“Just be good.”
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Good is good. Evil is evil. We want everyone to be good and not evil.
The problem is that no one can agree on exactly what good is or what evil is. “Who’s to say what’s good and what’s evil? And who can definitively settle the argument when two people disagree?”
Starting in 2000, Google’s unofficial motto and foundation for their code of conduct was “Don’t be evil.” But it was quietly removed in 2018, without explanation.
Many people have given up on the idea of goodness altogether. Richard Dawkins, prominent atheist, says this:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, or any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. … DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.
~ River Out of Eden, p. 133
If God doesn’t exist, then Dawkins is right. Goodness is an illusion. What we call goodness is merely the preferences of those currently in power; subject to change at any moment. “Might makes right.”
In the business world, good thus becomes whatever a person can get away with while pursuing his goals. “What’s good for me may not be good for you; but I have to pursue what’s good for me.”
In stark contrast to this, the Christian worldview offers a solid foundation for the reality and universality of goodness; apart from any human ideas or disagreements.
Goodness is objective
According to the Bible, goodness is an objective reality. We know this because goodness is an attribute of God. God is good and does good (Ps 119.68). He is infinitely (Job 11.7–8), eternally (Ps 90.2), and unchangeably good (Jas 1.17 NLT).
There are at least two different senses to the word “goodness,” both of which are applicable to business: moral excellence, and usefulness.
That which is good is morally excellent. It’s upright, righteous, perfect, and without fault. Only God is truly good (Mk 10.18); so His character, thus, becomes the standard by which all other goodness is measured.
God has revealed His good character in the form of commands to His people—the moral Law. So goodness can further be defined as obedience or conformity to God’s moral Law. This Law is summarized in the Ten Commandments, and made even more succinct in the Great Commandment: Love God and love others (Lk 10.27).
So if a person wants to know if something is good, he needs only compare it to God’s character and His Law.
This is not to say that goodness is always easy to discern. With more difficult issues, it takes practice in the scriptures to tell what is truly good from what is not (Heb 5.14). But we can be confident that the only authority by which we can truly know the difference between good and evil is the Bible (2Tim 3.16).
Goodness in the Bible also refers to the idea of usefulness; or fitness for a particular purpose.
For example, when God created the world, He said that it was “very good” (Gen 1.31). By this, He meant that it was perfectly suited to man’s occupation and rule.
- Objective, absolute Goodness exists.
- It can be known.
- We are to imitate that Goodness (1Pet 1.16).
We should therefore strive to be good in all our business dealings.
Relationally, we ought to do good to all people, graciously treating them with love and respect, regardless of who they are or what they believe. We ought to treat one another justly, without theft or deceit or malice or envy; seeking the other’s benefit, rather than merely our own.
Qualitatively, we ought to strive to do truly good work. Our products created and services rendered should be useful for customers. They should work well, meet needs, and leave the customer better off than they were before.