Commentary

Christian Wisdom in Silicon Valley: Tech Company Embraces Rule of St. Benedict

By Eric Metaxas | November 12, 2018 | 1:50pm EST
St. Benedict (Screenshot)

Do you remember “What would Jesus do?” Here’s a new question: What would Benedict do?

You’ve probably heard something about the Rule of Saint Benedict, a famous work written in the sixth century by Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism. For fifteen hundred years The Rule has guided monks in their shared religious life by encouraging prayer, obedience, and manual labor. It also served as a foundation for the idea of a written constitution and the rule of law across medieval Europe.

Which brings us to today. D. Richard Hipp is the founder of a public domain database management engine called SQLite that’s used in major browsers, smart phones, Adobe, and Skype. Hipp is asking a question almost never heard in the high-tech world: What would Benedict do? Hipp, a professing Christian, has put forward a new set of community standards for SQLite programmers based on the Rule of Saint Benedict.

The Rule, and now the community standards of SQLite, include the following duties: “First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole strength. Then, love your neighbor as yourself. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal.”

Digging a little deeper into the Rule of Saint Benedict, we find these admonitions, most of which come straight from God’s Word: “Be not proud. Be not addicted to wine. Be not a great eater. Be not drowsy. Be not lazy. Be not a grumbler. Be not a detractor. Put your hope in God. Attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good you see in yourself. Recognize always that evil is your own doing, and to impute it to yourself.”

As Christianity Today’s Kate Shellnutt reports, SQLite’s developers are on board, pledging to “govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the ‘instruments of good works’ from the fourth chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict.”

Amazing.

Of course, the code of conduct is a suggestion, not a mandate. It’s an invitation to true wisdom. “No one is required to follow The Rule, to know The Rule, or even to think that The Rule is a good idea,” the company maintains. “The Founder of SQLite believes that anyone who follows The Rule will live a happier and more productive life, but individuals are free to dispute or ignore that advice if they wish.”

And, not surprisingly for Silicon Valley, there are more than a few users who do dispute the Rule of Saint Benedict’s applicability to a popular software application. “I am quite baffled by this,” said one commenter. “I mean this is some strange place to promote Christianity.” Another said, “Religious discrimination isn’t ok, and being annoyed by it isn’t blowing things out of proportion.”

Hipp, however, is unapologetic in the face of such criticism. “The values expressed by the current [code of conduct] have been unchanged for decades and will not be changing as we move forward,” he said on an SQLite message board. “If some people are uncomfortable with those values, then I am very sorry for them, but that does not change the fact.”

Now, making The Rule a guide for so-called secular business isn’t as outlandish as you might think, either. One study concludes that “these monastic organizations turn out to be highly successful businesses with remarkably low employee turnover and high profitability,” and that “the RSB can contribute, outside of the monastic context, to the creation and running of more ‘humane’ organizations.”

It’s amazing, isn’t it, how empowering God’s rules can be for all of life, and not just for what is so often called the religious part.

While we may not be in the position of a Richard Hipp in the high-flying software industry, surely we can use our influence in whatever corner of the world God has placed us to show our neighbors His love for them and His desire that they flourish in Him.

Eric Metaxas is the host of the “Eric Metaxas Show,” a co-host of “BreakPoint” radio and a New York Times #1 best-selling author. His most recent book is "Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World."

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.

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