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Biblical Principles for Business Ethics: Balancing Love and Justice

Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Business ethics theories overall are divided into two categories: (1) conservatives ideally emphasize that means such as procedural justice, policy, legal authority, and the Ten Commandments are more important than the outcomes; where (2) liberals practically emphasize outcomes such as maximum utility, happiness, benefits, or well-being of whole communities as more important than means. 

As an example, consider possible responses to ten beggars, of whom only two have real needs. A person focusing on justice might think of the begging as a hoax and will give nothing to all ten beggars, while a person who considers love or ‘good hearts’ of high value might give money to all ten beggars. Since the latter cared about the real needs of two beggars, they were then willing to give to all of the beggars, ignoring the possibility of being deceived by the majority of eight. We might consider the latter response merciful and kind. 

Notary working in office. Lawyer, attorney, business person signing a contract, working in officeThe story is told of a widow who was caught stealing a loaf of bread. While sentencing her to what the law required, six months imprisonment, the judge did not want to see the widow’s family suffer in her absence. In order to balance justice and love, the judge paid the $6,000 bail to free the prisoner. He acted as a judge with legitimate authority but also as a redeemer with a good heart.

Similarly, the Bible provides wisdom for teachers of business ethics. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), based on God’s law and justice. But God does not want human beings to die without hope, so he personally chose to balance justice and mercy in order to resolve this ethical predicament. He paid the wages of sin by being crucified even though innocent. Christians call this bailing-out process salvation or redemption, buying back what is undeserved, balancing love and justice.

John 3:16 reminds us that God gave his Son because he so loved us, enough that his offer is that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. We may describe Jesus as an apolitical reformer with a good brain and good heart. Salvation is Christ’s way to take the penalty for us, out of consideration of love and justice. So, rather than choosing either end of the conservative-liberal continuum, Jesus models the perfect balance of love and justice.

God condemned extreme practices. Ultra-conservatives such as the Pharisees believe that keeping all laws and creeds will please God. But God also condemned the opposite extremes of liberalism, such as demonstrated by King David’s self-indulgent seduction of Bathsheba, which did not reflect his belief in God (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

A Christian teacher might help students discover biblical principles for ethical behavior. Consider the story of the Good Samaritan, where students might compare and contrast the choices evident in the behavior of the priests who were so engaged in their ministry that they ignored the needs of the injured traveler, and the Samaritan businessman who set aside his business trip to practically provide for the immediate human need. Facilitating critical thinking about case studies in biblical, local and global contexts calls question to prejudiced perceptions, drawing students to consider the complexities through the eyes of diverse classmates’ perspectives. Such reasoning through realities near and far has the power to transform students, shifting their ethical choices towards God’s balance of good brain and good heart.

Grace and Jerry Chi

Dr. Grace Chi received her PhD in Nursing Science from Texas Woman's University. Her dissertation evaluated the effects of music relaxation video on pain and anxiety in patients who received intracavitary brachytherapy for gynaecological cancer. She is the 2011 recipient of the International Research Dissertation Award from Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society. Currently, she is a Full Professor and teaching at Andrews University Department of Nursing in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Dr. Jerry Chi is the Professor of Management, Graduate Program Director, and Assistant Dean of the Business department at Andrews University, USA. He has served at Taiwan Adventist College as an instructor for four years (1985-1989) and has served at Southwestern Adventist University as a business professor for 16 years. As the Business Department Chair and MBA Program Director at SWAU, he was also awarded Educator of the Year in 2007. He received his B.A. in Theology, B.B. A. in Business Administration (Accounting), M.B.A. in Business Administration, PhD in Leadership and Administration with minor in Business Management, a second PhD in Quantitative Methods, Statistics, and Research Evaluation.
Grace and Jerry Chi

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2 comments

  • | 2 months ago

    Great article, this is so applicable to what we have learned in class!

    • | 2 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Floyd!

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