Let's look first at what Jesus taught.
Not long ago many businesses believed it was good enough to offer a quality product at a competitive price. This philosophy literally bankrupt some companies and caused others to experience losses and downsizing. Jesus taught that the key to good business is service. In Matthew 5.41b he suggested we "go the second mile." When dealing with our clients it is important to remember not only to meet expectations, but to beat them. Later, in Matthew 11.4-5, Jesus demonstrated by his own ministry that service was job one: "Go and tell what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." In other words, service is the key to great business.
Well, that sounds nice, but let's face it, it isn't cold, hard business advice.
Good service is sound business advice, as a quick reading of any recent business periodical will show. But Jesus dealt with tough matters too. For instance, he taught that it's good business to pre-qualify your clients before you try to make a sale: "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7.6a). In other words, be careful where you spend your time trying to market your products.
Another axiom deals with dissatisfied clients. Jesus taught that when you have a client with a problem we should do whatever it takes to settle the dispute: "Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison" (Matthew 5.25).
In a survey of four chapters in Matthew (5-8) I discovered over 25 business hints that would be useful to today's entrepreneur. I noted: (1) Make your word your bond; (2) Never bash your competitors; (3) Make a positive difference in all you do; (4) Practice equality with everyone; and so on.
As important as these teachings are, one of the most important things Jesus taught is this: Keep the main thing the main thing. Business is life, but life is not business. There are far too many burned out, resentful, and tired business folk who forgot what the main thing is and replaced it with business. Jesus reminds us, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6.20-21). It's crucial to remember there are things more important than profit. Things like family, friends, and living life. Doing good in business is important. Doing good in life is the main thing.
So, clearly much of what Jesus taught applies to business. But in the words of a colleague, "I'm not interested in learning from someone who talks about it, I'm interested in learning from someone who's done it." What did Jesus do?
One of the strongest institutions in the world is the Church. Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16.18a). Notice Jesus said he would build it and that it was his Church. Jesus built his Church using a sound business training program that applies today. He began by gathering and training twelve who caught his vision (the twelve apostles). Of those twelve, he identified three to mentor as future leaders (Peter, James, and John -- all of whom led the church during the years following Jesus' departure). And of those three, Jesus spent extra time with one, Peter, whom he trained to become the visionary leader of the church (a process called fractaling). By discipling the twelve, mentoring the three, and fractaling the one, Jesus was able to instill his mission and values into the early Church. And today we find over 1.5 billion adherents to Christianity in one form or another. It took some pretty savvy business sense to pull it off.
Many business leaders are finding the scriptures, and in particular the teachings of Jesus, helpful guides in operating and maintaining a successful business. Indeed, Forbes, Newsweek, and others have recently carried favorable articles about business practices and the Bible. Religion and the workplace may actually have something in common after all!