Biblical Business Goals

[By: Larry Burkett, 2022]


In the Call for Paper for this issue, we asked how must Christians press on and lead so that God’s purpose in us, through our testimonies in the marketplace, can be fulfilled. We suggested that it is time to have a laser focus on God’s purpose at the core of strategies in businesses where Christians lead or influence their execution. To lead off this discussion on the purpose driven strategy of Christian-led or influenced organizations, we would like to hearken back to the insights of the late Larry Burkett, perhaps one of the most influential Christian financial writers ever lived. The following excerpt from one of Burkett’s best known works, Business By the Book, is a timeless reminder of the Scripture informed mission (albeit with a financial tinge) for business organizations. We are deeply grateful to the publisher for permission to this reprint.

¹ Taken from Business By the Book by Larry Burkett (Copyright © 1998 by Larry Burkett), Chapter 5. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson (


On reality there is one primary purpose for a Christian’s business: to glorify God. But there are various ways to glorify Him. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

These become the functions of business – literally, the service provided by the business. So, the purpose of a business is to glorify God. Its functions are as follows.


An important function of a Christian’s business should be to help spread God’s Word. The Bible says that we are to honor the Lord from the first fruits of all our produce (see Proverbs 3:9). For Christians who have the authority to do so, this means giving a portion of a company’s earnings to Christian ministries.


Another important function for a Christian business is to supply the physical needs of those who depend on it: your own family and your employees. God’s Word puts it this way: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the truth, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). I believe this Scripture applies not only to providing for our own families, but also to a businessperson providing for his or her employees…. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you would be willing and able to live on what you’re paying the people under your authority. If not, and you are able to pay more, you need to consider James 5:4: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” This verse indicates that God holds us responsible for providing for those under our authority.


The apostle Paul wrote, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). On several occasions I have encountered Christian businesspeople who spend thousands of dollars a year to share faith with people in other countries; yet, often their employees have never heard the Gospel in a meaningful way.

One Christian businessman I’ll call Alfred shared his concerns with me after going through our business seminar. He said, “I really thought I was a sound Christian businessman, but I’m not doing even a third of the things presented here. How do I get started?”

My response was, “Please don’t go back and tell your employees how they should apply these principles. You just focus on the principles that apply to you and demonstrate to your employees that you care about them.”

Alfred went back and called a company meeting. His employees thought, Oh no, he’s been to another one of those religious seminars. Now he’s going to tell us what we need to be doing to serve God. I’ve seen this happen many times. A businessperson becomes enthusiastic about something he or she learned at a seminar and decides, I’ve got to go back and get this started in my business. Usually the employees dread it, thinking, It’s going to be three weeks of misery again until this works out of the boss’s system and we get back to normal.

But Alfred took a different approach. He told his employees, “I attended a seminar that changed my life, and I’d like to try to share with you what God is teaching me. So once a week I’m going to shut down our plant for an hour, and I’m going to share what God’s Word says I should be doing for you. The meetings are voluntary, but everyone is welcome. From this point on, I want you to hold me responsible to be the kind of Christian employer that God expects me to be.”

The next Monday, when the plant stopped for the meeting, every one of Alfred’s employees was there. He began to share what he should be doing as a Christian businessman. Sometimes he would say, “I can’t implement this immediately or it would ruin our company, but eventually, I am going to do this to the best of my ability.” One of the programs Alfred wanted to implement was a benevolence program to help employees with special financial needs, such as medical bills, family crises, or special education expenses by providing company-sponsored grants.

To do this would first require re-educating the employees so those who didn’t receive this benefit would not resent those who did. It also would require establishing an employee committee to oversee the fund and evaluate the candidates. But Alfred was determined to get it started.

About a year after the meetings began, Alfred asked me to speak to his employees. At one point in my talk I asked, “How many in this room have personally accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?” Out of more than 100 employees, about 25 hands went up.

A year later I went back. This time I asked, “During the last year, how many of you have personally accepted Jesus Christ as a result of the influence of your boss?” Hands went up throughout the room. In one year, more than 60 people had come to the Lord through Alfred’s influence, and he didn’t even know it. Evangelizing his employees hadn’t been his goal. His goal had simply been to become more Christ-like in his business.

