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The Soul of the Entrepreneur: A Christian Anthropology of Creativity, Innovation and Liberty

Authors:
  • Center for Religion Culture & Democracy

Abstract

Although often acknowledged as critically important, the role of the entrepreneur in the modern economy is often underdeveloped or inadequately understood. The reason for this is in large part due to the complex anthropological mysteries that lie at the heart of entrepreneurship. The Christian moral tradition provides important insights into the nature of the human person, particularly with respect to entrepreneurial activity, that provide a more comprehensive understanding of human action. Christian teachings regarding the creation of the cosmos, the human person as created in the image of God (imago Dei), and human beings as free moral agents combine to present an account of entrepreneurship in terms of spiritual as well as material realities. From the Christian perspective, the soul of the entrepreneur is determinative for his or her role in promoting human flourishing.
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The Soul of the Entrepreneur:
A Christian Anthropology
of Creativity, Innovation and Liberty
Jordan J. Ballor and Victor V. Claar
ABSTRACT
Although often acknowledged as critically important, the role of the
entrepreneur in the modern economy is often underdeveloped or inadequately
understood. e reason for this is in large part due to the complex
anthropological mysteries that lie at the heart of entrepreneurship. e
Christian moral tradition provides important insights into the nature of the
human person, particularly with respect to entrepreneurial activity, that
provide a more comprehensive understanding of human action. Christian
teachings regarding the creation of the cosmos, the human person as created in
the image of God (imago Dei), and human beings as free moral agents combine
to present an account of entrepreneurship in terms of spiritual as well as
material realities. From the Christian perspective, the soul of the entrepreneur
is determinative for his or her role in promoting human flourishing.
Keywords: entrepreneurship, Christianity, human anthropology, innovation,
personal liberty
JORDAN J. BALLOR is a Research Fellow and Executive Editor, Journal of Markets & Morality at Acton Institute,
98 East Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Telephone: 616.454.3080. Email: jballor@acton.org.
VICTOR V. CLAAR is a a Professor of Economics at the School of Business, Henderson State University, HSU Box 7890,
Arkadelphia, AR 71999-0001. Telephone: 870.230.5457. Email: vclaar@gmail.com.
NOTE: All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International
Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights
reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com e “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in
the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Journal of Ethics & Entrepreneurship, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 117-131
©Gardner-Webb University. All rights reserved.
ISSN 2326-3776 (Print) ISSN 2326-3806 (Online)
Journal of Ethics & Entrepreneurship
118
INTRODUCTION
e entrepreneur is essential to economic growth and development. ose
who make it their business to study the entrepreneur and his work understand
well this vital role. Schumpeter ([1934] 1982) sees entrepreneurship as the
major driver behind an economy, and Shapero (1985) eloquently states,
For communities and for society, entrepreneurship provides
the means for achieving the level of diversity, innovation, and
independent decision making required for survival, development,
and freedom. Entrepreneurship is a profound, vital, pervasive
human process with important possibilities for the individual in
terms of independence, creativity, personal expression, and even
health.... A society where individuals are encouraged to take control
of their own lives is a society of freedom and growth (p. 3).
And as Jackson and Rodkey (1994) point out, there is now overwhelming
empirical evidence that entrepreneurship is a key source of job growth, and is
essential to the ongoing health of a market economy. More recently, Koellinger
and urik (2012) find, using panel data from 22 OECD countries, that
entrepreneurship tends to be a leading indicator of the business cycle. ey
also conclude that entrepreneurs play major roles in nations’ recoveries from
recession.
ough there now exists a vast and growing literature that explores the
nature of the entrepreneur as well as her contributions to human progress, it
is nevertheless true that the motives, activities, and social contributions of the
entrepreneur are sometimes overlooked or inadequately understood by those
who are neither entrepreneurs themselves nor students of entrepreneurship.
