If you are an average healthy, able-bodied North American you will spend at least half of all the waking hours in your life at work (which, for most of us, is a separate place and community from what we call “home”).
You will spend the majority of the remaining available hours engaging the marketplace in some way. Given that level of involvement, it’s remarkable how negative our outlook can be of work, business and the marketplace.
Work continues to receive a bad rap. The world of business is often characterized as a cold, calculating, sometimes cut-throat place where relationships are exploitative and largely dysfunctional. We might be tempted to think that, at its best, doing business should be nothing more than money changing hands.
Terms like “work/life balance” indicate a prevalent notion that there is no life at work. Rather life is something we escape to after work. Similarly, sayings like “T.G.I.F.” or “living for the weekend” would indicate that we view work as an unfortunate but necessary detour on our way to our real life. And even if we’re fortunate enough to not be suffering through feelings of drudgery, perhaps we’re still at a loss as to the meaning of it all.
How many don’t have an inferiority complex about their work; as if charity, ministry, or public service are somehow more redeeming endeavours than whatever it is that they put their mind to from 8am-5pm each day? How many console themselves with the idea that the work they do provides funds for other activities where the real, meaningful work in our world is done?
But is that really true? Is ministry or charity the only way to really obey the Great Commandment and Great Commission? Is business only a necessary evil in the process?
Consider what James K.A. Smith, editor of Comment magazine once wrote:
“When we spend our money, we are not just consuming commercial goods, we are also fostering and perpetuating ways of being human. To be a patron is to be a selector, an evaluator, and a progenitor of certain forms of cultural life. You didn’t realize that you exercised such power did you?”
Our entire lives, including the purchases we make and the businesses we patronize, tell a story. If this is true of patrons it is also true of:
- The businesses we patronize,
- Business leaders,
- Employees, customers, contractors and suppliers,
- Organizations we build,
- Products we develop,
- Work we produce,
- Services we deliver,
- The way we serve our customers and
- The way we cooperate with each other at work.
- All of this too reflects what it is to be human. All of this too is “ministry.” Our work is a prime opportunity for us to create beauty. Not a superficial surface beauty but the kind of beauty that flows out of love. The kind of beauty that reveals something “other.”
Makoto Fujimura, founder of the International Arts Movement, says
“Human beings cannot live for a long time in a place bereft of beauty. We hunger for beauty if we are robbed of it. True beauty nurtures our deepest longings.” Our time spent at work and in the marketplace has an impact. All the time and all the resources available to us on the job and all the activities we engage in offer us an amazing opportunity to meet not just people’s physical needs but also their deepest needs and influences our understanding of what it is to be human in the process.
“In our pragmatism, beauty and art have been exiled to the peripheral realities of our culture and our business environments.” Love transforms our purchasing from merely transactional to patronage. Love transforms our businesses from cold, hard utilitarian structures into powerful catalysts for human flourishing.
Our leadership – creativity – innovation – organization – resources and the power we’re each given, everything in the world of business tells a story. When love for God and neighbour is the driving force in our life – including our businesses – the story which that tells addresses our fellow humans’ deepest longings.
Because when love drives our business, “Business is beautiful.”
If this idea intrigues you, then consider this:
How do you view your business? Do you see it as beautiful or a necessary evil? Why? Discuss your perspective of business with a friend or colleague. What is their feedback to you on your perspective of how you view your business? What steps can you take to help you and others see that, by design, business is beautiful?