“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his sickle.” – 1 Samuel 13:19-20 (NKJV)
As quiet as it has been kept, many well-known inventors were either Christians or highly influenced by Judeo-Christian values. Some specifically gave God credit for inspiring their inventions. Here are some examples:
- Sir Issac Newton – Newton has been regarded for almost 300 years as the founding exemplar of modern physical science, his achievements in experimental investigation being as innovative as those in mathematical research. He invented the Reflecting Telescope in 1668. For Newton, the world of science was by no means the whole of life. He spent more time on theology than on science; indeed, he wrote about 1.3 million words on biblical subjects. Yet this vast legacy lay hidden from public view for two centuries until the auction of his nonscientific writings in 1936. In late editions of his scientific works, he expressed a strong sense of God's providential role in nature. A member of the Anglican church, Newton attended services and participated in special projects, such as paying for the distribution of Bibles amongst the poor and serving on a commission to build fifty new churches in the London area. Though Newton seldom made public announcements regarding his theology, he is remembered instead for his pioneering scientific achievements.
- Cyrus Hall McCormick – Cyrus Hall McCormick invented the mechanical reaper, called the 'Virginia Reaper.' His new machine combined many of the steps involved in harvesting crops. The machine greatly increased crop yields, decreased the number of field hands needed for the harvest, lowered costs, and revolutionized farming. He founded the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which became part of International Harvester Company in 1902. McCormick's success was partially due to his mechanical inventiveness, but he was also a pioneer in business techniques. McCormick provided easy credit to farmers by allowing them to pay for his machines by their increased harvests or written performance guarantees. The easy credit option and advertising quickly convinced farmers to buy his reaper. He helped make farmers mechanically minded and willing to try new ideas. That willingness, in turn, made American farmers the most efficient in the world. McCormick accepted Christ at a very young age. While he was still young, he decided that he wanted to fight hunger and saw this as a Christian task. McCormick was a committed believer. He saw his work as a holy calling, inseparable from his walk with God. In 1845, he wrote, "Business is not inconsistent with Christianity; but the latter ought to be a help to the former."
- The Wright Brothers – Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright are officially credited worldwide with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first control powered and sustained “heavier-than-air” human flight on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers transformed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing flight possible. Wilbur and Orville had both received Jesus Christ as their personal savior during their youth. Throughout their lives, they refused to work on Sundays, and they did not drink, smoke, or gamble. The level of cooperation between Wilbur and Orville was truly remarkable, even during their somewhat loud debates over possible solutions to problems. They remained cheerful while experiencing danger and physical hardship. They were not dependent on praise and recognition for their motivation, and when fame and fortune finally came, they retained their humility.
- George Washington Carver – He discovered that peanuts and soybeans would restore soil fertility, but farmers complained that they had no market for these products. To create a market, Carver developed 300 products from peanuts and 118 products from sweet potatoes. By 1940, peanuts had become the South's second-largest crop. During World War II, he developed 500 dyes. Carver's dedication to God and his people led him to patent only three of his 500 agricultural inventions because he wanted his products to benefit all. He left his life savings to the Tuskegee Institute. God and science were both areas of interest, not warring ideas, in the mind of George Washington Carver. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science. George Washington Carver became a Christian when he was ten years old. When he was still a young boy, he was not expected to live past his twenty-first birthday due to conspicuously failing health. However, he lived well past the age of twenty-one, and his beliefs deepened as a result. Throughout his career, he always found friendship and safety in the fellowship of other Christians. He relied on them, especially when enduring harsh criticism from the scientific community and newsprint media regarding his research methodology.
- S. Truett Cathy – S.Truett Cathy is credited with inventing the first fast-food chicken sandwich. He developed the recipe for the sandwich in the early 1960s and, as a result of the sandwich 's popularity, he trademarked "Chick-fil-A'' in 1963, started Chick-fil-A, Inc. in 1964. He founded the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain three years later. The first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967 at 71 Greenbriar Shopping Center in South Atlanta. He helped pioneer the concept of opening restaurants in shopping malls—a business strategy that is commonplace in malls and shopping centers today. Cathy is a devoutly religious man who has built his life and business based on hard work, humility, and biblical principles. Based on these principles, all of Chick-fil-A's restaurants operate with a "closed-on-Sunday" policy without exception. When not managing his company, Cathy donates his time to community efforts and teaches a Sunday school class to 13-year-old boys, as he has done for nearly 50 years.
- Anne Beiler – She sold everything from pizza to ice cream, but it was the hand-rolled soft pretzels that customers gobbled up the fastest. Because of the demand, Anne dropped the rest of the products and concentrated on pretzels full time. From that modest start, she has become one of the nation's leading entrepreneurs. Her counseling center in Gap, Pennsylvania, has grown tremendously and now employs 17 people, providing more than 2,300 appointments annually. But it's her side business that has a much higher profile. Auntie Anne's Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels raked in $236 million in sales in 2003. In 15 years, the company has grown from a single outlet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to more than 800 worldwide, with a workforce of more than 10,000. Auntie Anne's, with headquarters in Gap, Pennsylvania, has found a niche among snack-seeking mall shoppers. The company doesn't advertise, but pretty much everyone has seen-or smelled-those tasty pretzels. Despite the great financial rewards, Anne, says she has no trouble keeping her faith in God at the forefront of her business dealings. She started Auntie Anne's without a high school education, business knowledge, or financial capital—but she had faith. "My history is one of depending on God," she says. "I know who my source is. The business is much bigger than I am."
Could you be the next Christian Innovator? See the Lord for wisdom on how you can innovate your business for His glory.
My prayer for you today is that God will give you the grace to be the next Christian innovator and to make a kingdom impact in your industry.