Jesus taught his followers to look outside their self-interests and show love and hospitality to their community. In his paper, Faith, Family, and Work: A Christian Perspective on Family Businesses, published in the book Faith & Work: Christian Perspectives, Research, and Insights Into the Movement (Edited by Timothy Ewest, Information Age Publishing Inc, Charlotte, NC, 2018, pages 151-167), Dr. Allan Discua Cruz (The University of Lancaster) states: “Family businesses represent an ideal context in which to examine the integration of Christian faith at work.”(p. 151). The Bible depicts households as “a group of people bound together by close kinship, who live together and make a living together.”(p. 152) In our modern times, family businesses are usually private companies or family members have a controlling interest in public companies. Today, family members do not always live together.
Dr. Cruz explains two competing theories when discussing the integration of Christianity in a family business. The first theory is Agency which “is based on a long-established perspective that employees cannot be expected to zealously watch over the owner’s assets as they would watch their own. … Agency theory reminds us that organizational dynamics may be affected by the self-interest of individuals.”(p. 157) Tensions develop when there is non-alignment between family and employee values. “A submissive agent places a strong emphasis on loyalty and obedience to their employers, accommodating mandates which often compromise their Christian values. In contrast, a purist agent would refuse to compromise Christian values in order to accommodate employers.”(p. 158) If the family running the company is Christian, then Christian employees, in theory, should have reduced tension. However, other faiths may have increased tension.
The second and contrasting theory is Stewardship which “is broadly defined as ‘the attitudes and behaviors that place the long-term best interests of a group ahead of personal goals that serve an individual’s self-interest.’” This theory “focuses on individuals acting as stewards in family businesses and helps to understand behaviors when objectives and goals between owners and employees are aligned.”(p. 159) This theory resonates with my Christian beliefs. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27) highlights the master (family business) and servant (employee) relationship. It is clear from the parable that the master wanted his employees to make profits during his absence. Faithful employees were rewarded for good stewardship while the single employee who played it safe was given less responsibility. Alignment of goals is key to the relationship.
“Christian principles charge family business owners to be diligent and wise investors with what has been entrusted to them, both for the family’s welfare and for those who work with them.”(p. 160) The relationship between the family owners and their employees must be communal. The world may define family as blood relatives or by legal decree, but Jesus defines family much broader. In John 19:27, when Jesus was dying on the cross and saw his mother, he told his disciple, John, that she was now his mother. Family care is community care. I have Christian friends who love me as one of their family members. “Christian stewardship in family businesses ultimately involves acting as God would act.”(p. 160) This task is for both the family and the employees. Both are united in Christ.