I know that comes as a surprise to many Christian business people, who have been conditioned by our contemporary religious culture to think of money-making as a second-class endeavor. Running a profitable business is, in some religious circles, a tasteless endeavor that is barely tolerated. It may be accepted if you give some of the money to them, but it is often viewed with disdain and suspicion.
Good thing Abraham hadn’t been infected with that paradigm. He built a huge business, probably employing thousands of people, and became a very wealthy man. He has become, for countless generations, the archetypal example of faith. His faith, as an old man, was so powerful that he was ready to kill his son as an act of obedience.
While we often focus on his faith, we rarely acknowledge how he built that faith. He became one of the first Bible characters to model the principle that building a successful business is one of the best ways to build an enduring faith. He became a man of legendary faith, while at the same time building an economic enterprise that made him very wealthy. He was so successful in building an organization and multiplying wealth that he could employ “318 trained men who were born in his household.” (Genesis 14:14)
Abraham understood that doing business well-generated money and that the creation of wealth is one of the God-given purposes for a business.
In addition to Abraham, the Old Testament is full of pictures of business people who were rewarded for their marketplace performance with greater wealth.
In addition to Abraham, the Old Testament is full of pictures of business people who were rewarded for their marketplace performance with greater wealth. Think of Joseph, whose business acumen brought incredible riches to Pharaoh. Or the two Hebrew midwives whom God rewarded for their good work by giving them their own businesses. (Ex 1:21)
In the New Testament, the parable of the bags of gold (Matt 25: 10 – 14) provides additional substantiation from the words of Christ. You recall the three servants were provided with various amounts of worldly wealth to manage.
Their purpose was to increase the master’s wealth! They were praised and rewarded – not for giving the money away – but for increasing it. Note how they were rewarded – with more wealth to manage, and a closer relationship with the master. It’s another example of the principle that God rewards good work with an increase in wealth and a closer relationship with him. Just like Abraham grew in faith and closer to the Lord as he increased his worldly wealth, so too did the two praise-worthy servants in the Lord’s parable.
And, look at what happened to the third servant, who didn’t grow the master’s wealth. He was kicked out of the household!
So, we have Biblical examples and clear teaching from Christ establishing the principle that God often rewards good business with an increase in wealth and a closer relationship with Him.
At the same time, we note that, from a practical perspective, there are lots of reasons to strive to develop a profitable business.
- A profitable business creates jobs for people and thereby provides them with economic security, dignity, and self-worth. Maybe that’s why the scriptures tell us:
“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians, 3:10)
As a business grows in size, impact and wealth, it necessarily impacts more people and spreads economic security and prosperity to its employees and stakeholders.
- A profitable business does good work and thereby blesses its customers with goods and services which allow them to live a fuller life and be more successful. Profits are a measurement of what the market thinks of the work the business does. Significant profits are generally an indication of a well-run business.
On the other hand, a lack of profit indicates that something must change.
- A profitable business provides options to the owners – they can reinvest the profits to fuel greater growth, share some of it with employees, give it away, or withdraw it from the company to secure their own family’s economic situation. They can use it to create something new – a new branch, a new product, a new position, a new marketing program, and maybe even a new company.
We see examples of this all around us. Chick-fil-A is just one of the thousands of Christian businesses who strive to be profitable companies, and by doing so expand their reach, employ more people, and channel God’s blessings to the folks they touch. Every Chick-fil-A store is a beacon of light illuminating the surrounding community.
If they had not striven to chosen to pursue profits, they probably would still be a single little restaurant, struggling to make payroll every month. I suspect that the motivation to make profits unleashed the potential within that business so that it could grow, impact tens of thousands, and shed its light all over the country.
While Chick-fil-A is a highly visible organization, there are tens of thousands of Christian companies who follow the same prescription on the journey to release their potential.
Profit, and the economic security and opportunity that it brings is one of the fundamental purposes of every business. The principle that good business results in an increase in wealth and a closer relationship with God is both taught in the Bible and modeled in the reality of our culture.