“I’m not going to Starbucks anymore,” my friend declared.
“Trying to cut back on the caffeine?” I asked.
“No. It’s because of their stand on marriage.”
Oh. I didn’t bother to tell her that the coffee in our cups was Café Verona. Or that I had just purchased Starbucks gift cards and travel mugs for Christmas presents.
But this encounter highlighted an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while. And with Christmas shopping upon us, it’s a good time to discuss it.
Should Christians participate in boycotts?
What does it mean to “boycott?”
To boycott a company means to abstain from buying or using a company’s goods or services in order to intimidate or coerce. Christians often boycott companies that approve of or promote ethics or social issues contrary to our Christian faith.
The primary issues in recent years have been homosexuality and abortion. For instance, some Christians have boycotted companies that offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees or that give money to organizations that provide abortions like Planned Parenthood. A few of the companies that show up on almost every “boycott list” include American Airlines, Disney, Home Depot, Target, and Starbucks.
So what’s a Peppermint Mocha loving girl to do?
Some Biblical Guidelines
I have searched Scripture and prayerfully decided what I should do about boycotts. I don’t believe my conclusion is the only right one or even right for you. Faithful believers fall on both sides of this issue. Unlike murder, adultery, gossip and other topics, there are no direct commands regarding boycotts in Scripture. However, there are biblical truths and principles we can apply.
- Not like the world, but not separate – Jesus sent us out into the world, to spend time with those who need to know Him (Luke 5:29-32), to be light and salt in this dark and dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). He commands us to be in the world, just not to adopt the values and behavior of the world (John 17:15-18).
- Don’t judge “the world” – Christians must call other Christians to repentance and obedience. But it is not the Christian’s place to judge the behavior of those outside the church (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Paul commands us to separate ourselves from immoral, unrepentant Christians. He said it’s impossible to separate ourselves from immoral unbelievers.
- Interacting with the world – Scripture calls us to interact with “outsiders” with respect, gentleness, and grace. In this way, we draw people to ourselves, making the most of every opportunity to share Jesus (1 Peter 3:15 and Colossians 4:5-6).
- Consider your conscience – At the end of the day, when Scripture doesn’t speak specifically, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, consider how your behavior will affect others, and then follow your conscience. (See 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Romans 14:1-8.) Believers disagree on the boycott issue and that’s okay. We can each seek to glorify God without condemning another Christian’s decision.
How Does a Boycott Impact the World?
Probably the point that’s impacted my decision the most is how boycotts look to the lost world. Do they glorify God and point others to Jesus or do they simply leave a bad taste in their mouths for Christianity?
An article I read by Russell Moore presented a very valid argument on the “no boycott” side. Moore essentially said that boycotts are the way the world fights.
A boycott exposes us to all of our worst tendencies. Christians are tempted, again and again, to fight like the devil to please the Lord… But we don’t persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests. We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket.
We cannot change the world and its ways from the outside in. The Holy Spirit is the One who transforms our thinking and behavior to conform to God’s. Our job is to introduce them to Jesus.
Will a boycott further the Gospel? If I refuse to purchase Starbucks coffee will it help me engage my neighbor about spiritual things or create opportunities to share Jesus? And what about Christians employed by Starbucks who earn their living from the company?
My Personal Decision About Boycotts
Choosing to boycott is a huge can of worms. What are the guidelines? What company policies are “anti-Christian?” Do you stop at company policies or also consider the views of management? The slant of the advertising? What about all the items a store has on their shelves? Would I stay away from iTunes because of some of the music they sell? What about the policies of my electricity provider or mortgage company?
As you can tell from the direction of the post to this point, I don’t plan to give up lattes, burn my Disney movies, or stop shopping at Target. But, I understand why other believers take a different stand. If the Holy Spirit and your heart leads you that way, then that is what you should do. This is one of those matters where believers can differ yet still live in unity.
