Book Review: Jeff Van Duzer’s Why Business Matters to God
If the questions raised in these reviews intrigue you, join us for Jeff Van Duzer’s upcoming seminar on Why Business Matters to God, on Saturday, October 15 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Learn more and register here.
Jeff Van Duzer, Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be Fixed)
By Justin Irving
For many who work in the marketplace, gaining a more robust theology of why both business and their work matter to God would be transformative. In Why Business Matters to God, Jeff Van Duzer wants to encourage business people to understand both that they are not second-class citizens in God’s kingdom and that their work is being used by God for significant kingdom purposes. This message affirms not only the concept of business in general but also the seemingly mundane dimensions of work that characterize day-to-day tasks on the job.
Complementing this message of encouragement, Van Duzer also wants to challenge a dominant business paradigm. Rather than seeing profit as an end in itself, Van Duzer calls for business people to see profit as a means to the greater end of service. Businesses serve by providing goods and services that build community and contribute to human flourishing. Businesses also serve by providing meaningful and creative employment. As such, profit is neither an end nor an evil. Profit is a means to the important end of service.
As Van Duzer provides this dual encouragement and challenge, he does so by engaging the theological frame of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Rather than settling in on select verses or passages, Van Duzer argues that looking at this “big story of Scripture” is what is needed for answering the pressing questions related to business and why it matters to God.
After engaging the implications of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation for business, Van Duzer turns to consider business in light of H. Richard Niebuhr’s work in Christ and Culture, where Van Duzer finds five very different ways to reconcile faith and business, each of which has a place in particular business situations. Out of these five ways, Van Duzer draws three recommendations for those engaged in business, framed around the ideas of purpose, practice, and partnership:
- Purpose: A business exists to serve
- Practice: A business should seek to conduct its operations in a manner that is sustainable
- Partnership: A business should work in concert with other institutions and seek to support them as they collectively pursue the common good
Van Duzer’s model of service, sustainability, and support in business is a call that will be intuitive to some and radically challenging to others. For example, Van Duzer hopes to expand the vision of those who understand the purpose of business to be the maximization of profit by subordinating profit under what is for him a more important category: service. Similarly, he hopes to expand the vision of those who critique the value of business and market economies by affirming that business is an important vehicle for enabling flourishing in our communities through both its instrumental and its intrinsic value.
Regardless of a reader’s perspective on business, Van Duzer has something to offer that will both encourage and challenge. It is a pleasure to recommend Why Business Matters to God as a balanced and thoughtfully integrative work for those interested in Christian perspectives on work and business.