands and becomes clearer to those who are watching.
So I challenge you. First, to be an individual of integrity—truth, transparency, honesty. Learn the power of David’s words in Psalm 15 as he describes the person who will walk in fellowship with God. And second, to live an integrated life. Repel the lies and false thinking that separates your life into sacred and secular categories. Embrace your high and holy calling and walk in it with joyful abandon.