I do consider the primary purpose of the business before making any final decisions. For instance, Starbuck’s primary purpose is to sell coffee. That’s why I give them money. But, if a company’s primary business purpose is to sell something like pornography, then I would say emphatically that Christians should not give them their money. And I wholeheartedly support Christian-owned businesses with my money and word of mouth. I choose Hobby Lobby over Michael’s and Chick-Fil-A over every other chicken sandwich.
To boycott or not to boycott, that is the question. The answer? Which action best glorifies God and furthers His Kingdom?
What about you? How has God led you regarding the issue of boycotts?
Two related articles to check out:
“Should Christians Boycott Starbucks?” by Russell Moore
“Can Christians Do Business with the World?” by Robert Rothwell
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I love the post Kathy. It is an issue worth discussing for sure. Personally I agree wholeheartedly with Russel Moore’s stance. I want to be known for what I am for and not what I am against. We, as believers, already have a bad reputation as hypocrites (so everyone says). It is important to be bold in our faith and beliefs, but in a way that brings glory to God. When I think about Christian protests, all I can think about is Westboro Baptist Church (ironically is one family and a few others), and that creates knots in my stomach. May we be known for our passionate love for the Lord, His people, and the broken world in which we live.
You inspire me Kathy. Keep going!!!
Jared, I love what you said about being known “for what I am for and not what I am against.” Because the world so often thinks of Christians like that. To use a worn-out political phrase, they see us as the “faith of ‘no!'” I also agree about Westboro Baptist Church. They are doing so much harm to the name of Christ. I cringe every time they pop up in the news.
Thank you, Kathy, for a well-reasoned post, highlighting the fact that Christians can have differing opinions on courses of action where the issue is not directly discussed in Scripture.
I believe there is only one question that believers must answer unanimously. That is Jesus’ question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”
That answer must be as Peter’s: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” — And the Lord of my life. If we can say that, all else is gingerbread and not worth an argument.
Hi Judith, thanks for coming by! I definitely didn’t want to speak with the attitude that I had the only right answer. I know there is room for differences on this topic. But you are so right! There is no room for differences on the character and nature of Jesus Christ. Only one answer is right!
Good perspective. How can we be the “light and salt” in a dark and bland world when we run away? What better time to reflect our values? Buying a cup of coffee does not mean you endorse all that is behind the coffee. When would it be enough? Stop now and realize that if you have an Apple or Microsoft product you are endorsing some questionable if not objectionable issues they support. What your Google and Facebook accounts? Thanks Kathy! We are not to judge nor condemn, what authority do we have? Are we usurping God? Just be the salt and light so they will be without excuse when they stand in judgment before the Lord. Amen.
Mike, thanks for your thoughts. You’re so right, where would the stand end? It feels a lot like legalism. And that just turns the world away.
Well said. I love the Moore quote.
Boycotting doesn’t help people find Jesus, it only causes divisions. I’d much rather have a friendly discussion, showing that I care about hearing their side of the story.
Kathy I had to laugh because at first I thought I might be that friend you were having coffee with because you and I did have that conversation that I don’t choose to support Starbucks or Target because they both blatantly and proudly support cultural issues I don’t believe in as a Christian. I think “boycott” is a strong word for simply choosing to be good stewards of the businesses we support financially. Many Christians simply stopped shopping at Penny’s and the store chain changed back to their family values after a sharp turn into the gay agenda. Pam Farrel wrote a lot about this at the time, and she also took a lot of harassment.
When we frequent a business known for their ant-Christian policies, it can seem to the outsider like we’re endorsing their values. John 17:15-18 does tell us that we need to be in the world but not of the world.
It is true there are probably many businesses that I don’t know about, but when I learn that they have chosen the world’s agenda, I just choose not to frequent them. I wrote a short article on this myself on Ways to Know Where You’re Money is Going http://womantowomanmentoring.com/2012/02/ways-to-know-where-your-money-is-going/
I try to live by my 2nd suggestion: 2. If you learn that a business supports something you do not believe in, stop supporting them financially. Support them with prayer.
I know that taking away Starbucks (really over priced coffee that has become an icon) and Target (where you often come out with things you don’t need because they were so cheap) are fighting words LOL. But maybe consider why are these so hard to give up? Anyway I haven’t shopped at either for over 4 years and don’t miss them a bit.
Just another perspective. Romans 12:2 (NIV)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Love you my friend! BTW I’m talking about that this weekend…as we get older friends don’t always have to agree with us….:)
Janet, I am really glad you came by and took the time to give your view from a biblical perspective. It’s funny because I don’t disagree with you! I could use the same Scriptures – and others – and make the same points and feel good about it. That’s why this topic is so difficult. I truly can see both sides. And I think you’re right about being good stewards of our money and making some choices about where to spend it without making a lot of noise about “boycott.” And it really doesn’t bother me at all that you and I have made some different decisions. This is one of those areas Scripture does not make clear – and it’s not a “salvation issue.” And who knows? The Holy Spirit may lead me in a different direction tomorrow! Thanks again and love you too friend!
So true Kathy. I was just reading Romans 14 this morning esp 5-6 and 13-15 and then I saw your blog and chuckled about our conversation in Atlanta. I love what you just wrote on FB.
Hey I don’t eat beef either and I now live in Idaho and they think I’m crazy LOL. (PS beef is health related not worldly related:))
I have very little money for which I worked very hard. By the grace of God, I determine to spend it wisely..
Boycotts don’t really interest me as a means to force my beliefs onto unbelievers….However, what I don’t want to do is give the money entrusted to me, to companies that aggressively promote ungodly behavior. I am not trying to “save” a corporation. However, when I interact with people I preach the Gospel in a loving and respectful way.
I am not knowingly going to give profits to an enterprise that “calls evil good and good evil.” It is not a political statement for me. If the world sees that as negative, that is only because they love darkness.
( I only pay taxes to a corrupt government because Jesus tells us to pay our taxes. )
What a great blog post and followed by great discussion in the comments. I wish you had posted this
a few weeks earlier when my Bible study group was in 1Corinthians 8. This subject would have been perfect in light of what we were studying. I tend to be about where you are on this topic. I am diligent in supporting places like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A. I don’t buy certain products if I know they are produced by slave labor but I don’t really research this at all. I am a Starbucks woman, but don’t feel convicted about it. I’m aware that this could change tomorrow and pray that I am listening to what the Lord is saying to me. I love how He teaches us One on one individually. I think it is wonderful to see how we can share the different views here.
Lynn, thanks for coming by and sharing your experience. As far as what I’ve discovered in Scripture so far, this is a topic that leaves room for difference in the body. I do love that the discussion here has shown both sides and yet has been kind and gracious!
Funny how we will boycott a cup of coffee and justify it with, “This provider supports sin.”
Who’s boycotting R rated films that desensitize us to the sins of unbiblical sexuality like fornication and adultery or copious amounts of violence and pervasive language?
Who’s boycotting the sports that teach our kids to idolize men and women who live frivolous, promiscuous lives?
What about the grocery stores that pay checks to the cashiers and stockers who are homosexuals or other wise sexually irresponsible?
This entire boycott craze is utterly ridiculous. Let’s boycott something that matters like media. Not food and drink.
In light of the new “bathroom” laws in several states, your article is a breath of fresh air.
I feel torn as a Christian. On one hand, I understand why people are upset and want to boycott these laws. On the other hand, I see so much anger and condemnation in the boycott response that it causes division
There have been times in my life where the Lord has wanted me to hold my tongue because of how it would affect someone else’s life….and there have been times where the Lord has wanted me to be bold and not be afraid. It’s hard to know sometimes. I hope and believe God will speak to each of us about these issues.
Hi Laurie, thanks for coming by! This is definitely a tough subject and there is not always an easy answer. But you are right, sometimes our response causes anger and condemnation when instead our response should point people to Christ!
I am not angry. I just despise the lies.