"Business: The Engine of Dominion"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
by Dr. Patti Amsden
Scripture presents God as the Creator of all things and the Owner of the Earth. As seen within the creation narrative, God fashioned mankind in His image and appointed humanity to care for the earth as God’s chosen representatives (Ps. 115:16). Man’s commission for earthly custodianship can be found in Genesis 1:26-28, which is called the Dominion Mandate and which gives man authority to rule and charges him with responsibility to make the earth productive, fruitful and developed.
In exercising earthly administration, each individual has private property to manage. That property might include a skill set, intellectual capital, time, and earthly assets. For example, a man may be a farmer with knowledge of agricultural laws and land to be cultivated. He has options as to how he facilitates his management. That famer may elect to use his land to produce all that he and his family might need to support life; or that farmer might become specialized, thus focusing his efforts to produce only one commodity and then barter with other specialized farmers to acquire all that he and his family might need to support life. Earthly labors to yield productivity fulfill the commission of the Dominion Mandate whether the work is done individually or collectively.
Collaborative effort is the basis for the business sector. Business is the engine of dominion. One man focusing on a better way to build a single product will yield more advancement in that product, but that dynamic cannot be realized unless that single product producer can barter with other producers to meet his other needs for goods and services. The power of contractual cooperation releases greater specialization and greater advancement in the dominion assignment. The business sector is a gigantic bartering system that meets the demands of society. Each individual may bring his or her own private property and contract with others who bring their private property for a voluntary exchange and for mutual benefit. The basis of the exchange of goods and services is free will.
In Mathew 20:1-16, Scripture relates a story of a man who owned a vineyard. The man, who was the head of his household and who possessed legal authority to manage of his capital, decided to hire workers to aid him in his labors. Early in the morning he contracted with some men for a denarius, which was a Roman silver coin whose value in Jesus’s day was equal to an ordinary day’s wages. The employee and the employer agreed as to the service to be rendered by the worker and the wage to be paid by the owner. They made a contract. Each party voluntarily negotiated and voluntarily decided the terms upon which the goods and services would be exchanged.
Later in the morning, the vineyard owner found other workers in the marketplace who had not yet been employed for the day, so he offered them also a contracted wage for a service. At mid-day and again in the mid-afternoon, the employer found even more unemployed laborers and contracted for their services. Scripture continues the narrative until at the eleventh hour, which indicates a twelve-hour work day, the boss contracted with one final group of workers. At the end of the work day, the owner called his foreman to come and pay the workers. Beginning with the eleventh hour hires, the wage of a denarius was remitted. Each group of laborers was paid from last to first. When those hired at the beginning of the day arrived to receive their pay, they likewise received the denarius.
The first workers murmured that they had worked longer and harder and that they should be paid more than those who put in fewer hours. The owner justified his action by appealing to their contract and proving that he had kept the terms of the agreement into which those workers had freely entered. He had done them no injustice because it was legal for him to allocate his resources as he determined. He then concluded the discourse by asking them if their dissatisfaction was motivated by greed or jealously because he had chosen to offer a more beneficial contract to others than what he had offered to them.
The main point of Jesus’ parable concerned the fact that the Jewish nation had ‘worked’ for God for many years and had been subjected to more burdens and labors than other groups of people who would be ‘hired’ in the future. The coming of the new covenant would see many nations or Gentiles brought covenantally into Kingdom service, and the Jews were being warned to avoid jealously for “many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mt.19:30). Although the main focus of the parable must remain within the context of instruction to the Jews as Jesus had used it, nonetheless other principles of marketplace practices were employed to help Jesus make his point. The business principles, which are interwoven in the parable, reveal God’s perspective on employer and employee relationships.
Contracts must be free will agreements. God allocates to every man a portion of assets and assigns personal responsibility in the use of those assets. Man receives his original allotment from God and will answer for his stewardship of that endowment. (Commandment #1) Remember the parable of the talents in which three servants received talents and then gave account for the use of those talents (Mt. 25:14-30). The man who received five talents doubled his as did the man who received two talents. The man who was allocated one talent did not use his asset in his dominion assignment, but rather hid it in order that he might return the original amount as it had been given but without any increase. Each man in the parable gave account for his stewardship of the original grant. As seen in the talent parable, every man will answer to God for his personal choices, therefore he must be free to make those choices. Since contracts facilitate the usage of original assets, they must be made by the free will of each party since God places the accountability upon the steward entering into the contract.
Although the term “free will” is being applied to contracts, the term is limited in scope. Each party may freely choose to enter or not enter an agreement, may freely negotiate the terms to fit his determined goals, and may freely allocate or withhold his assets. However, neither party may freely practice fraud or deceptive practices as a means to steal from the other (Commandments #8 and #9). Neither party may change the terms of the agreement mid-contract. Scripture tells the story of Laban, the father-in-law of Jacob, who dealt unrighteously with Jacob by retroactively changing his wages ten times. The story reveals that God took account of each man’s stewardship and gave the reward of blessing to Jacob’s faithfulness, hard work, and honesty while condemning and judging the contractual breaches practiced by Laban
(Gen. 30:28 – 31:13).
Neither party may interrupt the contract mid-term through strikes or in any way fail to fulfill the contracted terms. The Bible admonishes all people to be keep their promises even if it causes them hurt (Prov. 15:4). Neither the employer nor the employee may engage in coercion during negotiations by threatening or causing harm to either person or property. Where wages are concerned, Scripture requires that we are not to attempt to exact any more than what is appointed nor do violence or use false accusation to change the wage (Luke 3:12-14). Biblically, peaceful negotiations are allowed and encouraged while contracts are being set; but once the contract is ratified, it must be fulfilled by each party in keeping with their free-will vows. Free will in the context of contracts and the market place could best be described as the freedom of every person to make full use of his facilities as long as he does not trespass the free will of another.
Employees are biblically commanded to serve their employer as they would serve Christ (Eph. 6:5-7). Although the Ephesian 6 passage is directed to a bond servant or a slave, in application anyone who works for wages and subjugates his services to another’s rule falls into the broad category of a servant. The employee must not only do his job when being watched by the boss, which is called eye service, but should, rather, labor knowing that God is watching and therefore serve with his whole heart. When a laborer enters a contract with his free will, he has submitted his service as part of his dominion mandate and the employer is to be viewed as collaborating with him as he stewards his assets. (I Tim. 6:1)
Employers are biblically commanded to operate in like manner as the employees by doing good service as unto the Lord. They are not to threaten the workers but to remember that both the worker and the employer have the same Master in heaven and God has no favorites (Eph. 6:7-9). All persons should be treated with brotherly love and without partiality as to their economic status (I Jn. 4:20-21; James 2:1-9).
The man who pays wages has a special admonition upon him to protect the interest of the worker and not to exploit any inherent weakness. Leviticus 19:13-14 calls for prompt payment of wages and sets that prompt payment in the context of not cursing the deaf nor placing a stumbling block before the blind. A deaf man could not hear the curse being hurled at him nor could a blind man see who tripped him. The inherit weakness of both would hinder them from defending themselves. In like manner, a man bartering with his services might be at a disadvantage to the stronger employer. He might be less able to defend himself against an injustice perpetrated by the boss. Therefore, the text reminds the one paying the wage to remember to “fear thy God, for I am the Lord.” True righteousness defends the widows and the orphans, another category of persons who could be exploited by the strong or more affluent (James 1:27). Employers are to be defenders of those who work for them rather than exploiting any weakness for personal or financial gain.