In complete disgust, my friend exclaimed, “The profits these companies make are criminal!” Perhaps you feel the same way. With all of the Wall Street scandals making the news, it’s not hard to see how serious question marks have been raised about the validity or morality of profit-making. We have an option about where we draw our views and beliefs. We can listen to talk shows and read blogs, just go with what “feels right”—or we can gain God’s perspective from Scripture. I would never claim to have the corner on interpretation, but the Bible is the source I turn to.
When it comes to profits, we need to be clear about what is never acceptable—for instance, generating profits by deceitful, manipulative, illegal or immoral actions. Proverbs 10:2 says, “Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone, but righteousness rescues from death.” Proverbs 21:6 says, “Making a fortune through a lying tongue is a vanishing mist, a pursuit of death.” (HCSB) Verses like that make my veins begin to pop out, because I’ve seen others profit by taking advantage of the less fortunate or manipulating the system. It is imperative to do all we can to seek justice and to serve as God’s redemptive hands; but ultimately, only God can right all of the wrongs humans have produced. In Ecclesiastes 12:14, Solomon wrote, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.” Those who are prone to do “whatever it takes” to turn a profit would do well to read all of Solomon’s Proverbs. “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house . . .” (Prov. 15:27) “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.” (Prov. 16:8) Jesus said the same thing more strongly, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Let’s look at what is acceptable about profit making—in fact, I believe God is creative in the way He uses profits for His purposes:
1. God Himself enables businesses to be profitable. This is part of God’s common grace which is for all people. Moses warned the people of Israel about growing proud and forgetting God during prosperous times. “Otherwise you may say in your heart, My power and the strength my hand made me this wealth, but you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth . . .” (Deuteronomy 8: 17-18) Whether a company realizes it or not, only God’s gracious hand and mysterious purposes make it possible for any of us to make a profit. You would do well to reflect on why He might give you power to gain assets.
2. Profits allow businesses to serve their communities by providing products and services that benefit people. On a national scale, I appreciate Apple for developing the amazing devices I use as tools of my trade. Locally, I’m grateful for all of the profitable businesses in my community, because through the taxes they pay, my county maintains the roads I drive on and the city provides the public services I depend on. Personally, I’m grateful that my neighborhood Publix Super Market is profitable because they provide the food I need along with excellent service; in addition, they support the schools in our area and help feed the hungry in our county.
3. You must be profitable to remain in business. Over the years, I have known many businesses that have been launched with great and noble causes in mind, but those that never found a way to become profitable no longer exist . . . without profits, noble causes are not sustainable.
4. Business profits are the sole source of global wealth creation, which enables social, civic and non-profit organizations to endure. Even our government is funded by taxing businesses that produce profit and by taxing employees that receive their income from its profits. I am thankful for the employers whose profits pay the salaries of my church’s members, who contribute offerings that fund the ministries of my congregation, that pursues the mission God gave us—“to build healthy people for life and ministry in the world”. How would He have you use the profits you will generate this year?
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, thank you for the amazing way You have designed the infrastructure of the marketplace. You are the architect that establishes the means for businesses to provide for universal needs. And even though our marketplace has been corrupted by sin, keep showing me how You are using Business as a means for redemption and reformation. Thank you Lord, for allowing me to participate in the great experiment called Business. May Your light show through me as You guide my path.
“Wealth has the power to build up and to destroy.”