Part I of a Series on Free Enterprise by Buddy Pilgrim
We have reached a strange and unfortunate point in America, and indeed in much of the world. It has become very “politically correct” and highly popular to demonize and criticize business in general and profits in particular. In fact, to speak well of a highly successful business, especially a large business, is almost taboo or unacceptable in today’s society. A twisted and negative view of success in business has emerged. It is a view that is dangerous to the welfare of the nation, to freedom itself and even to spreading the Gospel.
Profit is neither profane nor evil. Ironically, if it were, it would probably be much more acceptable to the “politically correct” crowd. Yet the liberal left who glorify a woman’s self-serving, so-called "right” to abort (kill) her unwanted, unborn baby are also usually the same ones who believe that the profit motive is an improper and self-serving aspect of business. WRONG!! Although some people may seek profits due to their own selfish motives, or in ways that are unethical; that doesn’t necessarily mean that the profit motive in and of itself is bad or purely selfish.
Profit is not only NOT A BAD THING, it is actually A VERY GOOD THING; a good thing that needs to be discussed. For more than a dozen years, in all of my business leadership positions, I have regularly taken time to speak and even teach on the topic of profit; especially when my audience has been mid-level managers and hourly employees. Many business executives and owners are reluctant to discuss the topic of profits with employees who are not part of upper-level management. I believe the failure to talk about profitability, to the entire workforce, in a “heads-up” manner, is a big mistake that helps contribute to a distorted and unhealthy view of this essential aspect of business. The Bible is not shy about profits or prosperity. It contains several words that are translated into the English word “profit.”
In the New Testament, the Greek word most often translated profit is ”opheleo.” It means: to be useful, beneficial, prevailing, or have advantage. It comes from a root word that means: to heap up, accumulate or gain in an advantageous or beneficial manner.
Each of these Biblical words for profit have positive connotations, and from them we derived our early English concept of financial gain (i.e. profit) being a good thing. Note that every one of the Biblical words for profit relate to some form of upward gain, benefit or increase. They all convey the concept of ending up with more than you started with, and the idea that the resulting increase is good. I will come back to this concept later, and I will relate it to the Biblical principles of work, stewardship, increase and blessings. Meanwhile, rest assured — we serve a profit oriented God.
A good, modern definition of a Business Profit is: “The financial surplus or benefit resulting from an exchange of goods or services, after all revenue and expenses have been accounted for.” Just like the Biblical definitions, the modern concept of profit recognizes the necessity for increase, or benefit, i.e. prosperity coming from the exchange (business).
When business transactions yield an increase, the business is by definition prospering. It is gaining in an advantageous or beneficial manner. That is exactly what the Bible refers to in Psalm 1:3 regarding the prosperity of the righteous: “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. NAS God wants you to profit and prosper.
Next, I want to give you a different perspective on business profitability than most people are used to. The common view is that profits are THE RESULT OF SUCCESS IN BUSINESS. That is to say, that when someone successfully completes a business transaction, the result is a financial gain called PROFIT. The perspective I want you to have is NOT that profits are a result of success in business, but that instead:
PROFITS ARE A REQUIREMENT FOR SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
While it is true that a successful business transaction will generate, or bring about a profit; thinking ONLY in such cause-effect terms leads people to lose sight of the importance of profits. Profits are essential to survival in business. In spite of what the “dot-com” internet stock boom of the mid 1990’s led some people to believe; no company can survive in business, over the long haul, unless it is profitable. And in fact, the reality of that truism eventually came home to roost in the collapse of the high-tech stocks that had been selling for values never justified by their profits (or lack thereof).
Success in business is not just about the money, nor is it defined solely by profits, but I can assure you that without sustained and appropriate levels of profits, no business will survive the test of time. Once you begin to view profitability from this perspective of NECESSITY, it takes on a whole new meaning. No longer is it simply a selfish end-game or meaningless goal. It becomes obvious that profit is the FUEL that fires the economic engine, and thereby, allows the company and its people to progress. Only profits fuel the ability to do the following things year after year:
1. Provide good wages;
2. Give raises and pay bonuses;
3. Build safer, more efficient work places;
4. Generate or attract capital for technically advanced equipment that requires (and pays for) more highly skilled, better paid workers.
5. Do what it takes to remain competitive in a tough business climate.
6. Demonstrate good stewardship of its human, physical and financial resources;
7. Expand operations and grow; (Growth is the only thing that creates new job opportunities for promotion, advancement and greater responsibility. These things are the keys to bettering one’s self financially.)
Unfortunately, because of the pop-culture attitude toward business and profits, it is not uncommon for many employees to either not care if their company makes a profit, or for them to be resentful if their employer is “highly profitable.” They may not even have a good benchmark for knowing what constitutes “highly profitable” for their employer. (To have any real meaning, profitability must ultimately be related to some amount of activity, such as sales, or to some amount of capital employed, such as assets or equity.) Profit cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. That is why I believe it is so important for executives to communicate with all of their employees in writing and verbally about the profits of their company.
