Have you noticed who the villains are in the majority of movies and TV shows today?

The Lego Movie was terrorized by Lord Business, who longs to destroy lego world by gluing all the pieces together. Wall Street introduced us to Gordon Gecko, who coined the infamous phrase “Greed is Good.” And how about Mr. Krabs, the owner of Bikini Bottom’s favorite eatery? He will sell out his own family for an extra buck.

The villain is almost always the rich business guy who greedily takes advantage of others for money, power, and control. Part of this could be an anti-business agenda from our friends in Hollywood, but caricatures are usually exaggerations of real-life tendencies. We connect with them because they carry some level of truth.

Corporate Greed

Just Google “corporate greed” for some quick, real-life examples: Bernie Madoff, the Enron scandal, and the mortgage banking crisis of 2008 are just a few of devastating stories of greed parading around in business attire. When you imagine a greedy person, my guess is that one of the above images of an evil corporate tycoon isn’t far from your mind.

So does this mean business is inherently selfish? Does this mean business is just some sinful, kill or be killed institution man invented to survive in a fallen world? Is business synonymous with greed? Does business make people greedy? I’d like to pose a different take:

Greed is not a business problem, it is a worship problem.

Let me say that again…

Greed is not a business problem, it is a worship problem.

Idolatry is the root of all sin, the evil hijacker of God’s intended design for his creation and the creator of deceptive counterfeits. Business is not the enemy, idolatry is the enemy. Business is not greedy, idolatry is greedy. The Apostle Paul lays it out plainly for the church in Ephesus:

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”
–Ephesians 5:5

Paul obviously thought this was important because he repeated the exact same warning to the church in Colossae as well:

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
–Colossians 3:5

Worshipping the Things of This World

Greed is not a business problem, greed is a worship problem. When we worship the things of this world, we give them a place they were never intended to own in our lives. Instead of playing the subservient role they were designed to for, they become the actual object of our affection.

Money is a great tool but it is an oppressive master. Happiness is a beautiful byproduct, it is a dangerous pursuit. When power is used to serve others it breeds beauty, when it’s held up as the ultimate objective, it turns on us and is crushed under the weight of our manic expectations.

Greed manifests when money becomes the object of our trust. Greed manifests when happiness takes precedence over obedience. Greed manifests when power becomes the source of our identity. Greed is the worship of created things. “A greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world.”

Business is About Giving Not Taking

There’s this common, and I believe almost instinctive, belief in much of modern Western culture that business is primarily about making money, that business is a mechanism for extracting something from you for me, that business success is defined by how much I can get from others and stockpile for myself. No wonder so many find it synonymous with greed.

But at its core, good business is first and foremost about adding value to other people and the world around us. It’s about seeing a need and meeting it, recognizing a problem and solving it, seeing something that is missing from the world and providing it.

Gospel redeemed business is actually the antidote for greed, not the cause of it.

I love the image this paints for business and the marketplace. Don’t buy the caricature created by the idolatry of money, power, and happiness. Business is not synonymous with greed, business is synonymous with service.

The question is, “what are you worshipping?”