Mike’s Latest Battle for Justice in Business

Sadly, most people could testify to similar or worse experiences of injustice. I could testify to more of them, several that have occurred just this year ranging from “less significant” things like rotten strawberries hidden in a carton of seemingly fresh ones to “more serious” injustices like the breach of a legal contract, but I choose this one because it just recently happened and is fresh on my mind.

Three weeks ago, we bought a conversion van. Mike, my husband, didn’t want the van, but he got it because I wanted it and because our grandkids love camping. The van was new. We were assured everything was working properly, paid our money, and drove off.

A few days later, we had a family medical crisis. We hopped in the van with one of our granddaughters and drove a couple of hours to a hospital in Tallahassee, Florida. Later that night, bone tired and emotionally spent, we located a campground nearby and set up camp only to find that the camper van was not working properly.

So, a couple of days later, still in the middle of our on-going crisis, my husband had to leave us and drive to South Florida to deal with this malfunctioning van. (I say, “deal with” but he says the truth is that he felt like he was in a real battle to try and get this company to either fix the problems they knew existed before they sold the van or to return our money.)

For decades, my husband owned a successful technical-type business and, because of his skill set, he had a good grasp of what was going on and was able to persevere in this very difficult situation. When I say persevere, I mean that Mike had several technical and ethical conversations with the factory tech expert, the manufacturer’s vice-president, and the owner of the dealership in order to get justice.

I bring this up, because we don’t think someone less persistent or technically knowledgeable would have gotten justice. The current end of this story is that the dealership management was eventually persuaded to seriously work with him and after two days, the mechanics were finally able to locate and correct the problem – at least, for now, it seems to be corrected.

Where is Justice in Business?

The tragic thing is that this is a common story in the business dealings of too many people too often, and the question staring me in the face is “Where is justice in business?”

Have we forgotten that God requires us to deal justly with our neighbor? That God expects our scales to measure correctly? That we are not to take bribes or offer them, or misrepresent services or guarantees or products? Have we forgotten that God loves justice? Do we know that in business dealings we ought to seek justice for the oppressed? Do we know that “it goes well” for the man who observes justice and conducts his affairs with justice at all times? Do we know that the Bible says the opposite of doing justly is doing violently or wickedly?

Really, we should not expect non-Christian business people to act justly – they have no moral basis to. We can only hope that their mind-set is heavily influenced by Christian values and principles and that they will act justly. We should however expect Christian businessmen and women to act justly, and I don’t just mean putting a fish on your business card or car. If you identify yourself as a Christian businessperson, please, for the love of God (literally speaking), demonstrate God’s moral character in your business life.

Plain and Serious Hints of Advice for the Tradesman

In 1823 Francis S. Wiggins printed a book based on a previously printed treatise entitled, “The Tradesman’s Calling,” by Richard Steele. In 1747, Isaac Watts, the famous 18th-century hymnist, wrote in his introduction to this treatise:

As the age in which we live is much degenerated from the virtue and piety of our forefathers, I should be heartily glad if I might see the salvation of God, in a general repentance and reformation: And should this begin in the shop and the exchange; how wide and amazing would be its influence? No more would our eyes be witnesses of the base practices of overreaching, and various other iniquities; nor would our ears be so often shocked with the tremendous bankruptcy and ruin brought by idleness, luxury and vice, not only upon single persons, but whole families left destitute and wretched forever after.

The author’s begins his treatise, retitled, “The Religious Tradesman; or plain and serious hints of advice for the tradesman’s’ prudent and pious conduct; from his entrance into business, to his leaving it off,” with the following acknowledgement.

The supreme felicity [happiness], and great end of man, is to know, love, and glorify God his Creator, Redeemer and Benefactor. [Brackets are mine.]

He continues to explain that we should be concerned with the present state of affairs since God designed us for work and endowed us with physical and mental abilities for it and placed us “by divine providence in mutual dependence upon each other.” Steele then argues that everyone who is able should be “employed in such a manner as may be beneficial to themselves, and the society to which they relate.” And adds that …

a very considerable part of the beauty and excellence of the Christian life, consists …  in acting upon principles of wisdom, goodness, justice and integrity to one another.

Doing Business and Glorifying God is the Same Business

We sometimes think of glorifying God as something we do in church or something choirs, ministers, and missionaries do. But, I don’t think that Steele puts glorifying God in a separate category from doing justice in business. Later in his treatise he explains, “The moral law of God obliges us to the practice of justice,” p. 86. I think this is right since we know that God’s moral law mirrors God’s own character and that one way of glorifying God is reflecting him as he is. The greatest and best end of justice in business, I would argue, is the glory of God.

Why take time to read, or at least scan, Richard Steele’s book?

The book is helpful in the application of biblical principles to many vocational and business concerns. Topics range from the nature and obligations of business life to choosing a vocation (which Steele defines as what God calls and equips you to do – a definition he expounds on in great detail). He also discusses prudence, discretion, diligence truth, and contentment in your vocation. Appropriately, the last chapter discusses leaving your vocation – your calling.

Justice in Business

While Steele’s entire book touches on justice, Chapter 5 focuses specifically on the topic of justice in business and addresses the following issues:

  • The nature of justice.
  • The obligation to do justice.
  • Instances of justice as conscionable bargains – which means that justice forbids taking advantage of another person in your bargain.
  • The reasonable payment of just debts.
  • Using exact weights and measures.
  • The right working of manufactures.
  • The payment of lawful taxes or customs or financial obligations.
  • Respecting laws and orders of society.
  • Regarding fellow tradesmen.
  • Paternal care of apprentices.
  • Providing for families.
  • Mercy to the poor.
  • Punctuality in regard to lawful contracts.
  • The restitution of unlawful gains.

Chapter 5 ends with Steele’s exhortation to practice justice and a discussion of Scriptures that apply to justice in business.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8, ESV


Steele, Richard, The Religious Tradesman; or Plain and Serious Hints of Advice for the Tradesman’s’ Prudent and Pious Conduct; From his entrance into business, to his leaving it off, Trenton: Francis S. Wiggins, 1823, accessed June 4, 2013 from http://archive.org/details/religioustrades00steegoog

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