is is particularly true in the case of religious thinkers and theologians,
who often tend to have an animus towards market activity and economics
(Ballor, 2010; du Plessis, 2010; Hill & Lunn, 2007; Lunn, 2011; Schneider,
2007). Choi (1993) explores one aspect of such reactions in his study of
entrepreneurship as a potential driver of envy in a market economy. Choi argues
that entrepreneurs—at least the ones who achieve some level of success—may
become the objects of envy by others who cannot comprehend the contributions
of the entrepreneur. Choi points to several factors that potentially explain why
those who are not entrepreneurs themselves may discount the considerable
efforts and the resulting valuable contributions of entrepreneurs. First, in
accord with Frédéric Bastiat’s observations about human tendency to discount
the unseen, Choi notes that entrepreneurial activities are rarely observed
directly by others. Unlike manual labor, which most of us frequently have
opportunities to observe in our neighborhoods, along our car and train trips,
and in shops and other businesses, we rarely observe directly the work that
entrepreneurs do. According to Choi, we tend to underestimate the difficulty of
entrepreneurial contributions, then, because we do not observe directly such
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efforts. Further, because we are not ourselves bearing the risks undertaken by
the entrepreneur in the pursuit of uncertain rewards, we tend to inaccurately
assess those risks. Specifically, says Choi, we are likely to underestimate the
level of risk assumed by the entrepreneur, and to assume that the entrepreneur
sleeps at least as soundly each night as we do. Under such circumstances, it is
likely that entrepreneurial accomplishments will foster envy in the hearts of
those who perceive such success as something less than earned success.
Yet entrepreneurial success, in its ideal form, is earned. Percy (2010), following
Kirzner (1973, 1985), identifies four elements of entrepreneurial work. First,
entrepreneurs remain alert to information, realizing that it has the potential to
lead to creative knowledge. Unlike their less-entrepreneurial counterparts who
may also possess the same information, entrepreneurs constantly seek ways
to unleash the creative potential of such knowledge. Second, entrepreneurs
seek to discover “changed conditions or overlooked possibilities” that lead to
opportunities either now or in the future. ird, entrepreneurs capably bring
the other factors of production—land, labor, and capital—to bear on their
own discoveries. And finally, owing to the risk involved in the third element,
entrepreneurs will not creatively follow through on their insights unless they
expect to receive rewards sufficient to make their entrepreneurial efforts appear
worth undertaking (Percy, 2010, p. 26).
But even if one accurately understands the activities of entrepreneurs and
the measurable benefits that follow—whether those benefits accrue to the
entrepreneur, her investors and employees, their customers, or to society more
generally—Christian scripture and church teaching suggest that there is deeper
value and meaning to be found in the life and work of the entrepreneur.
First, in church tradition, the human person is called to carry out creative
work. Inasmuch as the Creator designed human beings in his own image,
humankind is called to its own creative activities—including entrepreneurship.
Second, the value of creative work is not limited to material rewards—whether
those rewards are narrowly or broadly dispersed. In the Christian view of the
human person, each of us is constantly being internally transformed through
the creative activities we undertake. e human person, created in God’s image,
consists of both body and soul. rough our participation in creative acts of
our own, we are—with God’s help—evolving into fuller versions of the creative
beings he intends for us to ultimately become. Work, including entrepreneurial
endeavor, arises out of and, in turn, shapes the human soul (DeKoster, 2010).
us the entrepreneur possesses a moral and spiritual imperative to carry out
his creative work, and the benefits that follow are both temporal and eternal,
material and spiritual.
In the remainder of this essay we articulate a Christian anthropology of the
entrepreneur. We proceed as follows. First, we describe the Christian account
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of God’s creation of the cosmos, linking that creative act to the responsibility
of human beings to continue God’s creative work. Next, we describe more
fully the innovative role of the human person in the Christian tradition as
he follows through on his mandate to further develop and cultivate God’s
created order. Finally, we consider the necessary condition of moral agency for
humankind; without adequate liberty to make free choices in the pursuit of
the entrepreneurial calling, humans will be limited in their abilities to discover
God’s plan as well as in their capacities to achieve creative outcomes that lead to
both personal and social enrichment—whether external or internal.
CREATIVITY
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God’s first act is to create. In church
tradition, God creates the universe—and all that is in it—ex nihilo: out of
nothing. According to the creation account found in Genesis 1, God creates day
and night, he forms the earth, its land and seas, its creatures and vegetation,
and he places the stars in the heavens and dictates the laws that govern them.
Upon reflection, God considers each of his works and pronounces them “good.
Note that God’s creative act does not consist of merely making matter appear:
God also gives order to the universe through laws such as those of quantum and
particle physics, gravity, and planetary motion. ese are sometimes referred to
as primary creation (out of nothing) and secondary creation (the ordering and
arrangement of the cosmos).
God’s final creative act in the Genesis account is to create humankind. Moses
writes:
en God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,
so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the
sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the
creatures that move along the ground.
