Christians, Wealth, and Business: An Interview With Hobby Lobby CEO David Green

(PHOTO: THE BECKET FUND)

About a decade ago I did a short stint as an afternoon drive host on a large Christian radio station. Entrepreneurs are perhaps the most underserved people group in Christendom and so we made a point of trying to talk about their issues from time to time.

One afternoon, a young woman called the show to say that she and her husband had recently started a business. She explained that they had wanted to start a couple of years ago, but they didn’t know if they were allowed to. Why? Because of so much religious preachment against business. They didn’t know if they were allowed to make money.

My conclusion: that at least in their case (and I don’t think they’re the exception) being seriously Christian meant a two-year handicap in start-up agility. What a tragedy!

When I read Hobby Lobby founder David Green’s new short memoir, Giving it All Away … and Getting it All Back Again, I was reminded of that incident with the caller. David Green himself had gone through something similar. The son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries, David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.

He loved God and he also loved the retail business, but there was a voice in his head which told him that those two loves were in conflict. The memoir makes it clear that this was to some degree the voice of his beloved and saintly mother who, when David would talk excitedly about his business, would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” It wasn’t her fault: this is the way most seriously committed Christian clergy thought. And it made David wonder whether he was being truly faithful to God when he was being truly diligent in his business.

Like so many Christian business leaders I’ve met over the years, David found at least a partial vindication in philanthropy. Yes, missionaries might be better than entrepreneurs, but at least entrepreneurs can cut big checks to missionaries. Business becomes spiritually acceptable via the collection plate. I’ve seen and heard many executives who believe that the portion of profit which you gave to holy callings rendered the rest of the ‘secular’ business enterprise, if not fully holy, at least acceptable.

It was not until later that Green saw that when we’re at business, we can already be “about my father’s business” … even before any of the earnings were given away. He was already engaging in the great commission (to disciple the nations) when he treated workers well and taught workers to treat customers well. He was preaching Jesus, even at the times when he wasn’t using words. And those good deeds gave the words greater weight.

I recently interviewed David Green about this and other topics, and you can find a transcript of that portion below (and the entire interview on audio here). Both are edited for clarity.

Click here to read.

SOURCE: The Christian Post
Jerry Bowyer