Looking for Guiding Principles
A variety of attempts have been made to reduce the multitude of biblical commands to just a few overarching commands or principles. Some examples of this emphasize the importance of the Ten Commandments of Moses, or the Beatitudes of Jesus or quotes from the book of Proverbs.
Larry Burkett’s Business by the Book, rather grandly subtitled The Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for Business Men and Women, announces Six Basic Biblical Business Minimums:
Reflect Christ in your business practices.
Provide a quality product at a fair price.
Honor your creditors.
Treat your employees fairly.
Treat your customers fairly.
There are many other attempts to do something similar. Most of these include numerous useful insights, but they also often end up creating contrived schemes more than announcing fundamental biblical insights that really help to focus our attention on the heart of things.
Building on some more fundamental biblical principles, Business Through the Eyes of Faithtakes the command to love our neighbor as the primary ethical concern. Then it develops this by using Micah 6:8 as the organizing principle for determining how God would have us apply love in business: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Thus, love, as applied through justice, kindness and faithfulness becomes the foundational ethical principle. And we find Jesus himself emphasizing the importance of these same three elements in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.” This would seem to be getting closer to the heart of Christian ethics as well as transcending the gulf that often exists between personal and social ethics. If following a few fundamental commands seems to be a better approach than looking for a specific command for every issue, then the question becomes, “Is there one biblical command upon which all the others are built?”
Usually condensed versions of Exodus 20:1-17 or Deuteronomy 5:6-21. For example, see a useful summary of some of the economic implications of the ten commandments in Max L. Stackhouse, “The Ten Commandments: Economic Implications” in On Moral Business, edited by Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann and Shirley Roels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) 59-62 and also David Gill, Doing Right (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004).
David Gill, Becoming Good (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000).
Michael Zigarelli, Management by Proverbs (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) and also Clinton W. McLemore, Street Smart Ethics (Louisville/London: WJKP, 2003).
Larry Burkett, Business by the Book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990).
Richard C. Chewning, John W. Eby and Shirley J. Roels, Business Through the Eyes of Faith (London: Apollos, 1992).