In my small group, I've heard several times that everybody has their priorities and passions scattered and that no one pursues what should be their passions and priorities. That topic surprises me because my college education centered on finding the one thing I could and should spend the rest of my life pursuing (Despite all the problems I had with my college, I'm grateful for that emphasis). The last four years of my life helped me find the one ideal that I could pursue in my job, my work, my hobbies, and my relationships. I even make my decisions based on that. I'm grateful for the chance I have here in Fort Worth to work, to study, to write, to play, and to build relationships around that one passion.
I've been thinking about the books that have helped form who I want to become, and I found several. All of these helped me in some way understand who I want to become and pursue that with every part of my life. Some of them are pretty random reads but changed me somehow.
The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley
With all that said, I'm learning right now that any neglect, no matter how small, of my inner life will begin to throw off everything I'm passionate about because it all flows from my inner life. I said that recently and someone reacted like I was stupid, but that's what I'm learning. If I have to be at work at 5 am, I can't delay my time with God until the next free day because my work and my study and my play are connected so tightly with that.
I'm judging everybody around me these days. My life here in Fort Worth is the most diverse it has ever been, and I'm realizing that the people I don't know, I stereotype. I'm surrounded by Asians, Hispanics, Europeans, the very rich, some very poor, homosexuals etc. So I'm trying to get to know people and break my stereotypes by familiarity. I've found that when I'm familiar with situations or people or cultures, I don't stereotype them. And when I don't stereotype them, I can love them as my neighbor.
"I believe that the only long-term solution to world poverty is business. That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year. Therefore if we are every going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses."
I picked up Grudem's book because it was given to me at an economics conference I attended in April. The book is not very good until the last chapter—the last five pages are worth reading the whole book. Grudem argues that many concepts fundamental to business can glorify God. He always qualifies his argument that many essential business elements can glorify God because they can also be temptations to sin.
While I read this book, I've been thinking Bono's efforts in Africa with the One campaign and DATA. He recently announced a line of products called Red by companies such as Apple, Gap, Converse, Giorgio Armani and others that will help to relieve the poverty and disease tearing Africa apart.
I am excited that projects like this get publicity, but why is this a shift in thinking. This should be normal. I'm troubled that Bono and the newspapers act like this is a new thing. Why does no one know about Pura Vida Coffee? Pura Vida was created as a way to use a functioning, profitable business to fund orphanages and after-school programs for children in its coffee growing countries like Guatemala.
Another example of the possibility for business to do good is Cottage Printworks (a venture of The Simple Way). In a recent book called The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Shane Claiborne writes that the sweatshop conditions in clothes factories in Asia inspired him to begin making all of his own clothes and to not support business that use sweatshop labor.
I was concerned when I read that because I think there is a better possibility to make those conditions better through business than through protest. But I found out that he and the people in his community have started a micro-enterprise to sell clothes that don't use sweatshop labor (Cottage Printworks). I'm not familiar enough with his book or organization to support everything they do (some of it is a little strange), but his company is an example of seeing a problem and creating a solution.
Another awesome company is Jedidiah USA. This company is very active in the skate, surf, art, music scenes. They have sponsorship deals with top bands like Switchfoot and Copeland and with several surfers and skateboarders. The Jedidiah business manifesto is amazing especially since they have built a successful business on those principles. Here is a part of it:
"In 2001, the concept of a clothing brand that would be rooted in love became a reality for a small group of people in southern California. Burdened by what seemed to be an endless onslaught of lifestyle alternatives that promote self-gratification, greed and addiction. Jedidiah embarked on a path of trying to touch the hearts of people through clothing. We feel that serving others is more fulfilling to the human heart than serving yourself."
If you get the chance, read Jedidiah's manifesto and check out this essay by one of their surfers on a trip to a Mexican orphanage (Jedidiah Blog).
I'll stop now, but Grudem gets the last word.
"If attitudes toward business change in the ways I have described, then who could resist being a God-pleasing subduer of the earth who uses materials from God's good creation and works with the God-given gift of money to earn morally good profits, and shows love to his neighbors by giving them jobs and by producing material goods that overcome world poverty, goods that enable people to glorify God for his goodness, that sustain just and fair differences in possessions, and that encourage morally good and beneficial competition? What a great career that would be! What a great activity for governments to favor and encourage! What a solution to world poverty! What a great way to give glory to God!"