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
Several points are worth noting here. First, God’s final act of creation is the
creation of the human person. We may also infer that God views man as the
crown of his creations, since he reflects upon the six days of creation and
pronounces his work to be not merely “good,” but “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Second, God creates humankind “in his own image.” And at this point in Hebrew
and Christian scripture, one of the few things we actually know about the
nature of God is his creative inclinations and abilities as suggested by his acts in
this chapter.
Not only does God create humans in his own image, but he also gives them
specific work to do. As noted above, God creates humankind with a mandate to
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rule over all living things. In addition, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be
fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish
in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on
the ground’” (Genesis 1:28).
Further, even in this paradise created by God’s own hand, there is nevertheless
work for humans to do. In the next chapter we read, “e Lord God took
the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”
(Genesis 2:15). We may thus conclude that the work itself was not part of God’s
punishment for the sins committed in the chapter that follows. Human beings
had a responsibility to care for and develop God’s own creation even before sin
fractured the relationship between God and humankind.
Novak (1982) has argued that the entrepreneur’s creative potential and activities
directed toward realizing that potential parallel God’s own creative work in the
first two chapters of Genesis, a concept sometimes called “co-creation,” and, in this
way, it is creation in a tertiary sense. Human co-creation is activity undertaken to
develop the created order, including the world as well as the human person, on the
basis of the gifts and talents God has provided in his own acts of creation. us,
in Novak’s view, each entrepreneur is fulfilling his or her sacred calling to subdue
the earth as God has commanded (p. 98). e broad scope of the biblical story
from creation to consummation (or fulfillment) can thus be understood as the
development of the world from a garden (Gen. 2) to a city (Rev. 21).
us creative work itself is no punishment for sin. Far from it. In God’s ideal
relationship, he intended humans to continue his creative acts by working with
the gifts he alone had provided. In the third chapter of Genesis, we discover that
the punishment for sin is not work, but toil. God tells Adam:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).
Percy (2010) points to several instances in the Old Testament that suggest that
a proper view of the human person is not as a mere caretaker of God’s creation.
Instead, we are to creatively and skillfully utilize God’s rich providence, fulfilling
our mandate given in Genesis. For example, in the book of Exodus, the Lord tells
Moses, “I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,
and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding,
with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in
gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all
kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe
of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make
everything I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:2-6). Indeed, Scripture indicates
that God blesses his people with creative knowledge, abilities, and intelligence,
and expects them to utilize such blessings both in the service of God and the
service of others.
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Although the idea of human work as “co-creation” has sometimes been
criticized (e.g. Hauerwas, 1983), understanding human creativity as derivative
of and dependent upon the prior divine creation of the cosmos provides
a fruitful avenue for exploring the dynamic intersections of human labor,
innovation, and liberty. Human work, the application of creative reason and
effort to the world, is thus understood to be a primary way in which human
beings exercise causality, both positively (in light of creation) and negatively (in
the shadow of sin). As C. S. Lewis (1972) puts it, God “gave us small creatures
the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different
ways.” Lewis identifies these two ways as work and prayer, and in respect to the
former, God “made the matter of the universe such that we can (in those limits)
do things to it; that is why we can wash our own hands and feed or murder our
fellow creatures” (p. 106).
INNOVATION
In the Christian view each person—created in God’s image (the imago Dei)—
bears a mandate to carry out God’s ongoing creative work in the faithful
stewardship of God’s creation. In Christian tradition, then, all creative acts
are a reflection of the imago Dei, whether carried out by those who confess
Christianity or by others who do not. Our very entrepreneurial natures and
actions are God’s creative image bursting forth from each of us. Whether we are
creative in our scholarship, our businesses, or the prudent management of our
families, and when we creatively approach tasks or perceive the unmet needs of
others, we are working out our entrepreneurial purpose.
ough everyone possesses entrepreneurial potential, and though many
pursue entrepreneurial activities, Szabó (2014) argues that the fullest
realization of God’s entrepreneurial intention for human beings might be found
only among those who appreciate their personal responsibility to God’s cultural
mandate. For example, Szabó states that even the most devout of Christian
business people may not be realizing their own entrepreneurial potentials as
bearers of the imago Dei if they do not discern that one of their responsibilities
to their creator is to continue his creative work through entrepreneurship. at
is, God is calling us to be more than mere Christian workers. Instead, he longs
for us to see ourselves as his agents in the world, pursuing our entrepreneurial
work as part of his plan for the world. Szabó writes that “the Christian
entrepreneur understands [that] God owns everything, and the entrepreneur
is…a steward managing all the available resources. is type of stewardship is a
difficult task” (p. 23).
