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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

True Prosperity

Written by: on February 1, 2018

“In China, doing business is hard; living a Christian life is harder; doing business while maintaining Christian faith is the hardest of all.”[1] For several thousands of years, the Chinese feudal system has taught its citizens to despise business people; seeing them as distrustful. In recent decades, there have been campaigns for greater financial and intellectual leadership. In a world where money often equals power and influence, Chinese believers are encouraged to cut corners with their integrity in order to feel successful. Even with the State directed economic growth in the last twenty years, China has yet to understand the ethical, cultural, and spiritual transformation that this course has set them on.

 

 

Economist and author Polanyi, in his book The Great Transformation:The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, attempted to explain the collapse of the nineteenth century economics and the emergence of the twentieth century. The “great transformation” that took place around the world included 2 world wars. He describes in excruciating detail the systems that collapsed and the attempts to prevent it; some even contributing to advance this process quicker. “The outcome was decisively influenced by the character of the class interests involved.”[2] Greed seems to have motivated many to seek their own glory at the expense of the community and sometimes the nation. This reminded me of some the business practices of Chinese today, and maybe even foreshadows its future.

 

Negative comments about businessmen are common in China, for example “every business person is deceitful; a person who is not deceitful cannot operate a business.”[3] However, there has been a shift in the mentality, partly due to directives from the State. China began a massive campaign to change the way the people thought about businesses. “Every citizen is a business person” campaign along with the “create the Chinese dream” slogans have been promoted by presidents, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping.[4] Chinese today want to become rich. Every parent pushes their children to seek jobs that pay more, to pray to the money gods (Caishen) and find those people or spouses that will help them achieve this goal, at any cost.

 

Chinese culture has been based on Confucianist ethics for the last 1000 years. Even though in the last 68 years Communism has also been an influencing factor, Confucianism has not been forgotten and still has a strong influence on the daily lives of the Chinese people today. Confucius says, “Being a good family member reverberates through society. A person who is good to their parents and siblings and children will be good to others as well.” [5] This has been interpreted in the mindset of Chinese society today to mean developing a strong financial base for your family at the expense of everything else. Confucianism, with its focus on feudal ethics, and Socialism, as its official religion, have laid the foundations for a love of the individual (as well as your immediate family).

 

A society cannot exist without some kind of belief system. “Wherever human concerns are placed above the will of a God or the needs of a tradition… Humanism lives.[6] With a fast growing economy, China is suffering from a moral and ethical crisis where the love and pursuit of one’s own happiness is the driving force. The facades of appearing ethical and not losing what is called “face”, in Asia, is really a game played to not publicly give recognition for unacceptable actions and thus embarrassing someone that you might need as a contact or business relationship in the future. Unfortunately, when one chooses to follow God, there biggest struggle in the business world is that truth is fluid. Lying is not seen as a problem but rather it is seen as a way to help not call attention to someone or their mistake. “Don’t make me wear the tall hat” is a saying that means to not call attention to me and thus make me an obvious target for problems (by government or other business people).

 

“Christian business people face challenges in their personal and spiritual lives more so than government restrictions on expression of their religious belief”[7] Pursuit of wealth and greatness is seen at the ultimate end no matter what you have to endure, give up, or who you have to step on to achieve these goals. In business, it is difficult to find new opportunities and thus those that are spiritually grounded, struggle against a tsunami of pressure to separate business practices from their christian life. Christians in China need to change the overall climate of the culture and morality of the society.

 

When we see ourselves as the producers of our own glory, then we imagine that our hands can bring about our salvation. Polanyi said that our hopes “evolved into a veritable faith in man’s secular salvation through a self-regulating market”.[8]Self regulating or state regulating markets are not the problem. Concerning the British economy, Polanyi says, “You cannot change human nature.”[9] I would take it a step farther and add not without an encounter with the God of great transformations.

 

 

Fluctuating markets and the economy are often symptoms to greater ethical and spiritual issues within a country. In the last 2 decades, China has not only seen a great amount of prosperity come to its people but also a great revival in the Christian church. In this country of 1.7 billion people who are all striving to obtain that “China dream”, poverty has soared and work place accidents and abuse ignored. Student suicides due to failing grades or not getting the job that family desired, have also increased. There is a prevailing thought that with so many people in this country, life is cheap and no one matters outside my family. China continues to grow and become an economic powerhouse in this world, but if the culture and spiritual climate doesn’t change, the cyclical downfall that inevitably takes place will occur as greed and selfishness take over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]    “Between Riches and Poverty: Chinese Christian Business People”.Shui, Huo. Chinasource.org. Accessed January 31, 2018

[2]    Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation:The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Kindle Edition. Boston, Beacon Press, 2001.161

[3]    “Between Riches and Poverty: Chinese Christian Business People”.Shui, Huo. Chinasource.org. Accessed January 31, 2018

[4]    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-24923993. Accessed January 31, 2018

[5]    https://reasonandmeaning.com/2014/09/29/confucius-and-human-nature/ Accessed February 1, 2018.