The apostle Paul tells us we reap in the measure that we sow (see 2 Corinthians 9:6). Alfred learned that truth when he ran into some business and financial difficulties. During an economic downturn, business got so bad he needed a large infusion of money in order to continue operating. The high interest rates at that time made borrowing out of the question. Word of the company’s financial problems spread to Alfred’s employees, several of whom got the idea of banding together to lend Alfred the money (almost $300,000) themselves. They raised the needed funds from among the other employees and provided Alfred with an interest-free loan.

Alfred was simply reaping what he had sown. When he began following God’s principles, he didn’t know that more than half of his employees would accept Christ as their Savior through his witness or that his employees would decide to lend him $300,000 interest free. He had simply sown biblical principles such as “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” and he reaped the benefits of those principles.

Employees, especially unsaved employees, have the tendency to believe what they see rather than what they hear. If what we do doesn’t match up with what we say, they will usually discount our words. This principle is acknowledged in the following: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).


Contrary to the opinion of some, there is no biblical admonition against making a profit. Profits are the normal by-product of a well-run business and should be considered as both normal and honorable….

Every Christian in business, employer and employee alike, should work to maximize profits, but not to the exclusion of other key elements of a biblically based business. For an employer to maximize profits by underpaying employees, for instance, is a violation of the second function of a Christian business: meeting needs.

Christian employers must also acknowledge that, since God really owns the business, all of the profits cannot accrue to them alone. Profit sharing is thought to be an innovation of the late twentieth century. Not so. “There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want” (Proverbs 11:24) ….



How we use our money is the clearest outside indicator of what we really believe. The Lord said, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

The priorities we establish for the use of our money can give us good insight into where we are spiritually. Just as a thermometer doesn’t make a room hot or cold but measures the temperature, so money doesn’t make us spiritual or carnal; it reflects who we are.

I have felt that way many times. I doubt there is a believer who hasn’t questioned his or her salvation at one time or the other; I know I have. I am a very pragmatic person and I have asked myself, “Is salvation a real experience?” I have long since concluded that salvation is based on the Lord’s promise, not on how I feel.

I have always been comforted by the apostle Paul’s confession: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which indwells in me” (Romans 7:18-20). I believe Paul was saying that he couldn’t always depend on his feelings or reactions, only on the promises of God.

If someone is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the evidence will be visible in that person’s everyday life, including his or her use of money. I find it difficult to believe that a follower of Christ can deliberately cheat, steal, and lie in the normal course of business. I also find it hard to believe that a person who refuses to share in the needs of others has the spirit of Christ within. The measure of true giving is to share with someone who has no platform from which to speak and may never benefit us in any way. After all, isn’t that what true love is all about?

As the Lord said, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:40).

The priorities we establish for the use of our money can give us good insight into where we are spiritually.



Without a doubt those who provide materials on credit have the first right to any available income from a business. I realize this runs contrary to current business logic, which says, “When money is tight, string out your accounts payable.” But consider this verse, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22). When you order materials, there is an implied promise to pay. A Christian’s promise is his or her bond (word).

Jesse was in the wholesale shoe business on a large scale. He would often order $100,000 to $200,000 worth of athletic shoes to be sold to various discount stores around the country. As competition increased, Jesse found that he had to give deeper and deeper discounts to get business.

Ultimately he found himself offering the shoes at less than cost many times. Initially he justified this practice as a necessity to maintain his customer base until prices rose again. But as time went by and he continued to order more
and more shoes he couldn’t pay for, he got further behind. Only the oldest bills got paid, and then only when the suppliers refused to ship him any more merchandise until he paid. Jesse’s priority of paying was simple. He took what he needed to pay his personal bills (which was not excessive); then he paid the basic overhead costs, such as lights and rent, to keep the door open. Then he paid a small portion to his church. Last, he paid the suppliers what was left from his sales, which was often less than 50 percent of the cost of the shoes.

