August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
What is earning a profit? Fundamentally it is selling a product for more than the cost of producing it. (41)
This shows that my work has added some value to the materials I used (41).
Profit is thus an indication that I have made something useful for others, and in that way it can show that I am doing good for others in the goods and services that I sell (41).
In addition, profit can indicate that I have used resources more efficiently than others, because when my costs are lower, my profit is higher (41).
Therefore profit is an indication that I am making good and efficient use of the earth’s resources, thus obeying God’s origingal “creation mandate” to “subdue” the earth…(42)
…the one (servant) who made no profit is rebuked for not at least putting the mina in the bank to earn interest (Luke 19:23) (42)
…good stewardship, in God’s eyes, includes expanding and multiplying whatever resources or stewardship God has entrusted to you (43).
Seeking profit, therefore, or seeking to multiply our resources, is seen as fundamentally good (43).
Some people will object that earning a profit is “exploiting” other people. Why should I charge you $2 for a loaf of bread it it only cost me $1 to produce? One reason is that you are paying not only for my raw materials but also for my work as an “entrepreneur” – my time in baking the bread, my baking skill that I learned at the cost of more of my time, my skill in finding and organizing the materials and equipment to bake bread, and (significantly) for the risks I take…(43)
…it is right to give them some profit as a reward for taking those risks that benefit all the rest of us (44).
Of course, there can be wrongful profit. For example, if there is a great disparity in power of knowledge between you and me and I take advantage of that and cheat you, I would not be obeying Jesus’ command, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12) (44)
Or if I am in charge of a monopoly on a necessary good and if I then charge an exorbitant price that depletes people’s wealth, of course that kind of profit is excessive and wrong (44).
If profit is made in a system of voluntary exchange not distorted by monopoly power or dishonesty or greatly unequal knowledge, then when I earn a profit I also help you (44).
August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
“If you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another” (Lev. 25:14) (35)
This implies that it is possible and in fact is expected that people should buy and sell without wronging one another – that is, that both buyer and seller can do right in the transaction (see also Gen. 41:57; Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:26; 31:16; Jer. 32:25, 42-44).(35)
In fact, buying and selling are necessary for anything beyond subsistence level living…(35)
…through the mechanism of buying and selling, we can all obtain a much higher standard of living, and thereby fulfill God’s purpose that we enjoy the resources of the earth with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5; 6:17) (36)
…commercial transactions are in themselves good because through them we do good to other people. This is because of the amazing truth that, in most cases, voluntary commercial transactions benefit both parties. (36)
Thus by giving us the ability to buy and sell, God has given us a wonderful mechanism through which we can do good for each other (36).
Buying and selling are activities unique to human beings out of all the creatures that God made. (37)
We can imitate God’s attributes each time we buy and sell, if we practice honesty, faithfulness to our commitments, fairness, and freedom of choice. (37)
Moreover, commercial transactions provide many opportunities for personal interaction, as when I realize that I am buying not just from a store but from a person, to whom I should show kindness and God’s grace. (37)
Because of the interpersonal nature of commercial transactions, business activity has significant stabilizing influence on a society. (37)
…it is to their (the farmer and the mechanic) mutual advantage to get along with each other, and their animosity is restrained. (37)
This is an evidence of God’s common grace, because in the mechanism of buying and selling God has provided the human race with wonderful encouragement to love our neighbor by pursuing actions that advance not only our own welfare but also the welfare of others – even as we pursue our own. (37,38)
In buying and selling we also manifest interdependence and thus reflect the interdependence and interpersonal love among the members of the Trininty. (38)
However, commercial transactions provide many temptations to sin. (38)
…our hearts can be filled with greed… our hearts can be overcome with selfishness, an inordinate desire for wealth, and setting our hearts only on material gain. (38)
Because of sin, we can also engage in dishonesty and in selling shoddy materials whose defects are covered with glossy paint. Where there is excessive concentration of power or a huge imbalance in knowledge, there will often be oppression of those who lack power or knowledge… (38, 39)
Sadly, even some who call themselves Christians are dishonest in their business dealings. (39)
Such actions should not be swept under the rug, but should be subject to the process of personal confrontation and church discipline that Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-20. (39)
But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. (39)
August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Hiring people to do work is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin (31)
In contrast to Marxist theory, the Bible does not view it as evil for one person to hire another person and gain profit from that person’s work (31).
It is not necessarily “exploiting” the employee. Rather, Jesus said, “the laborer deserves his wages” (Lk 10:7), and by this statement he implicitly approved of the idea of paying wages to employees (31).
…the hiring of one person by another is also necessary for a greater production of goods (32).
Many products can only be produced by a group of people working together… because the tasks are too large and too complicated for one person alone (32).
Paying another person for his or her labor is an activity that is uniquely human (32).
Employer/employee relationships provide many opportunities for glorifying God (32).
On both sides of the transaction, we can imitate God, and he will take pleasure in us when he sees us showing honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, wisdom and skill, and keeping our word regarding how much we promised to pay or what work we agreed to do (32).
The employer/employee relationship also gives opportunity to demonstrate proper exercise of authority and proper responses to authority, in imitation of the authority that has eternally existed between the Father and Son in the Trinity (32).
As in every good business transaction, both parties end up better off then they were before (33).
Therefore if you hire me to work in your business, you are doing good for me and you are providing both of us with many opportunities to glorify God (33).
