Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This Series explores “business as calling” – what it means, barriers to seeing business as a calling and its implications for followers of Jesus who desire to live out their faith in God not only on the weekend but also in the marketplace.
“It’s nice to have an elephant in the room. There’s nothing more helpful than something everybody’s thinking about.” ~Seth Meyers, Comedian
“I am going to argue that many aspects of business activity are morally good in themselves, and that in themselves they bring glory to God – though they also have great potential for misuse and wrongdoing.” ~Dr. Wayne Grudem, “Business for the Glory of God”
IS THE DRIVE TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE MORALLY GOOD?
“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.” ~Paul Krugman, The Age of Diminishing Expectations (1994)
“…when we produce a pair of shoes to be used by others, we demonstrate love for others, wisdom in understanding their needs, and interdependence and interpersonal cooperation (which are reflections of God’s Trinitarian existence).” ~Dr. Wayne Grudem, “Business for the Glory of God”
As I consider my material blessings, I am grateful that God created humankind with a drive to not only be productive but also more and more productive. According to the Bible, we are made in God’s image and called to imitate Him. By creating the entire universe (both life and non-life), God demonstrates the concept of productivity beyond human comprehension. And He has created us to imitate His ways.
My every material possession including house, car, computer, phone, clean running water and indeed everything I have in the material realm is the end result of human productivity. By exploring the creation, gaining knowledge and applying wisdom, people have discovered and invented innumerable ways to derive useful products from the earth’s vast resources. In so doing, they facilitate human flourishing. Indeed, technological advances are the direct result of (or, alternatively, the cause of) increased output of useful products or services per worker.
How does output per worker increase? First, as individuals, we can work smarter and harder. According to the Bible, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” In his letter to the fledgling church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul says, “…don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance…The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn’t cover up bad work.”
Second, marketplace leaders can assign roles and organize the activities of employees in such a way that the enterprise becomes more efficient and more effective. As a result, the cost of production declines and, in competitive markets, ultimately drives down the price of goods and services. Finally, new technologies enable individuals and organizations to be more productive. Of course, they can also provide individuals opportunities for wasting time!
Notwithstanding, some see the drive for productivity as immoral in the sense that more production is “squeezed” out of fewer people. While there are doubtless companies that exploit their workforce, most people enjoy being more productive. And laziness does not excuse poor productivity! Indeed, poor productivity endangers the health of the entire enterprise, since high cost producers ultimately fail. And when they do, the needs of others are not met. These others include buyers of their goods, people who want to work, banks and shareholders.
Next week, I will address the moral goodness of competition.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.