I thought it would be helpful to look at a company trying to live out Biblical principles in how they operate. Chick-fil-A is probably the best known business in America that openly holds to Christian values. The company’s founder S. Truett Cathy opened a grill in 1946. In the early 1960s, he perfected his iconic chicken sandwich and in 1967 opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant.
According to the company’s website¹, “From the beginning, Truett based his business on Biblical principles that he believed were also good business principles, and since 1982, our Corporate Purpose has guided all that we do.”
While the company has a set of Core Values, I believe that their purpose statement better reflects their non-negotiable principles. Chick-fil-A’s purpose is: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Note how this statement seems to reflect Jesus’ summary of obedience to God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Loving God is represented by seeking to glorify Him and being a faithful steward of what He has provided. Loving neighbors is represented by having a positive influence on those who come in contact with the company.
Throughout its history, Chick-fil-A is perhaps best known for being closed on Sundays. This most clearly ties to the concept of the Christian Sabbath.
God did His work of creation in six days and then He rested on the seventh day. He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (set it apart as holy)².
When Moses was given the ten commandments, God said “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…nor your… servant…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”³
Jesus spoke often of the correct observance of the Sabbath. At one point he explained “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”⁴ The Sabbath was provided as a day of rest for people, not as a legalistic burden. Following Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the Sabbath rest on Sundays⁵.
Reportedly, Truett Cathy said that, after working six days at his first restaurant, he was tired. He could’ve taken Sundays off and still kept the restaurant open, but holding to the principle of “love your neighbor as yourself” he felt compelled to provide a day of rest for his employees as well.
Jesus also taught that doing acts of necessity and acts of mercy were perfectly acceptable on the Sabbath⁶. So, although Chick-fil-A remains closed on Sundays, even at their location in the Atlanta Falcon’s NFL stadium, there have been at least four times when Chick-fil-A restaurants and their workers have come in on Sundays to prepare and serve free food to disaster victims and first responders: in Dallas in December 2015 after tornadoes tore through the city, in Orlando in June 2016 after the Pulse nightclub massacre, in December 2017 when thousands were stranded at Atlanta’s airport, and in Raleigh in September 2018 following massive destruction by Hurricane Florence⁷.
So, although the company is focused on loving and glorifying God by observing the Christian Sabbath, they don’t do it rigidly, but with sensitivity to the Bible’s teaching and in a way that is loving to their neighbors.
In my article yesterday, I referenced the parable of the good Samaritan⁸ as part of Jesus’ teaching on loving your neighbor. Although there were deep divisions and even hatred between the Samaritans and the Jews, the man in the center of that story set aside those differences to show love and compassion for another in need. Jesus said “Go and do likewise.”
Because the company owners/leaders have deeply held Christian beliefs, sometimes they say things that cause significant controversy. Such was the case in August 2012 and protesters showed up en masse outside of Chick-fil-A restaurants. In many locations, it was a very hot day and it was reported that Chick-fil-A workers provided free water, lemonade, even sandwiches to the protesters. Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”⁹. Once again, employees were living out the non-negotiable Biblical principles espoused by the company.
Of course, in 2020, we can’t ignore the issue of racial justice. In June, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy wrote on LinkedIn a long article¹⁰ on the topic including these quotes:
I recognize that someone like me cannot fully appreciate and understand the gross injustices that are all around us. I also recognize that talking about the systemic inequality, bias, and injustices in our country will draw criticism. But neither of these reasons makes it ok for me to remain silent about the issues that now so publicly confront our nation. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and many others is horrifying and merits our outrage. We should also address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on black and brown communities, as well as the disparity in educational opportunities and access to opportunity. Nobody talks about it enough, because this is someone else’s problem. I have observed injustice, inequities and blatant indifference to these real problems.
There are countless academics and analysts who have written about how our democratic capitalism benefits only a few hundred incredibly wealthy families, individuals and corporations, so that the American dream is now reserved almost exclusively for them and their descendants.
Because I am among that demographic, I am calling on them — us — to use our power and influence.
He closed his article with this: “Let’s be moved to action. Let’s join together to build a world that reflects God’s love for all of us.”
In the article he referenced restoration work that he has led in minority communities in Atlanta. Following its release, the company pledge $5 million to organizations either led by or benefitting black communities¹¹.
Chick-fil-A is an organization led by flawed humans in a fallen world, so we cannot expect it to operate in perfect alignment with Biblical principles, but it is helpful, at least to me, to have an example to study of a company that is at least trying. May we go and do likewise.
⁵1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7