A Christian Businessman
In this day when business in America seems to be all about money and when there is crookedness in both high and low places, it is refreshing to think of businessmen who have put God first. James Cash Penny (1875-1971), founder of the J.C. Penny stores, is an example. His father, a Baptist pastor, died when James was a teenager, but not before he was instilled with biblical principles of living. When the young James got a job with a grocer, he bragged one night at supper to his mother and father about how “foxy” his employer was in selling low quality coffee for the price of expensive coffee. Even though jobs were rare in that small town, James’ father told him to quit. Though he was dying of tuberculosis and they needed the money, the preacher would rather that his son be unemployed than associated with a crooked businessman. At first the J.C. Penny stores were called Golden Rule, because he was “dedicated to following the Golden Rule as a basic commercial principle.” The Golden Rule refers to Christ’s principle of “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Penny offered quality products at fair prices and treated the customers with respect. He kept the profit margin small. He tested every policy by asking if it was “right and just?” He made his managers part owners of the stores in order to share the wealth. Yet though he was Christian in name, he didn't come to saving faith until he was older. He had become embittered at churches in his youth when his father was fired for wanting to start a Sunday School. (Primitive Baptists officially hold to extreme sovereign election and often do not believe in gospel missions.) After experiencing a financial crash during America’s Great Depression, Penny’s health broke, physically and emotionally, and he ended up in a sanitarium. There he attended a Christian meeting and saw that he had been trusting his good works rather than God’s grace in Christ. Through the words of the hymn “God Will Take Care of You” and Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, J.C. Penny was converted. He recalled, “I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into a warm, brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before. From that day to this, my life has been free from worry. The most dramatic and glorious 20 minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning.” Penny gave millions of dollars to Christian charities. He said he would rather be known as a Christian than a merchant. In an advertisement he said: “Business is therefore as much religious as it is secular. If we follow the admonition to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves, it will lead us to understand that, first of all, success is a matter of the spirit.” This is the attitude that will permeate Christ’s coming kingdom, and it is the attitude that should permeate the lives of those who belong to Christ in this present world.
(Friday Church News Notes, April 10, 2015, www.wayoflife.org, email@example.com, 866-295-4143)
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