God on Monday
'I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the
covenant between me and the earth’ (Genesis 9.13).
Welcome to the seventh God on Monday reflection on ‘purpose’!
Our car is, politely put, an ‘old banger’. Having valiantly transported its various owners over 180 thousand miles, it is developing ever more serious ailments. Soon it will be uneconomical to keep up repairs and we will need to search for a less geriatric old banger to replace it. That is daunting because it can be hard to know who to trust when it comes to second-hand car dealers.
Trust matters to God. When the great flood in Genesis’ epic story finally recedes, God wants humans to trust his promise that he will never again allow the world to be destroyed by flood. He therefore ratifies his vow in a covenant with Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures. As a recurring symbolic reminder of this covenant, he sets a rainbow in the sky.
This is the first of a series of covenants God makes in the bible that culminates in the ‘new covenant’ God makes in Christ. This too is backed up by a recurring earthly symbol - a cup of wine, which itself is a symbol of the blood he shed in fulfilment those covenants.
But what does the biblical story of covenant have to do with the purpose of work? Three things in particular. First, it suggests that the true purpose of life (work included) is to be found not within itself but in God, for it is God who initiates, devises, and ratifies the biblical covenants. Second, work is to reflect the care God has for all that is included in the covenants, which is the entire natural world. Third, just as the biblical covenants forge relationships of trust, so the promise a worker makes about a product or service needs to be so true that it creates the trust required to produce a satisfied user.
If this sounds too theoretical, let us return to the vexed world of second-hand car sales. Amongst the many entrepreneurs I have interviewed across the world is a car dealer who covenants with his customers that his firm will tell the truth, do the right thing, and keep its promises. His team demonstrates to them in word and deed that this firm is worthy of their trust. In turn this translates into loyalty, a good reputation, and increased sales. This entrepreneur had found in covenant theology a clue to what on earth he is here for.
Peter Heslam, Director, Faith in Business
For an article by Peter Heslam in Faith in Business Quarterly that reflects on business and the environment, click here.
For an interview with a UK car dealer (unrelated to the dealer in the above reflection), see the short video in our Conversations with Christian Entrepreneurs series here.