This paper examines culture’s impact upon the biblical mandate to create wealth for holistic transformation, and it does so in four steps. First, it examines the concept of culture itself: what is it and how should Christians respond to it? We are called to be both in the world and not of the world—to have one foot in eternity and transcendence with the other foot firmly in time and immanence—and this is the tension explored in section one.
Next, the paper examines the ‘anthropological temptation’: the temptation to idolize culture, and to overreact by freezing it in time, thus preventing the organic change that is natural to culture. Economic development is an aspect of and partner to culture; and at the same time, it is a challenge to culture. Exploring the push-pull relationship generally between business and culture serves as an introduction to our next section.
The third section of the paper develops further the business-and-culture tension by first scrutinizing three values thought to be key to business development—efficiency, entrepreneurship, and self-help—and asking whether they are biblical and universal or simply culture-specific. Second, this section reminds us of the danger involved in cross-cultural business through a case study of nineteenth-century Hawaii, which lost its independence largely through the failure of business integration. And third, this section then asks whether interior cultural change is key to business success or outer legal structures, concluding that both are important.
Lastly, the paper moves from these big picture foundational issues to addressing the specific attributes for individuals and organizations seeking to actually engage in cross-cultural wealth creation. Attributes such as integrity, hard work, communication styles and the importance of a local mentor are addressed. Only when Christians adopt these attributes can we begin to tackle the cultural challenges involved in addressing one of the many purposes of God’s heart: wealth creation for the holistic transformation of peoples and nations.