The employer/employee relationship enables people to create services for others that were not there before (33).
However employer/employee relationships carry many temptations to sin (34).
An employer can exercise his authority with harshness and oppression and unfairness (34). He might withhold pay arbitrarily and unreasonably (contrary to Lev. 19:13) or might underpay his workers, keeping wages so low that workers have no opportunity to improve their standard of living (contrary to Deut. 24:14). He might also become puffed-up with pride (34).
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (James 5:4).
Employees also have temptations to sin through carelessness in work (see Prov. 18:9), laziness, jealousy, bitterness, rebelliousness, dishonesty, or theft (see Titus 2:9-10).
August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Producing goods and services is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin (25)
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28) (25)
“subdue” implies that Adam and Eve should make the resources of the earth useful for their own benefit, and this implies that God intended them to develop the earth…(25)
Manufactured products give us an opportunity to praise God for anything we look at in the world around us (26).
“Then praise God for giving us such a great earth! And praise him for giving us the knowledge and skill to be able to make that water system!” They would have hearts sensitive to God’s desire that he be honored in all things (26).
God did not have to create us with a need for material things or a need for the services of other people (think of angels, who apparently do not have such needs), but in his wisdom he chose to do so. It may be that God created us with such needs because he knew that in the process of productive work we would have many opportunities to glorify him (27).
When we work to produce (for example) pairs of shoes from the earth’s resources, God sees us imitating his attributes of wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, creativity, appreciation of beauty, sovereignty, planning for the future, and the use of language to communicate (27).
In addition, when we produce pairs of shoes to be used by others, we demonstrate love for others, wisdom in understanding their needs, and interdependence and interpersonal cooperation (which are reflections of God’s Trinitarian existence) (27).
…God made us with a desire to be productive, to make or do something useful for other people (28).
…desires to be more productive represent God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems (28).
They represent God-given desires to exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship so that we and others may enjoy the resources of the earth that God made for our use and for our enjoyment (28).
God’s command to “subdue” the earth implies doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful for themselves and others (28).
…the Bible does not view positively the idea of retiring early and not working at anything again (29).
Although work since the Fall has aspects of pain and futility (Gen. 3:17-19), it is still not morally neutral but fundamentally good and pleasing to God (29).
After God imposed the curse that was required by his justice, the story of the Bible is one of God working progressively to overcome the curse, and increasing the world’s productivity is something we should do as one aspect of that task (29).
There is a temptation for our hearts to be turned from God so that we focus on material things for their own sake (29).
There are also temptations to pride, and to turning our hearts away from love for our neighbor and toward selfishness, greed, and hard-heartedness (29).
There are temptations to produce goods that bring monetary reward but that are harmful and destructive and evil (such as pornography and addictive drugs) (29).
August 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Owning possessions is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin.
“You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), he affirmed the validity of personal ownership of possessions (19).
…ownership of possessions is a fundamental way that we imitate God’s sovereignty over the universe by our exercising “sovereignty” over a tiny portion of the universe, the things we own (19).
“stewardship” reminds us that we “own” not absolutely, but only as stewards taking care of what really belongs to God (20).
I think God has created us with a desire to own things because he wanted us to have a desire to imitate his sovereignty in this way (20).
This desire in itself should not automatically be called “greed”, because that word slanders something that is a good desire given to us by God (20).
One good “use” of resources – paradoxically – is that we should give some of them away (21).
Giving is important because it demonstrates trust in God (21).
Thus giving money away shifts our trust from our money to our God (22).
God is pleased when we give (“God loves a cheerful giver,” 2 Cor. 9:7) because it not only demonstrates trust in him but also reflects his love for others, his mercy, his compassion for those in need (22).
… a man who owns a tractor can use it to help “subdue” the earth (Gen. 1:28) – that is, make the earth useful for us human beings – by causing the earth to yield corn and beans (22).
At other times, we should use our possessions not to make other goods but simply for our own enjoyment, with thanksgiving to God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17) (22).
It is also alright to save some of our resources for future use (22).
On the other hand, ownership of possessions provides many temptations to misuse the resources that God has entrusted us (22).
We can use our resources to pollute and destroy the earth, or to rob and oppress others, thereby disobeying Jesus’ command to lover our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39) (22).
Or we could use our possessions to turn away from the gospel and attack the church, as some wealthy people did in the first century…(James 2:6-7) (23)
We could also use our resources to advance our own pride, or we could become greedy and accumulate wealth for its own sake, or we could take wrongful security in riches (Matt. 6:19, Lk 12:13-21; James 5:3) (23).
We could use our possessions foolishly and wastefully, abounding in luxury and self-indulgence while we neglect the needs of others (James 5:5; 1 Jn 3:17).
In many parts of the world, the wonderful, God-given privilege of owning and managing property is not possible for large segments of the population. In some cultures, property rights are selfishly hoarded by a small number of powerful people and government regulations are so complex and time-consuming that they effectively make it impossible for poor people to own any property or to own a small business (24).
Such systems are evil because they prevent people from owning anything more than a small number of personal possessions, and thus they prevent people from even having the opportunity to glorify God through owning and property, or owning a home or a business (24).
Possessions are not evil in themselves, and the ownership of possessions is not wrong in itself (24).
In itself, the ownership of possessions is something that is created by God, and very good (24).