Business or investment partnerships with unbelievers
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Question or Topic
In view of 2 Corinthians 6:14, about being "unequally yoked with unbelievers," is it right for believers to enter into business or investment partnerships with unbelievers?
2 Corinthians 6:14
The full text of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 reads, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" This verse lays down the general principle of conduct, that believers ought not to have relationships with unbelievers, whether business or social, that compromise their position before the Lord. The specific application of the principle to the circumstances of our modern world is not addressed in the Scriptures and therefore each believer must make his own decision in the matter. As part of the need to receive the whole counsel of God, it is necessary to also consider the Scripture, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world." (1 Corinthians 5:9) In this Scripture, there is recognition that we cannot avoid all contact with the people of this world in our daily lives and continue to function. The question then centers on the appropriate balance, how much interaction with the people of this world can we allow before we take on the unequal yoke and have our part with them?
Some of the important things to weigh, in considering this question, are:
What is the goal or intent of the relationship?
What obligations does the relationship impose upon us?
Will the things done in the name of the relationship be things that we can always support with all our heart and conscience?
How easily could we extricate ourselves from the relationship if we determined that it was necessary?
To what extent are the other participants in the relationship aware of our position as a believer?
To what extent has disclosure been made, for example, of our position as conscientious objectors and our unwillingness to participate in the political and court-redress processes of the Gentile world?
The following examples describe differences in the kinds of relationships that exist.
Policy-holder in a mutual insurance company in which the risk for loss of property through a peril such as fire is shared among the many individual policy-holders collectively
Shareholder in a publicly traded stock of a corporation in which the believer is a minority among many thousands of other shareholders
Shareholder in a privately held company in which the believer may be a significant minority or the majority shareholder, where other shares are held by unbelievers
Partner in a professional practice such as a CPA firm or engineering consulting firm in which there are other partners who are not believers
Franchisee in which the franchisor licenses the right to use certain trademarks, processes, etc. and establishes certain standards of operation
The primary difference between the first two examples and examples # 3 and # 4 lies in the degree of personal involvement. A believer may be in the situation of # 1 or # 2 and have no direct personal involvement in the affairs of the company, having a role as a passive investor only. That does not mean it is appropriate involvement, especially if the goals of the enterprise are not compatible with our calling in Christ. For example, owning shares in a company that makes armaments is not consistent with our position as conscientious objectors. Share ownership implies a desire to earn a profit from the enterprise in which the company is engaged. A believer in the situation of # 3 or # 4 is likely much more actively involved in the decision-making process of the firm. Even if not personally directing them, the believer is implicated in actions taken by the firm. If the firm goes to law to recover debts by legal coercion or makes a donation to a political party, the believer has "part" with the actions of the firm.
The wise man, Solomon, counseled against having common economic cause with evil men. "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not...We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil.Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path...So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof."(Proverbs 1:10,13-15,19) The goals and methods of those who wanted to have "one purse" with those who believed were completely incompatible. They were willing to exploit others for their own economic advantage.
One of the things that is absolutely essential is to carefully read the terms of any agreement into which a believer proposes to enter with unbelievers - a shareholder or partnership agreement, a franchisee agreement - whatever documentation defines the goals, obligations, commitments to cover losses, provisions for termination and similar key terms of the relationship. For example, a franchise agreement, among other things, may mandate the hours when a business must be open and it could include Sundays, requiring the believer as franchisee to ensure the business is staffed during this time every week. This kind of requirement may be sufficient reason not to pursue the relationship. As well as reading it for oneself, it can be helpful to seek advice from other believers on any pitfalls or concerns that they may see.
Our conclusion is that it is necessary for each believer to prayerfully examine each case in which he or she might potentially be involved in a business or social relationship with an unbeliever. Where there are doubts and concerns about the propriety of the relationship, it is best not to enter in to it, according to the principle, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) It is our view that the use of the terms, "your own business" and "your own hands" in the teaching of the apostle Paul implies maintaining one's independence in business relationships from those who do not share the hope of Israel, as much as possible. "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11).
One over-riding question to guide our decisions must always be, "By this relationship, will I be better prepared for the Kingdom of God and the practice of His righteousness?"