Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce

This chapter ought properly to be written by a layman who is also a Christian man of business. It is inserted here mainly to challenge inquiry and to provoke thought. The writer has no first-hand acquaintance either with business life or with business methods. He desires simply to chronicle an impression that the level of morality in the business world has been declining in recent years, and that the more thoughtful and candid of Christian laymen in business are beginning to be deeply disquieted. It is not uncommon to be confronted by the statement that it is impossible in modern business life to regulate conduct by Christian standards. The impression exists that if large numbers of business men abstain from the outward observances of religion, it is in many cases because they are conscious of a lack of correspondence between Sunday professions and weekday practice, and have no desire to add hypocrisy to existing burdens upon conscience. The clergy are by the circumstances of their calling sheltered from the particular difficulties and temptations which beset laymen in the business world. Their exhortations are apt to sound in the ears of laymen abstract and remote from life.

If the situation has been diagnosed correctly the matter is serious. What is suggested is not that men to-day are deliberately more unprincipled than were their fathers, but that modern conditions have made the way of righteousness more difficult. Things have been speeded up. The competitive struggle has been intensified. Men are beset, it has been said, by a “moral powerlessness.” They are “as good as they dare be.” Absorbed in money-making, and pressed hard by unscrupulous rivals, they cannot afford to scrutinize too narrowly the social consequences of what they do, or the strict morality of the methods which they employ. Honesty, as experience demonstrates, is by no means always the best policy from a worldly point of view. “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." This being so, it is to be feared that men are apt to prefer the wisdom of the serpent to the harmlessness of the dove.

Moreover the man of business in the majority of cases does not stand alone. He is a breadwinner on behalf of others. Very commonly he regards it as a point of honour to refrain from disclosing to those at home his business perplexities and trials. It is assumed that they would not be understood, or that in any case it is unfair to burden wife and children with financial troubles. In the result it sometimes happens that a man’s foes are found to be they of his own household, and that for the sake of wife and child he stoops to procedures which his own conscience condemns, and which those for whose sake he embarks upon them would be the first to disapprove. A wife, it may be suggested, ought to share the knowledge of her husband’s difficulties, and to be willing, if need so require, to suffer loss and diminution of income as the price of her husband’s honour. A wife takes her husband in matrimony “for poorer” as well as “for richer,” for sickness and poverty as well as for health and wealth. It is a tragedy that in modern marriages too often only the more pleasurable alternative is seriously meant.

Enough has been said to make it evident that in the world of modern business there is a battle to be fought on behalf of Christ. Precisely for the reason that the vocation of a Christian in this sphere is in some ways the most difficult it is also the most necessary. There is a call for courage and consecration, for hard thinking and readiness for sacrifice, and from the nature of the case it must be mainly a laymen’s battle. There may have to be financial martyrdoms for the sake of Christ before the victory is won. But the prize and the goal is worth striving for, for it is nothing less than the redemption of a large element in human life from the tyranny of selfishness and greed. [Footnote: It may, of course, be argued that so long as the competitive system prevails in the business world, a Christian man in business must compete, just as in the existing state; though in an ideally Christian world competition would be replaced by co-operative and war would be unknown. This is perfectively true. But it should be possible, nevertheless, to hold fast the Christian ideal as a regulative principle even under present conditions. Only in proportion as this is done is the redemption of business life a possibility.]

In principle the issues are clear enough. The interchange of commodities is a service rendered to the community. It ought to be so regarded, and the service rendered, rather than the gain secured, should be its inspiration and motive. The service of man is a form of the service of GOD, and the operations of financiers and business men ought to be capable of interpretation as forms of social service. It is only as this spirit is infused into the lives and practice of men in business that the world of business can be saved from degenerating into a soulless mechanism, dominated by the idea of purely selfish profit, or a tissue of dishonest speculation and sordid gambling. The business man, like any other servant of the community, is entitled to a living wage. He is not entitled either by chicanery and trickery, or by taking advantage of the needs of others and his own control of markets, to become a “profiteer.” Profiteering in time of war is condemned by the common conscience. It is equally to be condemned in time of peace. The Christian man in business will stand for integrity and just dealing, for human sympathy and the spirit of service, for the renunciation of profits which are unreasonable and unfair. His function is not to exploit the community in his own personal or sectional interests, but to be a servant of the Christian commonwealth. Some procedures and some methods of making money the Christian man will feel himself debarred from employing. For the rest what is needed is mainly a change of heart, a shifting of emphasis, a modification of the inward spirit and motive of business life.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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