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What Does it Really Mean to be a Christian Businessman?

Christian Businessman

By Robert J. Tamasy

5 minute read

When we talk about being a Christian businessman, what does that really mean? How can we effectively integrate faith in Jesus Christ into our vocations?

These are questions I wrestled with years ago after leaving the world of newspapers to become editor and publications director for CBMC. My quest for answers launched me on a journey of discovery that continues to this day. Especially because the ever-changing, post-Christian marketplace seems to make the intersection of faith and work more challenging than ever.

As the editor of community newspapers, even after committing my life to Christ, I had regarded what I heard on Sunday morning as unrelated to the issues and pressures I dealt with in the newsroom the rest of the week. Kind of, “What happens in church, stays in church.” So when I started to meet strong believers through CBMC who recognized their everyday roles as witnesses for Jesus – “ambassadors for Christ,” as 2 Corinthians 5:20 describes it – that was a revelation.

These were successful, accomplished, even powerful business and professional leaders who, like the apostle Paul, could attest, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). While not pretending to be perfect, these were “men of the book,” people who not only read, studied, meditated on and memorized the Scriptures, but also strived to apply them in their daily lives. They practiced what James 1:22 admonishes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And they were convinced that teaching was as relevant for the workplace as any other area of life.

Not all professing Christians in the workplace shared that vision, however. I remember interviewing a CEO well-known in his community for his faith. After hearing the story of how he had come to know the Lord, I asked how his company – widely regarded as a “Christian firm” – differed from secular counterparts elsewhere in his city. I hadn’t intended this to be a “gotcha” question, but he seemed noticeably uncomfortable in trying to come up with an answer.

After several uneasy moments, the executive turned toward a plaque in his office that featured a well-known Bible verse and then pointed to a Bible he had placed strategically on the corner of his desk. Then he told me about an annual letter his firm sent to clients during the Christmas season with a spiritual message and noted that several religious tracts were available in the reception area.

Those were all good things, I thought, but did they comprise what makes up a “Christian business”? To his credit, this CEO suggested that I meet with the managing partner of his firm, who proved much better prepared to articulate the biblically-based principles and practices that helped to guide their company.

Another time I was having lunch with a friend in the financial planning industry. Out of the blue, he blurted, “I’d give anything to go full-time for Christ!” I stared at him for a moment, and then replied, “What makes you think you haven’t already done that?”

He looked a bit puzzled, so I explained that the notion of “full-time Christian service” – making distinctions between “sacred” and “secular” life – was an invention of the institutional church, not a concept taught anywhere in the Scriptures. After all, there’s no such thing as a part-time Christian, and we’re all called to serve the Lord and others. So from that perspective, we’re all in full-time Christian service.

Colossians 3:23-24 admonishes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” We all have a “boss” we report to, whether it’s a supervisor, the company president, a board of directors, or individual customers we must please. However, as I have reflected on those verses, it’s like walking into the office on my superior and a nameplate on the desk that reads, “Jesus Christ.”

Over the years that I served on staff with CBMC, I had the privilege of meeting many hundreds of devoted followers of Jesus, each determined to live and work faithfully for Him in thought, word and deed. They were not only “ready always to give an answer to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), but conducted themselves in such a way that those kinds of questions were being asked.

We spend much of our time in an environment where competition, the profit motive, and personal advancement often result in casting aside virtues like integrity, compassion, fairness, generosity, humility, and honesty. However, many of the people I met were glowing examples of these and other positive, God-glorifying values. When CBMC introduced its “Living Proof” training series on evangelism and discipleship, we could point to many examples of men who indeed were living proof of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This was not just through their words, but through their everyday lives and approach to their jobs as well. They exemplified the words of the apostle Paul, who said, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

They had a firm grasp of the understanding that when Jesus instructed His followers to “go into all the world” (Matthew 28:19 and Mark 15:15), the marketplace wasn’t excluded from His commission. In fact, the Lord had recruited many of His closest disciples from the workplace, and that was where much of His earthly ministry took place.

And yet, the false dichotomy of sacred vs. secular persists. From time to time I still hear of people wanting to “surrender to full-time Christian service,” meaning enrolling in a seminary to become a pastor or worship leader, or going to the foreign mission field. These are worthy pursuits, certainly. But the Bible doesn’t convey that they are more noble or godly than being a sold-out follower of Christ running a company, undertaking an entrepreneurial venture, building a successful career in sales, or any of countless other roles in today’s business and professional world.

One day I came across a verse that was exciting, daunting, and humbling, all at the same time. It declared, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). The first time I read that, all I could think of was “Wow!” Being a “fellow worker” with God – what an honor, such a privilege! And for me, the words “God’s field, God’s building” seemed to connote wherever we went to fulfill our godly calling as business and professional people.

Whether we have an office in a lofty skyscraper in a metropolis; work out of a small building in the suburbs; travel from one city to another as a sales representative, or maintain a home office, we are God’s fellow workers. No matter where we go, we can cling to this wonderful assurance: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). How’s that for a job description?


Robert J. Tamasy is a former publications director for CBMC, and writes for The Connector newsletter. He has written numerous books, including Marketplace Ambassadors: CBMC’s Continuing Legacy of Evangelism and Discipleship; Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; The Heart of Mentoring, coauthored with David A. Stoddard; and has edited other books. Bob’s biweekly blog is: