I have boycotted businesses in the past. I have said, “Since this company supports X, Y, and Z I’m not going to give my money to this company and I’m going to try to dissuade my friends and family from supporting them as well.” Many Christians believe we are morally obligated to boycott businesses that “support sin,” but are we really? Here are a few things to consider.
1. Let Your Conscience Restrain You
Let’s say, for instance, a company announces that 10% of its sales are going to support a LGBT organization. When you hear this, you are completely distraught because it is one of your favorite stores. “Will I be supporting the gay agenda if I buy things from this store,” you ask yourself. Or you might wonder, “Will I be sending a message to my friends and family that I support homosexual lifestyles by continuing to shop at this store?” This can be a real crisis of conscience.
In this case, the Scripture is clear. We must let our conscience restrain us. If you cannot do something with a clear conscience, then you shouldn’t do it all. If you think, “Well, I really don’t think I should support this company, but I love shopping there,” then you are actually sinning by shopping there.
“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats [or shops], because the eating [or shopping] is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
If you cannot do something by faith – knowing it is a good and right thing to do – then you shouldn’t do it all. Every step a Christian takes should be by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
2. Buying Goods and Services
Certainly we can buy things from a business because we like what that business stands for and we want to support them. If a brother or sister in Christ opened a coffee shop, even if the coffee was not the best, I would be more likely to buy my coffee from them than from Starbucks because I would rather support my brethren.
However, just because we buy goods and services from a particular business does not necessarily imply that we support everything that company does, sells, or supports. It most often just means they offer the best goods and services for the money. If I buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, the only thing I’m saying is, “I would like a cup of coffee,” not, “I agree with everything the company does, sells or supports.”
In case you’re wondering, there is clear biblical support for this.
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).
Paul says, you are not obligated to cut off your association with sinful people in the world; only “with anyone who bears the name of brother” who persists in these types of sins (1 Corinthians 5:11). For one reason, as Paul said, “you would need to go out of the world” in order to disassociate with all sinful people.
How in the world (no pun intended) could you possibly buy anything from any business if by giving them money you were supporting their sins? Are you supporting drunkenness if you buy gasoline from a gas station that sells beer? Of course not! If you were, you’d have to drill for your own oil, because I don’t know any gas station that doesn’t sell beer. But if you drilled for your own oil, from where would you buy the oil drilling equipment, or the refining equipment, without supporting a company which supports something immoral?
Do you see the corner we back ourselves into with this line of reasoning? It is simply not a biblical position to say Christians can have no association with worldly businesses, “since then you would need to go out of the world.”
3. Disciplining Immorality
Sometimes I think we want to punish and discipline businesses. When we find out a company “supports sin,” we often want to discipline them by rallying opposition against them. “Fine,” we say, “if that’s how they’re going to use the money I give them, then I’m going to tell everyone I know not to support them.” You certainly have the right to do that. And if you rally enough opposition, they very well might feel the sting.
However, let’s remember that it is NOT our responsibility to discipline those in the world. When our brothers and sisters in Christ are in sin, we have the responsibility to discipline them, but not those in the world. Continuing in the context of 1 Corinthians 5, Paul writes:
“What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
That’s not to say that we don’t “judge” that their actions are wrong. Certainly we do. That’s discernment. But we don’t act as their disciplinarians. Don’t be surprised that the world is worldly and don’t think you’re obligated to discipline them. You’re not.
4. Crusaders for Good
We want to do good. We want to save the world. We see immorality all around us and it bothers us. It should bother us. But let’s remember that Jesus didn’t send His apostles out to boycott businesses, but to preach the Gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
We will not save the world by simply withholding our money from certain businesses. We will not save the world by telling our friends and family not to shop at a certain store. We will not save the world by posting on social media how horrible a business is. Those things are NOT the “good fight.” You can certainly do those things if you want, but in order for us to make a real difference we must be about the business of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
When people become Christians, THEN we can expect them to act like Christians.
I love you and God loves you,