Environmental Studies

What role should believers have in caring for God's creation in light of Genesis 1:26-28 and Romans 8:20-22?

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God’s Model for Great Commission Companies: Restoring Honor, Rule, Relationships, and Rest

WCIU Journal: Environmental Studies Topic

August 6, 2018

by Tom Steffen

A longer version of this article was originally published in the William Carey International Development Journal Vol 4, Issue 2, Spring 2015

Capturing the theme of God’s sacred story, the meta-narrative, in a single or several sentences is a difficult challenge. Even so, it is instructive in that it drives one’s interpretation of the stories and characters of Scripture whether articulated or not. My current attempt, which has applications to Great Commission Companies (GCCs), states: 

The Patron-King’s persistent and passionate pursuit to glorify (honor) himself through grace and justice by defeating spiritual powers and re-honoring dishonored relationships with humbled people/nations, resulting in Spirit-comforted communities of loyal worshipers and co-laborers that enjoy refreshing rest in a world that awaits final restoration.

While both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment are stated by Jesus in the New Testament, each find their foundational roots in the Old Testament.

• Jesus fulfilled the covenant promises securing salvation for all peoples and creation.
• He fulfilled the Adamic covenant by becoming the Second Adam, defeating Satan through his death and resurrection, providing restored relationships with God (and others) for those who recognize the need of a Mediator, and eventually will recreate the material world.
• He fulfilled the Noahic covenant by never again destroying the earth with a flood.
• He fulfilled the Abrahamic covenant by blessing all nations and providing a land in which to dwell. 
• The “root of David” fulfilled the Davidic covenant that will result in the establishment of his earthly kingdom where everyone will bow before the Mediator-King, the disobedient will be judged, and rest will be provided for his people in a newly created heaven and earth that will far surpass Eden (Rev. 21:4). 

Just rule and relationships will be achieved, resulting in refreshing rest for tired pupil-pilgrims occupying a newly created land. God’s story over the centuries has intersected with our stories.

Some Guidelines for Great Commission Companies

Just as God, Patron-King, is the hero of the stories of Bible characters such as Adam, Noah, Rahab, Moses, David, Mary, and Paul, so GCCs that attempt to multiply wealth, create economic lift, promote hope, and challenge a culture of greed, will strive to make him the Patron-King of their companies.

As co-laborers commissioned to reach all peoples, they have unparalleled opportunity to reveal the gospel through word and deed to co-workers, suppliers, government officials, creditors, and customers. To accomplish this they will “constantly return to, and discover anew” (Polhill 1992, 122) the ideal of first-century Christianity—God’s honor and righteous rule that produced responsible relationships with himself, others, the material world, and provided refreshing rest for people and the environment.

Rightful honor and righteous rule calls for GCCs to institute integrative organizational systems, symbols, stories, and rituals that promote relationships of integrity and rest even though this may be far from the norm of the host country (Prov. 10:9). GCCs must constantly remind themselves ,as Israel was commanded, to remember what it was like to be a “stranger” in a foreign country, and treat people how they would like to be treated. When New Testament communities of faith provided for the needs of the poor and oppressed, it did not go unnoticed by the larger community.

The same will be true of GCCs who hire and care for the disabled and disfigured, especially in countries where such people are despised. When servanthood, stewardship, and justice dominate the way GDDs are run, e.g., challenging turf wars, layoffs, theft, terminations, ecological ineptitude, and so forth, the Patron-King’s macro rule over the universe is modeled, providing a venue for proclamation, repentance, and new communities of faith living in a rejuvenated environment.

Responsible relationships call for GCCs to conduct business honesty in a cutthroat environment, allowing the Holy Spirit to control the competitive spirit so that human relationships are not harmed nor natural resources abused. Employers will challenge personal and collective pride when the business becomes successful. Workers should receive just wages and conduct, and a health-friendly working environment. Suppliers would receive payments in a timely manner. Customers would receive honest advertisement and quality products in a timely manner at fair prices. Competitors would receive just treatment. The poor that surround GCCs would receive responsible social action; the rich would not be cheated. Boards, banks, and shareholders would receive accurate reports. When possible, each party would receive prayer, the good news of Jesus Christ, consistent follow-up, and financial resources so that new holistic communities of faith and businesses can multiply. 

GCCs will refuse to rape the environment (which ultimately impacts everyone’s children and grandchildren) for short-term gain. When conflict emerges within or without the company, GCC management would make a genuine effort to resolve it. Striving for responsible relationships on all levels will eventually provide GCCs opportunities, secretly or openly, inside and/or outside the company, to convey the message that will restore broken relationships with the King. In relation to involvement in responsible relationships Matthew’s warning is apropos, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

Refreshing rest calls for GCCs to take seriously the number of hours they work, and demand of their employees.

No family should suffer because of perpetual stress, burnout, or outright neglect. Reasonable work hours with appropriate breaks, sabbaticals, vacations, and expectations reflect God’s rest. The Psalmist warns: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint” (Prov. 23:4). Finding that oft-elusive balance between profit and people will remain a constant challenge for GCCs.

Handling new wealth must also be addressed so that John Wesley’s fear will not become a reality for the new followers of Christ:

I fear that wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must of necessity produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. (In Danker, 1971, 30)

When giving is taught immediately, and implemented, Wesley’s concern is addressed. People who love to share what they have with others will find it much more difficult for riches to rule their lives. CEOs have opportunity to provide an exemplary model.

GCCs attempt to keep three priorities balanced:
(1) the business end (profit),
(2) the apostolic activities (developing and multiplying new communities of faith), and
(3) deaconal services (social side).

They recognize that tensions always exist between the three with one that demands superiority. They also recognize that tension exists between maintaining the GCC and multiplying it so that others can experience opportunity for present and future hope. Such tensions drive managers of GCCs to rely constantly on the Holy Spirit in their day-to-day activities.

Concluding Reflections

While no GCC will reach total perfection in the demonstration of the Patron-King’s rightful honor and rule (human to spiritual, human to human, human to material), he will use his co-laborers’ imperfect attempts to exemplify biblical values and verbalize the story of redemption.

A comprehensive view of the Patron-King’s story of honor and rule that restores broken relation-ships, and provides comforting rest, demands a comprehensive, responsible approach to business. This approach will include the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the interrelated creation mandate, all reflecting the holistic nature of the first-century Temple. Such a perspective will impact both the higher and lower creation. When this happens, the Patron King’s story will intersect with the stories of all peoples of the world, producing shalom.


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Dr. Tom Steffen is Professor Emeritus of Intercultural Studies in the School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

Dr. Tom Steffen is Professor Emeritus of Intercultural Studies in the School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.