CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Christian principles 
manipulated in business

HONG KONG (SE): A discussion on the age-old question of how Christians should involve themselves in business has been under discussion in Hong Kong in recent times.

China Source notes on August 26 that although experienced business leaders in the mainland have remarked that there is at least an expectation that Christians should do business differently, the question of what this means in concrete terms still remains an elusive one.

It seems that the influence of the Protestant work ethic that Max Weber popularised is evident among Christian business people in China, as their sense of Christian responsibility drives them to work hard and then in turn, success in their ventures is used to justify or validate their Christian calling.

Weber, who lived in Germany in the later part of the 19th century and early 20th, preached the importance of the cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism. He also connected what is known as the Protestant work ethic with the rise of capitalism.

However, fundamentally, he was critical of both, although he recognised the success capitalism has enjoyed as being due to a new way of thinking. 

He placed great value on the understanding of the purpose and meaning that individuals attach to their own actions.

A Chinese-born scholar of comparative literature now living in Hong Kong, Angel Lu, says that she believes that Christian business leaders in China have a long way to go in making the connection between their faith and work.

She believes that in China, this has also served to spur an interest in Christian faith and the role it has played in development in Christian, economically successful capitalist states.

While Christian business leaders may be quick to categorise hard work as the embodiment of the Protestant work ethic, Lu suggests that the Christian calling in regard to economic and business undertaking, if carried out according to biblical principles, goes way beyond the model and level of Protestant ethics.

Lu believes that there has been an intentional misreading of Weber that has served an historical function in the world of Christian capitalists and believes that the time has come to search for a more solid, biblical-based theology on the economic implications of Christianity. He says that things that have long been taken for granted, like the accumulation of wealth, profit motive and the inalienable right to private property may need a bit of a rethink from a biblical point of view.

 

“In short,” Lu says, “Christians can do much better than just being more excellent in the workplace or being more moral than non-believers. They can and should aspire to the biblical definition of our roles—stewards in the economy of God.”

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