I met Jesse through a mutual friend who had helped to finance his business initially. Jesse had gone back to him twice in the previous year to ask for additional capital. The lender realized the third time that something was wrong and agreed to help only on the condition that Jesse seek counsel, which is how I became involved.

When I saw Jesse’s progressive accumulation of debt, I asked him to describe his business plan… Jesse went on to say something I have heard countless Christians say under similar circumstances: “I know God put me in this business, and I believe He will work out a miracle if I just have faith.”

I believe in faith and I believe in miracles, but the line between faith and presumption is very thin. For Jesse to trust the Lord is faith. But to put the burden of debt on his suppliers was presumption. It was the suppliers who needed faith. Jesse willfully violated God’s principles and then expected God to bail him out….

I then asked Jesse to prioritize his payment system in conformity with God’s Word. According to Proverbs 3:27 we are not to “withhold good [payment] from those to whom it is due.” Since the suppliers have provided the materials, they have already invested their time and money, and they hold the position of highest honor, financially speaking. “So,” I said, “make a commitment to pay your suppliers first out of any cash that comes into the business.” …

Jesse sank back into his chair, thinking about what I had said. Finally he replied, “God told me to start this business, and nobody will talk me into quitting unless God tells me to.” And with that, he left, It’s unfortunate that many well-meaning Christians stubbornly refuse to follow the principles in God’s Word. Instead they adopt the same attitude the Jews displayed in the desert when they complained about everything Moses told them to do. Ultimately God passed them by and waited for others who would obey Him.

God’s Word says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). If you know something you are doing is wrong and persist in it, God will not listen.


Once the creditors are paid, the next priority is to pay the employees what is due them. This also runs contrary to common business practice. After all, the owner has a right to get paid first, since he or she owns the business. Right? Wrong. Remember, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

More often than not, the owner/manager of a business can better afford to lose a paycheck than the employees can. In addition, scripturally speaking, Christian leaders are admonished to humble themselves. In other words, put others first.


Once you are sure that the creditors have been paid and the employees have received their due compensation, then you should draw your portion… It is not unusual for people who start businesses to feel that they sacrificed to build the companies, so they have the right to any and all proceeds. Clearly, that is not what God’s Word teaches.

The critical decision in this and other matters becomes whether to obey God’s Word or to adopt the common practice of our society. That choice is what separates Christian businesspeople from all others. That’s why we can be called “followers of Christ”; we follow His principles, regardless of the costs. We know that God is watching even when others are not.


There is no biblical principle that sets normal business hours at 40, 60, or 80 hours a week. The preponderance of evidence in Scripture seems to indicate, however, that a six-day work week is not excessive.

We seem to have developed two opposing perspectives in business today. Employees tend to think that anything beyond 40 hours should be a bonus (overtime), and owners think that anything less than 80 hours is being lazy. Both sides have adopted extremes.

When a business owner adopts an excessively long work day that seldom provides any time for relaxation and other outside activities, he or she establishes an unwritten policy: “If you don’t work long hours, you won’t get ahead in this company.” This puts the employees (particularly managers) under great stress and eventually makes them less productive.

The attitude in such companies is known as the burnout mentality. Owners work their best people until they drop, then find someone else to replace them. The turnover in such companies is usually enormous, with high salaries the necessary enticement to attract more workers.

Other owners who adopt this style in their own lives think that if they pay the good people enough, they will be able to keep them. I have found that money is only a temporary motivator. It is true that too little pay will usually force good people out, but too much pay will not keep them on a job that totally dominates their lives. In fact, as soon as they have accumulated enough money to live on a lesser salary, they will leave and trade dollars for time.


Once you have established money and time priorities in your business you need to establish some ethical priorities. A few of the common areas of business ethics violations are taxes, fraud, and misuse of company assets. We will examine each of these areas before outlining the biblical principles for dealing with unethical conduct.

TAXES. Perhaps nothing represents a Christian businessperson’s spiritual values more clearly than that person’s attitude toward paying taxes. No one likes to pay taxes; even the people who recognize the necessity of collecting taxes for roads, schools, and defense rarely count taxpaying as a privilege. But to actually cheat on income taxes or any other tax is a sin, and sin separates us from God.

