Guest Post from Josh Fort
Josh Fort graduated from Wheaton College (IL) in 2016 where he earned a BA in Integrative Philosophy Communication. Following graduation, Josh spent two years at Brandtrust using applied social sciences to solve business challenges. He now spends his time as a graduate student studying computer science at DePaul’s College of Digital Media and tackling social issues via nonprofits, including his own social enterprise Zeal Inspirational Philanthropy (ZIP). When he’s not working, Josh can be found exploring Chicago with friends, spending time with family, and diving into the latest superhero series.
When you think of the marketplace giants in the nineteenth century, few people loom as large as John D. Rockefeller. His company, Standard Oil, serves as the foundation of our modern anti-trust legislation, the set of laws that exist to prevent the creation of monopolies and regulate anti-competitive business behavior. And yet, for all his ruthlessness in business, Rockefeller also considered himself a devout Christian.
Piously disciplined, incredibly generous, actively involved in service at church since early adulthood, Rockefeller was many of the things we seem to admire in a Christian businessperson. Within nineteenth-century American church, honoring God in the marketplace meant being generous with your fiscal resources and conscientious in your personal life. Fast forward to the twentieth century and you find the conversation shifting. Principles of business management have been codified into books that become enormously popular amongst business professionals. Among Christians within this category, we find a gravitation for similar books rooted in Christian/biblically-based, ethical principles. Yet, the undercurrent is the same: “If you want to be successful personally or professionally, here are the principles supporting that success.”
To be fair, many of the books on personal and professional development in this era are excellent. There’s much to be gained from searching for principles of servant leadership, teamwork, and highly effective living. Yet, there’s something more to the work of the Christian within the marketplace that we don’t discuss nearly enough. Without it, we end up viewing Christian professionals as second-class citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven who chose not to devote themselves to the “real” work of saving souls full time. Without it, we end up viewing the Christian’s professional life as separate from her or his personal life.
The work of the Christian goes beyond generosity with one’s wealth. It goes beyond being principled or ethical in business dealings; and it goes deeper than the opportunities for evangelism that we find here and there as a result of our operating in predominantly secular circles. The work of the Christian goes back to the first mandate we received as human beings: to be fruitful image-bearers proclaiming who God is in the world around us (Genesis 1:27-28).
As Christians in and out of the marketplace, we are called to be image-bearers, carrying God’s standard to the wider world and proclaiming what the Kingdom of Heaven—what Jeremy Treat defines as “God’s reign through God’s people, over God’s place”—looks like. This good news concerning the Kingdom of Heaven is what Jesus, our crucified king, spent most of his earthly ministry declaring (Matthew 4:17, Luke 4:42-44).
The Kingdom of God is more than generous and it is more than ethical. The Kingdom of God is redemptive—exchanging beauty for ashes and sorrow for joy. The Kingdom of God means good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners, renewed sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, and the very favor of God (Luke 4:18-19). We cannot proclaim this with words only, rather we must proclaim it with word and deed alike (Colossians 3:15-17).
The marketplace is a phenomenal opportunity for Christians to proclaim what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like through the work taking place within each place of business (see the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work, and/or Praxis Labs for more information on the topic). As an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, your work reflects to the outside world what the Kingdom looks like. Whether you’re in marketing, manufacturing, consulting, or logistics—find the higher order good that your work promotes and amplify it. If your work has no higher good that it’s promoting, transform the work from the inside as an agent of change for the Kingdom of God. And if you can’t transform the work from inside your workplace, find a new workplace or create one that allows you to engage in the redemptive efforts we are called to.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It starts out small, but it grows into something large enough to promote flourishing for all who come in contact with it (Matthew 13:31-32). Whether you realize it or not, as a Christian, you are called to take place in the redemption of the cosmos. The God that we serve is making all things new and you have been invited to play a part in this mission. I implore you, roll up your sleeves and get to work!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”Revelation 21:3-5 NIV