Saturday, June 17, 2006

Crunchy Cons: Business, Commerce, and Trade

I am reading a book titled Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher, a conservative journalist who currently writes and edits for the Dallas Morning News. Mr. Dreher is a Catholic, Republican, pro-life, socially-conservative, home-schooling father who challenges us to consider the true meaning of the word conservative.

Dreher suggests that much of our American culture has been corrupted by consumerism and greed, fostered by big business and materialism, and that as conservatives, we need to return to a simpler, more environmentally conscious lifestyle. So far (I have finished two chapters), I am intrigued.

I first became exposed to Dreher's book a few weeks ago when, perusing the Internet, I ran across this blog posting titled True Evil, a scathing diatribe against Wal-Mart. I posted a comment on that blog and engaged in some lively debate with the author. We did not come to a meeting of the minds.

Further exploration of her theme however, eventually led me to Crunchy Cons.

This morning, while sitting in a highschool auditorium waiting to cast a vote at our local Republican Convention held to choose the Republican candidate for a special, upcoming election to replace the recently deceased Harry Parrish in Virginia's 50th District for the House of Delegates, I was reading Dreher's book. I began to think about a short article I had written in 2003 titled Business, Commerce, and Trade. It is my initial treatise on what I believe to be a Judeo-Christian perspective on business and work.

Here it is ...

What are business, commerce, and trade and what relationship do they have to culture?

What is Business? The state of being busy, or busy-ness, is the etymological root of the word we know today as business. From creation it has been God's intent and design for us to work and be productive (Genesis 1:28). We are meant to find satisfaction and fulfillment in our busy-ness (Ecclesiastes 5:18), to use our hands to produce what is good, and to tend to our own business, not depending on others to pick up the slack for our laziness (I Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Busy-ness is also the essence of business. While good business practice can produce wealth, wealth is not the goal, but the by-product of productive busy-ness. Our labor is meant to produce fruit (Psalm 128:2), and if we diligently perform our labor as unto the Lord, committing it into His hands, He promises to bring forth the fruits of success (Proverbs 16:3). In our labor, our busy-ness, we become co-creators with God, emulating His creative nature. God, too, is busy, and as we carry on our activities, we must be mindful of pleasing the Father, for it is Jesus who said, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49 NKJV).

What is Commerce? Again, turning to the word's root, we can learn much about the idea of commerce. The Latin prefix "com" means together. Think of community. "Merc" refers to merchandise. Thus, the word commerce means "together with merchandise."
Commerce then, is the taking of the fruits of our busy-ness, our merchandise, and bringing them into the community, to exchange, barter, trade, or sell.

What is Trade? We can look at trade in several ways. Trade can simply refer to the buying and selling of products and commodities—a transaction. Trade can also be used to define a group of people associated with a particular business or industry, as in those in a certain field of business who receive a trade magazine relating to their particular product or area of expertise. Trade can also define a specific occupation, skill, or craft, as in the building and construction trades—a plumber, electrician, or carpenter. A man with a well developed trade has capital in the bank.

God and Honest Work. Throughout the Scriptures, we can read of many types of workmen. In His plan of redemption, God has used shepherds such as Jacob (Genesis 30:31-43) and David (1 Samuel 17:15). He has utilized farmers like Amos (Amos 7:14) and Gideon (Judges 6:11). He has tapped for service, merchants like Abraham (Genesis 13:2) and Lydia (Acts 16:14). He has brought forth His Church through craftsmen like Aquila (Acts 18:2-3), and His wilderness tabernacle through craftsmen like Oholiab (Exodus 31:6). He has employed artists like Solomon (1 Kings 4:32) and Bezalel (Exodus 31:2-5). And He drew His disciples from simple laborers, men of lesser social esteem, men who were tax collectors and fishermen (Acts 4:13).

Hard work is not a result of the curse of sin. Before Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator, God had already laid out for them His commission to work and take care of Eden's garden (Genesis 2:15). Adam and Eve were created and called to stewardship. Part of their reason for being—and ours—was to take care of God's creation. With creation under their care, functioning as God's under-lords, He would receive glory, joy and pleasure.

Economics. Our word economy is derived from the Greek word oikonomos which means "one who manages a household." The name of the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, is linked linguistically to our word, economy. Deuteronomy teaches us much about economics, and is in itself, the presentation of a covenantal system, defining how under God, we are to manage our lives, utilize our busy-ness, and relate in our communities.

As noted above, the godly goal of business is not wealth but God's glory. God takes pleasure in our fruitfulness and rewards our diligence. Our capital, whether money in the bank, or a skill or trade, is to be employed with stewardship in mind. Money is not an end itself, but a tool with which to do good. We are to be stewardship capitalists, managers as under-lords of God's house—His creation.

What relationship do business, commerce, and trade, have with culture? God created us all for busy-ness or business. Our commerce brings us into community and compels us to interact, improve our social skills, and discover ways we can serve. Our trade, or unique craft or skill, speaks to our individuality and distinctive worth to God.

Business, commerce, and trade, when walked out in a Biblical way, not only please God, but make our world a better place for all.


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