Some Christian organizations have declared boycotts of companies with anti-Christian policies. Starbucks, Amazon, Nike, and other corporations have been the target of such boycotts. Those calling for the boycotts want to get the attention of business executives and decision-makers to communicate the fact that Christians will not support an ungodly agenda. Many who are involved in boycotts are also trying to be good stewards of their money: “Why should I feed a company and help it stay in business,” they reason, “knowing that it is going to use some of my money to support an anti-Christian agenda?”
The Bible says nothing regarding boycotts. Of course, Scripture contains no direct command to boycott or not to boycott a business. However, at least two passages are relevant to the discussion. First, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 that, although we are “not to associate with sexually immoral people,” we are still part of the world and therefore cannot disassociate ourselves from all immoral people. To totally avoid all corruption, “you would need to go out of the world.”
Paul’s focus in 1 Corinthians 5 is the church. Christians should not partner (or even eat) with a person who claims to be a Christian yet lives contrary to Christ’s word. The only way to avoid contact with immoral people in this world is to leave the world. To apply this principle to the boycott issue, the only way to avoid businesses that support ungodly practices is to leave this world completely.
A second passage is Romans 14:5-12, which deals with doubtful issues, or “gray areas.” One principle here is that “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (verse 5). Whatever one does, he or she should do it “in honor of the Lord” (verse 6) and give thanks to God. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (verse 8). Believers are to follow their conscience in the gray areas, because “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (verse 12). If God’s Word has not clearly spoken on an issue, each believer has the freedom to seek God’s will and be fully convinced in his own mind.
This “matter of conscience” principle applies to many issues, including boycotting. Some Christians feel strongly about not supporting a business due to particular moral issues, and they are free to take their business elsewhere. Other Christians may be just as concerned about the moral issues yet not share the same conviction about boycotting. They are free to not join the boycott.
If one does join a boycott, there are other questions that should be answered: for example, how far should the boycott extend? What about subsidiaries of the parent company? Should vendors who sell to the boycotted company also be boycotted? How will the effectiveness of the boycott be gauged, or is that even a consideration? And what about Christians who are employed by the boycotted company?
Some Christians work politically, through the election process, to affect the important social and moral issues. Some work financially, through boycotts. Others work both ways. The important thing is to pray about the issues of the day and take a biblical, principled stand—and then do what one can.