“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: