Why is America great? We might answer this question in any number of ways. America is a land of law and freedom; America was founded on Christian principles; America is the land of opportunity; or simply, America is blessed of God. One of the chief attributes that makes America great is her wealth. We are the wealthiest nation in human history, and it is this wealth that has enabled us to positively influence the world. We have won wars against the Nazis and the Communists. We have overthrown dictators and freed multitudes. We have battled diseases like tuberculosis and cancer. We have fed the hungry by the billions and offered relief to the survivors of wars and natural disasters. Though not perfect, America is great.
Our vast wealth is due in large part to the values of our Puritan forefathers. They instilled in America from her very conception the ideal that hard work for the glory of God is every Christian’s calling. Puritan minister Richard Baxter wrote, “Be laborious and diligent in your callings; and if you cheerfully serve God in the labour of your hands, with a heavenly and obedient mind, it will be as acceptable to him as if you had spent all that time in more spiritual exercises.” William Tyndale, puritan contemporary who translated the Bible into English said, “There is earthly difference betwixt the washing of dishes and preaching of the word of God; but as touching to please God, none at all.” Foundational to the religious freedom and the business culture in America was this concept that all work is to be done to the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom.
This Puritan work ethic made America the most prosperous nation on earth.
Unfortunately, the connection between business and Christianity in America is increasingly forgotten. Instead of living up to the standards of our Puritan forefathers, we are following in the footsteps of Europe. Italy was the cradle of Christianity, and Germany the birthplace of the Reformation. English and Dutch missionaries spread the gospel across the globe. Concurrent with the rise of Christianity in Europe was the Industrial Revolution and a huge increase in wealth and the standard of living for the European citizenry. As Christianity rose, wealth rose. However, as Christianity has declined in Europe, wealth has declined. Post-Christian Europeans expect more and more financial support from their governments while being less and less willing to work. Unemployment benefits, welfare, and socialized medicine are strangling the economies of many European countries, and we are seeing the devastating results. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are on the brink of financial collapse. France limits the work week to 35 hours, with no possibility for overtime, and guarantees all workers at least five weeks of vacation per year. Suggestions of reducing worker benefits or imposing ‘austerity measures’ result in rioting in the streets. The economic decline in Europe has followed their rejection of the Christian worldview as it relates to work.
How can America return to the Puritan work ethic and roll back the culture of entitlement?
Let us consider this question from the perspective of the American business owner. There are approximately 3 million businesses in America that employ five or more workers. These 3 million employers are in competition with one another to hire and retain the best workers, because business owners know that great employees are a key component to great profits. However, the old cliché ‘It’s hard to find good help these days’ is becoming more and more true. More Americans feel entitled to free benefits from the government rather than earning everything they receive. This results in less hard-working, diligent workers in America, and a sharper competition among business owners to find and keep quality employees. How can businesses succeed in an environment of decreasingly qualified workers?
This is where Christian education comes in.
Students at a Christian school will receive two life-lessons that will potentially transform them into ideal employees. First, they will learn hard work. Christian schools typically outperform public schools academically. This is due to the fact that Christian schools generally demand more from their students, both more hard work and more discipline. These habits of diligence in schoolwork train the student to be a diligent employee when they enter the workplace. Further, students at a Christian school will be exposed to their Puritan spiritual heritage. They will learn from the Bible that hard work as unto the Lord is the spiritual duty of every Christian. 2 Thessalonians chapter three says, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” A student who embraces these lessons of their Christian education will walk from the halls of their school into the halls of a business and be the excellent employee that every business owner desires.
A partnership between business owners and Christian schools could conceivably save America from a European-style economic collapse. Part of the vision of RENEWANATION is to encourage this partnership. Imagine the impact if the 3 million businesses in America each provided a scholarship for a single child to attend a Christian school every year. We would soon have many millions of workers in America who had been trained to work hard and were motivated to excellence by their faith in God. Spiritual health and physical wealth in society have long gone hand in hand. A Puritan revival in our schools and businesses would greatly benefit us all.
By David Duncombe, M. Div.