[6]    http://pluralism.org/religions/humanism/humanist-tradition/humanism-as-a-belief-system/. Accessed on February 1, 2018

[7]    “Between Riches and Poverty: Chinese Christian Business People”.Shui, Huo. Chinasource.org. Accessed January 31, 2018

[8]    Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation:The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Kindle Edition. Boston, Beacon Press, 2001.135

[9]    Ibid,65

About the Author

Greg

Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

9 responses to “True Prosperity”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Greg,
    Greed. Excellent introduction, missionary moment, and cross-cultural example to pull me, your reader, into your ministry analysis context of Polanyi. I wonder how it would go trying to explain Spiritual Warfare with an Asian worried about loosing face? The push-back in the Western society is strong, and they do not have as much “face protection” going on as our Confucianist and fear-based societies. I know they are more open to talking about the spirit world than Western cultures seem to be.
    You made a great addition to Polanyi with your “Take it a step farther” and have an “encounter with the God of great transformations.” Nice job leveraging the author for your purposes, good, and God’s glory.
    Keep on keeping on for God’s Kingdom Greg. You are in the right place, at the right time, for God’s purposes. You may never know this side of eternity what your missionary metrics really are, but God knows! I discern you are doing a great work for the Lord, and imagine this, prepared for you before you were even a little strand of DNA. You see, science and religion do work together!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Greg says:

      Mike,
      I appreciate your encouragement. Spiritual discussions happen all the time here but usually in context to ghosts or spirits that bother people. It is hard to know sometimes whether people really believe in spirits or is it just tradition?

  2. Jay says:

    Hi Greg,

    I think you nailed this whole conversation with your quote, “I would take it a step farther and add not without an encounter with the God of great transformations.” THAT IS IT!

    I see a theme in most of our writings that is centered around our hearts. Without a God sighting in the supernatural transformation of our human hearts, none of this will have lasting change. We will be greedy, domineering and selfish…

    But, with God…!

    I was bummed your technology was not working well last week. I was hoping we could hear more from you with Dominic.

    • Greg says:

      Technology is always either our best asset or our worst enemy:-)

      I guess I do think and write about heart issues often. I suppose in our context actions and words are not necessarily a true representation of what is going on underneath. Appreciate you and your pastor’s heart as we journey together.

  3. Great post as usual Greg! I definitely caught the reference to the “excruciating” detail of his description of the systems that collapsed, and yes I have to agree, it was a little painful.

    This statement broke my heart…”There is a prevailing thought that with so many people in this country, life is cheap and no one matters outside my family. China continues to grow and become an economic powerhouse in this world, but if the culture and spiritual climate doesn’t change, the cyclical downfall that inevitably takes place will occur as greed and selfishness take over.” To hear about the suicides and low value for human life, I’m so glad you guys are there bringing hope to a country that desperately needs Jesus,

  4. Greg says:

    Thanks Jake, I was good to talk with you and Jenn this week. I am not an economist and see the world through the world I live in. I appreciate you reading my journey through some understanding of this subject and how it relates to the context I am in.

  5. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Greg,

    Just curious, has China always had the idea of life is cheap or has this become more of a doctrine in the Chinese thought process since they have moved closer to a capitalistic way of doing business. It would be a fascinating study. I really appreciate your insight into our readings. Always a joy to read your posts.

    Jason

  6. Greg,

    Whatever one may say about capitalism in the West, at least Judeo-Christian remnants in the culture have softened the worst excesses because of the development of social policy, welfare, and charity. It is indeed scary to see a capitalist worldview unleashed in the Middle Kingdom that does not have these underpinnings. It will be fascinating to see how the Chinese church rises up to counter family and self first.

  7. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Greg, I am glad for your insight into Chinese business and spirituality. To have integrity as a business person and as a Christian seems like a daunting task, especially if born and raised in the culture. How have you seen people come against the tsunami and be able to surf rather than drown in the pressures?

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