Haymond (2012) considers whether the wife of noble character described in
Proverbs 31 might be considered as the entrepreneurial archetype of the Old
Testament, and Percy (2010) also consults this particular passage as evidence of
the elevation of the entrepreneur in the Old Testament. e passage also makes
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quite clear that the virtuous wife is not a mere caretaker. She is an entrepreneur
and an innovative one at that. e passage reads, in part:
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar….
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night….
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet….
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised….
In the passage we see the unmistakable traits of the entrepreneur, as well
as the praiseworthiness of a woman committed to her work as a holy calling.
Baker (2015) makes the further claim that our entrepreneurship gives
unspoken testimony to the beauty, creativity, and power—and also to the
responsibility—bestowed upon us as God’s image-bearers working alongside
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him in his ongoing creative plan.
It is worth noting that the Fall of man described in Genesis 3 did not absolve
us from our entrepreneurial callings. Instead, the Fall made our good work
more challenging and prone to error, given our own sinful desires and human
limitations. us, in the shadow of the Fall into sin, human beings not only
make positive contributions to the world but also “invent ways of doing evil”
(Rom. 1:30).
Innovation can thus be framed as a way of understanding the idea of co-
creation, in which human beings exercise their God-given creative abilities to
fashion new things on the basis of God’s original creation. Taking what has been
provided by God, human beings thus make explicit the inherent possibilities of
the created order. Just as a gardener cares for seeds to nurture the young plant
to fruit-bearing maturity, the broader world itself contains seemingly boundless
possibilities for the development of new technologies and ways of working and
living together.
Because the sheer scope and scale of the created order surpasses the
developmental abilities of any one individual, or any one group of individuals,
the task to cultivate the Earth is thus a communal endeavor that spans both
time and space, across generations and cultures. In this way, God can be
understood as endowing individuals with different gifts, talents, dispositions,
and circumstances within which to make their unique contribution to the larger
unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive plan. As the Reformed theologian
Abraham Kuyper (2011) puts it, “Had it been intended otherwise, then every
person, man or woman, would have to be in full possession of all genius and
all talent. But this is not the case. Genius and talent appear only as distributed
among a few individuals” (p. 42). us, he concludes, “the rich variety among
people, in terms of aptitude and talent, came forth from the creation itself and
belongs to the essence of human nature” (p. 43). Often this reality is explored
under the rubric of the Christian doctrine of vocation or calling. ere is a
fundamental calling that God has laid upon every created person to exercise
his or her God-given gifts (or graces) to serve both God and their fellow human
beings.
e entrepreneur likewise has a particular calling to exercise his or her
unique talents. As Sirico (2000) writes, “Entrepreneurship is an institution
that develops organically from human intelligence situated in the context of
the natural order of liberty. ose with the talent, calling, and the aptitude
for economic creativity are compelled to enter the entrepreneurial vocation
for the purpose of producing goods and services and providing jobs” (p. 7).
Kirzner (1985) has helpfully described entrepreneurship as a kind of discovery
process, a view that gains added salience when placed within the context
of divine providence. e entrepreneur, as a key driver of healthy markets,
can be understood as discovering and developing the possibilities that God
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has provided on the basis of his original creation and ongoing providential
care. As Klay and Lunn (2003) write, “rough his providential care, God
preserves all creation, including humanity. It seems that one way by which God
preserves humanity is through specific gifts of human disposition, creativity,
and vocation, such that markets produce and distribute goods and services
throughout societies where no one person or any region could be self-sufficient”
(p. 557). What Kuyper (2011) observes of the artist, then, can be understood
as applying equally well to the innovative entrepreneur: “e artist has a
sharper eye. He sees what you do not see. He has a more fertile imagination
and captures in the mirror of his imagination things that escape your notice.
He sees more; he sees deeper; he sees better; he sees things in relationship to
each other” (p. 164). e apostle Peter enjoins his listeners to “use whatever
gift you have received to serve others,as faithfulstewards of God’s grace in its
various forms” (1 Peter 4:10), including the grace of entrepreneurial insight and
innovation.