From the abbreviated list of seven items above, it is easy to see that profits do not benefit just “the company” or just the shareholders. A profitable company is also of direct benefit (profit) to the employees. All employees need to know this, and need to understand why and how they benefit from making their workplace highly profitable.
I call their “need-to-know,” the WIIFM factor. W.I.I.F.M. is an acronym that stands for: What’s In It For Me? That is a very legitimate, non-selfish question for every employee to ask — and they deserve an answer. They need to know what’s in it for them, if they help to make the organization successful.
In Mark 10:28-30, we find Peter working in Jesus’ ministry, and he boldly asked Jesus the WIIFM question: “Behold, we have left everything and followed you.” Peter wanted to know how he and the other Disciples would benefit (profit) from their work in the ministry. Please note that Jesus did not scold Peter, or accuse him of asking a selfish question. He recognized Peter’s legitimate need for WIIFM, and he explained that anyone investing time, effort and things into His ministry would receive eternal life, as well as a 100 fold earthly return (profit) on their investment. Jesus answered regarding eternal life, but He also rightly mentioned houses, family and farms: WIIFM profits for the here and now!
God always honors faithful service and stewardship. He makes them profitable activities, and His teachings clearly call for us to be good stewards of our work responsibilities.
Read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, and of the pounds in Luke 19:12-27. Both stories focus on a person’s responsibility to generate a good return, increase or profit on the things entrusted to him or her. Luke 19:13 says: “Do business with this until I come back.” NAS Upon his return the employer checked up on the profitability of each laborer’s work, and rewarded each one accordingly. Profit is a good thing that benefits the business and the worker. When we are good stewards of our work, it generates increase (profit) and brings about the blessings of God in a variety of ways.
The principles of increase run throughout the Bible. We serve a God of increase, who wants to see us continually profit spiritually and materially. The failure to generate good profits in business is poor stewardship and results in lost or wasted effort. We are taught to give tithes and offerings from the increase of our labor; therefore, increase is not only good, it is necessary to the funding of Kingdom work. The attack on business profits posed by political correctness threatens to do harm to the prosperity of free enterprise, and to the funding of God’s work. Be profitable in all your labor, be blessed, and be generous in giving to God’s work.
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The Land of Business - The Missing Link
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(Read the introduction here and then click on the "Land of Business" graphic in the banner above in order to link to the complete "Tap the System" article by Buddy Pilgrim.)
Perhaps the most foundational message I teach in this ministry is one called “The Land of Business - The Missing Link.” Although I have been teaching it for many years, it seems like every time I dig in and study it, the Lord provides new insight, and a deeper understanding.
It’s wonderful how well Scripture always interprets and confirms other Scripture. I want to share with you some of the confirming points that I have recently seen more fully explained in God’s Word. I don’t have the space to outline the entire Land of Business message here, but I do need to recap a couple of the relevant points to set the stage for my primary discussion in this newsletter.
FREEDOM IS UNDER ATTACK
(Read the overview below and then click on the “In the News” graphic in the banner above to link to the complete “Free Enterprise” article by Buddy Pilgrim.)
Free enterprise and thereby freedom itself is under attack from within, in the United States today. The newspapers and 24 hour cable news reports are filled with liberal attacks on business in general and on the free enterprise system of capitalism in particular.
Politicians in Washington D.C., who are mostly corrupt and power-hungry themselves, are busy demonizing Wall Street investment houses, banks, mortgage, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the oil industry, transportation companies, doctors, hospitals and just about any other industry or business that is earning a profit. Barrack Obama recently said “Now is not the time for profits.” REALLY?? Why not? Is it a time for more losses? What, other than profits, fuels growth that is required to expand employment? The answer is nothing else!
Populist, anti-business rhetoric may sound good at first, but beware! Business and the free enterprise system itself are the engines of prosperity for our country in general and for all of us individually. Without profitable businesses, which require a free enterprise environment to flourish, we will be doomed to a declining standard of living for all, and to a growing dependence on government.
With respect to certain individuals or groups of people in business, it is true that sometimes people conduct business in corrupt or unethical manners. Any good system is subject to being misused by ungodly people, but that does not mean the system itself is evil or corrupt. Business is God’s system of wealth creation, and it is a good and honorable system, and it is most effective when operating in a free enterprise environment where customers, suppliers and the light of day expose the darkness and where market influences drive out evil.
The solution to unethical business practices is NOT more regulation, restrictions, laws and rules to follow. The law kills but the spirit gives life. It is a wholly false assumption that a small group of politicians in the White House, the U.S. Capitol, or in the State Houses will be fundamentally more honest or less corrupt than millions of business managers being policed by customers, suppliers and employees. Politicians, along with more regulation, will only raise the ultimate cost to consumers and concentrate power in the hands of even more corrupt politicians.
Free enterprise and freedom is the only productive answer. Godly men and women assuming positions of power and authority in business (and politics) is the way to make freedom work. That’s why Jesus came to set us free from the law – so we could be led by the Spirit – even in business. More law is not the solution, more liberation is.
Please see the full article on Free Enterprise.
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