Unless you believe that your relationship with God is the most important asset you have in this world, sin will easily ensnare you. I personally believe that cheating on income taxes is the most common sin among Christians in business. Much, if not most, of it is so well concealed that even the best auditors cannot detect it. But God already knows.

Over the years I have probably heard just about every possible way to cheat on taxes. I have met professing Christians who never paid their apportioned amount and rarely, if ever, thought of their evasion as a sin. Many of these people were generous givers to God’s causes. Many did wonderful jobs of speaking out for the Lord and working to spread the Gospel. Yet all of them had one characteristic in common: a lack of peace and fulfillment in their spiritual lives.

These people might fake being dynamic Christians when they are out among others who feed their theatrical abilities, but when they are alone they realize that something is missing from their relationship with Jesus. …

FRAUD. I am constantly amazed by the degree of dishonesty in our society that the average American accepts as normal. We often see clear evidence of politicians’ dishonesty, and yet we reelect them to public office. We hear of athletes who break the rules, and yet fans organize campaigns to keep them in sports. One area in which most Americans will not tolerate dishonesty is in the business world. It’s not that Americans demand more of their business leaders; it’s that they see themselves as the victims of business fraud.

Many studies over the last several years have attempted to measure the honesty index of the average American, both consumers and merchants, and the results are saddening. Consistently, the most acceptable kind of fraud is practiced against insurance companies. Many businessmen surveyed felt they had the right to collect from an insurance company once they had paid into a policy for several years. They saw insurance policies as something like annuities, from which a person who pays a certain amount in has the right to draw a certain amount out.

One common area of fraud is medical fraud. Even well-meaning Christian doctors sometimes conspire to cheat an insurance company on behalf of their patients. The procedure is simple: increase the bill based on the patient’s deductible amount. Then discount the bill and the entire amount is paid. Many Christians … are concerned about this practice but are fearful of confronting the doctors. When someone cheats, even with the best of intentions, everyone loses. …

Clearly God’s Word says that a deception will always be found out: “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). Total honesty is the minimum acceptable standard for a Christian. If a business cannot survive in total honesty, then it’s time to do something else.

MISUSE OF COMPANY PROPERTY. Most business owners go to great lengths to reduce and eliminate employee misuse of company property. It is estimated that employee theft accounts for the loss of nearly $160 billion in American businesses each year. In total numbers it is probably less than the employee theft but, on a per capita basis, I imagine it is considerably higher…. Owners of businesses tend to believe they can treat company assets as their own personal property. Since the current laws don’t agree with that perspective, to do so constitutes sin (missing the mark).


It’s usually far easier to avoid the temptation to lie or steal from your company than it is to confess and make restitution, because confession and restitution almost always involve some unpleasant consequences. Many times Christians think that all God requires of us is to give up the sin, but that isn’t true. God asks that we give up the sin, confess it, and then offer to make restitution whenever possible.

The Bible contains hundreds of examples of confession and restitution. One that often comes to mind when I think of this principle is that of Zaccheus: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much’” (Luke 19:8). When he came face-to-face with the truth, he repented of his sins of cheating people, confessed, and offered to make restitution above what Jewish law required, which was double the amount.

Some years ago I met with a Christian businessman who could have profited by following Zaccheus’ example. This man, who operated a large cosmetics packaging company, was having some financial problems because of investments in several unsuccessful businesses. It was clear that his financial problems would clear up if he would just stop investing in these side ventures. The packaging company itself was profitable and had the potential of growing much larger. So my recommendation to him was simple: Stop wasting good money in the side ventures.

A few months later I received an urgent call from this man. Another business he had started was in trouble to the tune of nearly $1 million. Over the next several days we talked many times by phone. After looking through the financial statements on the new business, I determined that it was hopelessly in debt and that, although a very good idea, it was doomed to failure.

I asked, “Why in the world would you risk over a million dollars on a venture like this? If you’ll just concentrate on making the packaging company as efficient as possible, you’ll make all the money you’ll ever need.”

