If I were to write a blog entitled “Profit for the Lord” many would think I had misspelled it and that I really meant “Prophet for the Lord.” After all, Christians have no business giving energy to profits! We should give our energy to the prophets–to spiritual stuff.
Why is it that Jesus’ followers have such a hard time with the idea of making a profit in business? Why do we go to such lengths to either not make any, to give it all away, or to play down the success our business brings us? I believe that this is a major issue in the Business as Mission movement as well as for those who opt to ply their trade domestically and be faithful to Jesus in the marketplace.
- We have a false view of the “virtue of poverty.” It is true that in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is reported to have said, “Blessed are the poor…” However, in Matthew’s version the record includes an important clarification: Blessed are the poor in spirit…” I know many who are poor who are decidedly not poor in spirit; they are greedy and vicious and filled with envy. While God has a special place in his heart for the poor and repeatedly commands us to care for them, there is no special virtue that comes to a person simply because they don’t have as much as someone else.
- We have bought into the myth that profit only comes from exploitation. Many believe that life is a zero sum gain. That means that for me to have something you must lose something. That’s business to many. For a business to make a profit it must take something away from someone else. No doubt that does happen, but it’s not how business operates. Business trades money to people for their labor or their ideas or their time. People trade money to business for goods and services that they need or want. There is no gun at anyone’s head. Men may exploit others and they have for millenia, but business is not inherently exploitative.
- We still cling to the sacred-secular divide. I believe that for all our talk of the “high and holy calling” of business we still struggle deep inside with the belief that the really good stuff is preaching and feeding the poor and teaching the ignorant. Other activities are somewhat “secondary.” To enjoy something like business and its profits too much must betray a lack of spirituality, a certain worldliness. The truth is that whatever God has given you to do is high and holy and should be enjoyed fully–second only to God Himself!
- We feel guilt at being successful. Even those who don’t follow Jesus struggle with a certain guilt over their success. Some feel like frauds and phonies in what has been called the “impostor syndrome.” Others fall into a reverse comparison: instead of asking why I don’t have as much as someone else we feel guilty because we have more than they do. Since, according to Jesus, life does not consist of what you possess this entire category of thought becomes a false comparison.
- We succumb to peer pressure regarding money. This is where the faith community does a great disservice to us. Even if we are clear on the essential goodness and rightness of profit, the believers around us can form a monolithic block of criticism and lead us to a “peer generated” guilt. In other words, just like any other issue of peer pressure such as what we wear, do we or do we not consume alcohol, and what version of the Bible we read, the negative views of those around us concerning profit can overshadow us.
There are many more reasons that Christians find making money difficult to feel good about. We will explore these in future installments as well as we cultivate a Biblical view of profit for the Lord.