There have been many growth mantras in our generation; maximise shareholder value, invest in global growth funds, aim for business growth, increase your market share, expand your property portfolio. Men in particular, and not a few competitive women, are fuelled by the prospect of growth. We seem to be hard-wired to for growth. The European debt crisis has put paid to all that and so, as mammon has proved to be the false god we all intellectually and instinctively know it is, men have been left struggling to make things grow in an inert even hostile economic climate.
I was part of that culture up to 2002 when I ditched business growth for a different sort of growth, the growth of the kingdom of God.
Jesus said ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’ Matthew 13:31
It has occurred to me that the same sort of business growth mentality can infect me as a vicar. I can see expansion in terms of numbers and money, indeed the diocesan returns I have just completed pander to this attitude. I need to see growth in faith, knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness and hope of eternal life (Titus 1:1-2) as true signs of growth.
I’ve perhaps seen an unhealthy spiritual-secular divide in the growth of the kingdom. What do the men and women who were fueled by growth do when at work? I wonder what businessmen would think if they were reminded that their role is not to:
Maximise shareholder value (make more money for people)
Grow market share (some people must then shrink their market share)
But to instead ask:
- How can I glorify God by the way I run this business? (love the Lord your God)
- How can I serve the needs of others, both customers and staff? (love your neighbour)
- How can I be content with this share of the market?
- How can I steward the earth as I work?
- Crucially, how will this business grow the kingdom of God? (witness)
Growth is integral to God’s plans for us. We need to ask, what are we aiming to grow?
Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:32-33