LIBERTY
Because everyone has different gifts, talents, abilities, and dispositions,
and the process for realizing and manifesting these is not fully understood
by human beings ahead of their realization in time, the innovative diversity
of entrepreneurs, and creative work more broadly, thus requires a context of
liberty for the moral exercise of the creative calling. In this way, the Christian
anthropology of the entrepreneur makes clear that the entrepreneur is
called to both creativity and innovation. It follows, then, that authentic
entrepreneurship requires a fertile political, social, and economic environment
in which entrepreneurs can both envision and effect change. Entrepreneurs will
not conceive ideas that seem impossible in light of assumed constraints, just as
none of us would imagine what we might try if the law of gravity did not apply
because no one believes that the law of gravity will be repealed.
Envisioning what new things might be possible in the future demands a future
expected to hold great possibility and opportunity. e Christian virtue of hope
is thus an essential element for the realization of human development (Klay
& Steen, 2013). Claar et al. (2012) provide empirical evidence that attitudes
regarding one’s belief regarding whether one might effect change can be
strongly driven by one’s political and social context and history; using a survey
of MBA students from the United States, Poland (a former eastern bloc nation)
and Armenia (a former Soviet republic), the authors find that the U.S. students
are significantly more likely to believe that they can succeed in bringing about
change—even while their Armenian counterparts possess a persistence that
their U.S. counterparts lack.
Skillen (2010) addresses specifically the critical role of government in creating
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a climate that fosters entrepreneurship. Skillen writes, “Government exists
within, and to do justice to, a political community, and, to properly exercise
the responsibilities of its office it must, among other things, do justice to that
which does not originate with the political community, including individual
and entrepreneurial responsibilities” (p. 320). Entrepreneurs thus operate
within the context of social institutions, including markets and governments,
as well as religious institutions and families, that provide both resources and
constraints.
Inasmuch as the Christian anthropology of the entrepreneur suggests that
the fullest human flourishing includes both personal and material progress, the
entrepreneur will achieve the most—both for herself and the community—
when she possesses the freedom and moral agency to make wise, informed
choices in the pursuit of her entrepreneurial calling. Szabó (2014) writes that
a “Christian entrepreneur should search for…great freedom in order to follow
God’s will, but this often requires making sacrifice” (p. 23). Freedom and
responsibility are the hallmarks of mature human action, and in this way the
moral agency of human beings must be respected and acknowledged by any
legitimate complex of social institutions.
Consider an example from the New Testament of the Bible: the parable of the
talents found in Matthew 25. Jesus says:
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his
servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags
of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according
to his ability. en he went on his journey. e man who had
received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work
and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold
gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off,
dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled
accounts with them. e man who had received five bags of gold
brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five
bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have
been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many
things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
e man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you
entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have
been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many
things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
en the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he
said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have
Dov Fischer 127
not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was
afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is
what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where
I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money
on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have
received it back with interest” (Matthew 25:14-27).
Both Bradley (2014) and Percy (2010) glean entrepreneurial insights from
this passage. Percy notes that “the trading activity of the two stewards is
important. Christ praises them for the energy, alertness and perseverance they
demonstrate in making a truly significant profit” (p. 48). Percy also observes
that the fear of the lazy steward leads him to shy away from the risks and
hurdles that are often essential to authentic entrepreneurial accomplishments.
Bradley devotes particular attention to the opportunities that the master
affords to the stewards for their ongoing personal development and growth.
e passage tells us that the master allocates the bags among his stewards
according to their abilities. It is also clear that the goal of the master in the
passage is not to maximize the return on his investment. If that were the case,
he would have trusted his wealth with just the first two stewards, and given
nothing to the third. But the master nevertheless gives even the third steward
an opportunity—though relatively smaller—to develop his entrepreneurial
alacrity. In the same manner, God grants human beings opportunities to
exercise our own valuable entrepreneurial talent and creativity in the hope that
we develop those talents and attitudes even more fully.
To the observations of Bradley and Percy we would add the following: None
of the servants is given a single explicit word of instruction from their master
regarding what he expects them to do once they have been trusted with his
wealth. Indeed, the passage tells us only that the master hands out the bags
and then departs on his journey. He never mentions anything about desiring
to increase his wealth. Upon the master’s return, he lavishes his greatest praise
upon the servants who—despite their seeming ignorance regarding what would
give the master pleasure—assume considerable risk and creatively put the
master’s fortune to productive use. ese servants are then entrusted with even
greater responsibilities.
us, all three stewards possessed the greatest possible liberty to decide how
to care best for the master’s wealth. ough given no explicit instruction, the
first two stewards decide to be creative with the master’s wealth, even though—
like the third servant—they knew that in doing so they undertook great risk.