In all honesty I thought it was the case of another small businessman who wanted to become a conglomerate. What puzzled me was that this man didn’t seem to have the huge ego that normally accompanies someone with this motivation. He seemed to be subdued and humble – in other words, a nice guy.

A few days later he called me at home to ask if he and his wife could fly to Atlanta the next morning for a personal meeting. Sensing urgency in his voice, I agreed. Then I called my secretary and asked her to adjust my schedule.

In my office the next morning, this Christian businessman related one of the most remarkable stories of dishonesty in business that I had ever heard. “I inherited the business from my father,” he told me, looking down at the table. “Dad had run it for 20 years and was well respected in the industry, but the business never seemed to reach its potential. So I started a shipping company to transport raw materials and finished products to and from the distributors. But we lacked the capital to develop a large enough fleet, so I had to borrow against the business.

“The costs associated with the transport business were much higher than I anticipated, and since we already had so much invested I borrowed even more against the business. Within a year I found myself in financial trouble, and it looked like I could lose the business and, with it, my mother’s livelihood.

“The company we package for has never been able to break into the discount store market because its products are too costly. I could see a sizable potential for increase in our packaging business if their products could be sold there. So I hired a chemist to analyze their formulas, and we began to manufacture their cosmetics, using less costly ingredients. We then mixed the new formula half-and-half with the old and marketed them to this new outlet. They were an instant success, and our volume doubled.

“We did this for over a year and got totally out of debt. Then I began to really feel guilty about what we were doing and stopped.”

“Didn’t the company have any idea what you were doing?” I asked.

“I’m sure they did,” he replied, looking at his wife who nodded her head in agreement. “Since we mixed the product half-and-half, our orders for their products increased substantially, and yet our sales to their normal outlets didn’t change proportionally. I think they knew what we were doing but turned their heads. After all, it was new business for them too, and they didn’t have to pay the royalties that made them noncompetitive in this market.

“Unfortunately, with the oil price increases, the trucking company again became unprofitable, and we had to restart the old mixing practice again to bail it out. Now we find that the business is dependent on that source of income and we can’t stop.”

I asked if he realized the practice he was engaged in was not only unethical but probably illegal as well. “I know it is,” he replied uncomfortably, “be we’re so far into it now, I just don’t see a way to get out. Over a hundred employees and their families depend on our business.”

The man was presenting the needs of others as justification for continuing an unethical practice, often called “offering a red herring,” which means it is supposed to divert attention from the primary problem. I realized the decision had to come from him, not from me. But I did recommend that he go to the parent company, confess what he had been doing, and take the consequences whatever they were.

“Eventually something will happen to bring this to light, and you won’t have the chance to confess it first,” I said. “Take the opportunity to do so now.” With that our session broke up, and they returned home.

A few weeks later I received a frantic call from the husband, saying that one of the employees involved in the illegal mixing process had been dismissed and, out of anger, had gone to the parent company and revealed the entire operation. He also submitted a written report to the board of directors, who initiated a mandatory audit of the packaging company.

At the conclusion of the audit, the directors of the parent company withdrew its contract with this so-called Christian businessman, demanding that he sell off all his company’s assets and send them the proceeds. They contended that his profits had been made at their expense and that they were the true owners of the asset.

Ultimately, the packaging company survived, because the parent company was shown to have made substantial profits from the illegal business. They refused to prosecute because they wanted to avoid the adverse publicity that a public trial would have generated. But the real loss in this process was the loss of credibility on the part of an outspoken Christian businessman.



LARRY BURKETT (1939-2003) was born in Winter Park, Florida. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he and his wife, Judy, returned to central Florida, where he worked in the space program at Cape Canaveral. While working at the space center, Larry earned degrees in marketing and finance at Rollins College in Winter Park. In 1972, Larry put his trust and faith in Jesus. In 1973, he joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ as a financial counselor. During his time there he began an intense study of the biblical teaching on money and led small groups around the country through that material. In 1976, Larry Burkett left CCC to form Christian Financial Concepts and in September 2000, CFC merged with Crown Ministries, creating Crown Financial Ministries. Larry published more than 70 books, sales of which now exceed 11 million copies and include several national best-sellers. (Taken from Moody Publishers: