The Truth About Profit

Author and psychologist Mary Pipher summed up Business in this statement: “In the world of business, all of life is boiled down to one word: profit.” The word profit sure can elicit some extreme emotions, from righteous denouncement to fanatical exaltation. At one extreme, profit represents injustice and exploitation; at the other end profit is the ultimate prize regardless of ethics. Where do you line up on the morality of profit? Once again, we need some biblical clarity to confirm our understanding.

After completing the Creation God blessed and instructed humans to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NLT). People were commanded to be wise stewards or managers of the earth’s resources. As civilizations and various forms of commerce developed, God unfolded more wisdom and discernment for His people:

“Those who work hard make a profit, but those who only talk will be poor.” (Proverbs 14:23) Profit was viewed as the outcome of diligence and hard work. The honorable wife described in Proverbs 31 “perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” The Hebrew word for “merchandise” refers to profit-producing commercial transactions. The parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27) and the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) speak of Masters who instructed their servants to put allotted money to work for a profit.

Repeatedly, the Bible encourages humans to be profitable, but also clearly warns about the sins of greed and ungodly gain (see Isaiah 56:11, Psalm 119:36, Jeremiah 6:13, Proverbs 10:2, 11:4). Everyone knows a story about profits that were earned or misused through deception or oppression or exploitation. Discerning our own wrong motivations is more challenging to recognize or admit. A profitable business is a good gift from God, but has the potential for good or for evil. Here’s a good question to pray over: Do I violate God’s law of love by caring less about serving people than personal wealth?

When we produce an excellent product or provide a helpful service that people pay for–and do so efficiently–there is the potential to generate a profit. If businesses don’t make a profit, they will soon be out of business! Profits are tangible ways we can contribute to and improve our communities and the world, which is why they are supported throughout scripture.

Have you ever considered that the profits from Business serve as the sole source of wealth creation in the world? These resources enable every social, civic (even religious) institution to exist. Even our government is funded through taxes—which all come from the wealth first created by Business. And God uses the profits from Business to provide for the common good and to expand His Kingdom efforts.

Christ followers, let’s heed this challenge rather than become cynical or flippant about the role of profit in Business: “When profit is teamed up with generosity there is no limit to the good that can be done for our communities and culture.” May God be glorified through your ventures for His glory this week.

Serving Him with you in the marketplace,

David Atchison

Father, as I look back over my Business journey I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for You, allowing me to taste Your financial provision and profitability. You have been so gracious, but I ask You to keep me from forgetting that everything I gain comes from You and not myself. Keep me from taking shortcuts or generating profit through compromise or doing harm to anyone. Help me to faithfully resist greed and selfishness and to use profits from Business to make You known and further Your purposes. Amen.

“The Genesis model places profit in a proper perspective. It becomes the means to service rather than the purpose of the enterprise itself.” – Jeff Van Duzer