One of the questions pastors get asked is “how should I conduct my business when it involves people from church as potential customers?”

To answer this question it is helpful to look at the Gospels; they relate two instances when Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem. The first time (John 2:13-17) was early in His ministry when Jesus was visiting the Temple to celebrate Passover and the second (Matthew 21:12-13) was shortly before His crucifixion. The common feature of both of these instances was that he physically cleared the temple of the merchants and moneychangers.

Jesus drove them away in a very public show of his displeasure. Why did Jesus do this and what does this tell us about how we conduct business with people in church?

The explanation for Jesus’ behaviour can be found in what he said in the temple. “‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:13)

Jesus wasn’t necessarily saying that it was wrong to be a merchant or that the initial motives of those trading in the Temple were wrong. He was not saying that the goods on sale were not useful, some of the visitors to the temple needed to buy their sacrifices and to exchange foreign currency for the accepted currency in the temple. What Jesus was saying was that they had developed the wrong priorities and were trading in the wrong place. The Temple was the centre of Israel’s worship life, it should have been a place where people could go to wholly concentrate on their devotion to God, but instead the market stalls and the merchants were distracting them. The priority for those merchants was no longer centered on God but had become centered on the Temple as a marketplace and this was having a negative effect on people’s relationship with God and each other.

God’s desire is for us to prosper in our working life. Jeremiah 29:11 states that God has a good plan for us, Proverbs 12:11 encourages us to work to make a living and Proverbs 22:29 says that the better or more skilled we are at our work the greater our reward will be. But the Bible also says that we should conduct our business in a godly and ethical way. The world’s way of doing things is different to God’s (Romans 12:2), there are always consequences for our actions and behaviour. If we want a good crop then we need to sow good seed (Galatians 6:7). We need to understand that for godly prosperity to result from our work we need to do it God’s way. Proverbs 16:3 says that success comes when we commit our actions to God. This is more than just telling God you have a good idea, it means that if you actively seek God’s plans and purposes for you and put them into action, then you will succeed. Colossians 3:23 teaches us that we are really working for God and ultimately we should work in a way that pleases him.

The Bible shows us the attitudes and character we should develop when it comes to business. These are particularly important when it relates to business with our brothers and sisters in church.

Integrity: We should have integrity in everything we do, we should be honest and trustworthy, and if we promise something we should do everything to make it happen. Most successful businesses are built on reputation and reliability this can only happen if we maintain our integrity. (Psalm 41:12, Deuteronomy 25:13)

Generosity: As we learn to be generous with our time, touch, talent and treasure we will see God’s generosity reflected back to us. Many Christian business owners will tithe and give first fruits not only from their personal earnings but also from their business income. (Proverbs 11:25)

Respect: We should respect the people that we deal with whether they be employees, customers or suppliers. We should not take advantage of anyone but treat them as we would expect to be treated ourselves, in fact the Bible teaches that we should honour each other. It would be wrong to put people in uncomfortable situations where they feel it is difficult to say no. (Leviticus 25:17, Romans 12:10, Matthew 7:12)

Unity: It is very easy for division to appear in the church when people forget what church is and start to think of it as a marketplace. We should do everything we can to live in harmony with each other. (1 Corinthians 1:10, Hebrews 12:14)

The priorities for our church life are found in Acts 2:42-47. This scripture shows the pattern for church and the emphasis on worship and fellowship. As you read through it you can see that the pattern includes:

  • Praising God and praying together for one another.
  • Following the teaching of the church leaders.
  • Cultivating unity in the church that is demonstrated by strong healthy relationships throughout the congregation.
  • Sharing together and helping to meet each other’s needs.
  • Meeting together for our church services and in each other’s houses.

These are the activities that our church lives should be focused around; when we keep this focus we will see the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit blessing the church, God’s favour over the church and growth of the church.

Some guidelines to consider:

  • If your sales program is based around selling to friends and family then there is the potential for relationships to become strained. We should always value the relationships we have over and above any business and not do anything that would affect them. We should love each other as Christ loves us.
  • Be totally honest and upfront, if you want to meet someone for business purposes then tell them beforehand, don’t take advantage of your friends’ and relatives’ natural desire to please.
  • Don’t use church activities to promote your business; this includes things like handing out business cards and sales literature and making sales pitches.
  • If people are not interested in your goods or service accept their decision and don’t keep pursuing or pressuring them.
  • Focus on using your business to build church and not using church to build your business.
  • If you’re not sure about anything then speak to one of the leaders in the church for advice.

We want to encourage you to build your business on biblical principles respecting the pattern for church. We need to understand that if we do things God’s way our businesses will be built on a solid foundation and will be positioned for success (Proverbs 16:20).