And it is precisely because all three stewards possessed full autonomy regarding
how to care for the master’s wealth that each had an opportunity to not only
develop his entrepreneurial capabilities, but also to be rewarded with even
greater responsibilities in the future. Moreover, the successes of the first two
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stewards provide not only material rewards to the master. e focus, instead, is
upon the master’s delight in their shrewd accomplishments.
e master’s response to the servants illustrates that he assumes the moral
responsibility of the servants, even without explicit or detailed instructions
about the handling of their resources. e fact that two are rewarded while one
is punished shows that there is an underlying assumption of culpability for the
responsibility given in the care of the resources. is is the basic understanding
of stewardship in the Christian tradition: On the basis of the gifts that God
has given to each person, everyone is responsible to him for the exercise and
development of those resources. is stewardship responsibility is summarized
well in Jesus’ statement that “from everyone who has been given much, much
will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much
more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). Within the context of the created order,
there is a relative autonomy, liberty, or independence for how to best engage
and apply the resources that God has provided. But within the context of the
relationship between the creature and the Creator, creatures are accountable
and answerable to God for the ways in which they decide to act.
In the same way, cultivating and developing entrepreneurial skills cannot
happen if humans are only given specific instructions regarding what to do—
and what not to do—with the gifts we possess. Nor can we fully explore the
range of entrepreneurial possibilities if institutional arrangements cordon off
some regions of opportunity and discovery or try to determine or plan ahead
of time what must be produced, consumed, exchanged, and distributed. As we
have alluded to earlier, there is a legitimate role for government to determine,
at least in general terms and in principle, the broad realms of legally legitimate
activity. ese kinds of institutions of order and justice are not only permissible
but actually necessary for authentic human development.
ere is also an important distinction to be made between the morality and
the legality of any particular undertaking. Christian entrepreneurs, for example,
may decide not to engage in potentially lucrative enterprises (e.g. pornography,
gambling) out of concerns about the moral validity of the industry. As Hardy
(1990) writes,
Even when we move into the realm of the morally unobjectionable,
however, clearly some jobs—given the priorities of the kingdom
of God—are to be preferred over others. Here all things may be
permissible but not all things are expedient. In some jobs my
neighbor is less well served than others…. Simply having the right
attitude, the Christian attitude, is not enough. One must take into
consideration the social content of one’s work: am I, in my job,
making a positive contribution to community, am I helping to meet
legitimate needs, am I somehow enhancing what is true, what is
noble, and what is worthy in human life? (p. 90)
Dov Fischer 129
us Christian entrepreneurs may focus their creative and innovative efforts
on industries with lower margins out of a concern to serve those on the edges of
society, represented in the Bible as “the widowor the fatherless, the foreigneror
the poor” (Zech. 7:10). Friedman and Gerstein (2015), for instance, emphasize
the biblical imperative to love the stranger. Only a fertile, free society will lead
to the fullest form of spontaneous dynamism that results when entrepreneurs
are free to pursue their vocations lived out in response to their answers to these
kinds of concerns.
CONCLUSION
e role of the entrepreneur in the market economy has received some
scholarly attention, but largely continues to be mysterious, underemphasized,
or underappreciated. In part, this is because entrepreneurial activity has often
been viewed primarily, or even exclusively, through a materialistic lens, in
which the creation of wealth or the development of the material order is in
focus. Although these are important and even indispensable aspects of the
entrepreneurial role, the spiritual elements of entrepreneurial activity warrant
greater attention. And although theologians might be expected to provide
critical insight into these spiritual realities, opposition to economics as both
a discipline and a realm of human activity has often prevented sustained
engagement and dialogue (Ballor, 2014).
From the Christian perspective, the human person has both material as
well as spiritual aspects, and the free creative and innovative activity of the
entrepreneur arises out of the realities of a God-ordained and divinely created
order. e human person, created in the image of God, has a responsibility to
act as a productive steward of the various gifts, talents, and resources that have
been endowed by the Creator. On this view, the soul of the entrepreneur is to
be understood as a dynamic manifestation of the Christian conception of the
human person. A Christian anthropology that relates creativity, innovation,
and liberty to the entrepreneurial vocation is thus an indispensable resource
for understanding the spiritual dimensions of entrepreneurship in the modern
market economy.
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Ballor & Claar
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