Adapted from Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (© 2011 by David B. Doty, publication pending with Wipf & Stock Publishers).
Some Christians wrestle with earning profit, questioning whether it should be pursued at all. Some consider profit “onerous,” meaning “troublesome or oppressive; burdensome.” Others take a more neutral stance citing numerous biblical passages and arguing along principled lines that profit is inert, being neither evil nor good. The bottom line: profit is good and an ordinary product of God’s creation.
If we ask “should Christians seek making profit?”, the discussion may be launching from the middle of the conversation. Better questions to ask are “what should Christians pursue?” and “what does the Bible teach on the origin and nature of profit?”
Eve was created as `ezer, a help to Adam, before she was called wife. The creation of human community established the division of labor. Workers can attest that most tasks can normally be done with greater efficiency with a helper than if working alone. The bigger the task, the more division of labor, the greater the efficiency.
The division of labor fosters collaboration, specialization, and innovation. The natural outcome of these is increased output, which we can label increase, gain, or profit. Corporations, for-profit and not-for-profit, are collective human efforts toward producing outcomes more efficiently (gainfully) and effectively.
The physical union of Adam and Eve and the multiplying effect of planted seeds demonstrate that God’s created ecosystem is productive in a positive trajectory. The procreation of the first couple has led to a global population nearing seven billion souls. Corn and wheat reproduce toward the multiplied blessing of the thirty, sixty, or hundredfold return.
Nature itself, which glorifies God, shows that gain is intentional in God’s plan for all creation, including humankind. Many Christians practice righteousness in business—paying good wages, paying their bills on time, offering quality products, etc. Their profitability and increasing wealth demonstrate that material gain is a natural outcome of righteous relationships and the just exchange of goods and services. Profit (increase) comes when creation, including us, acts in harmony with God and the created order (aka natural law).
In Kingdom economics profit is not to be the aim but will be a natural outcome of the pursuit of righteousness. Jesus taught, “Seek first [God’s] Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33).
As Christians we have but one priority: to worship God. Our worship is wrapped up succinctly in the single Hebrew word, `abad, which in various contexts means to work, to serve, and/or to worship. Our work, service, and worship are inextricably linked and together, in our pursuit of God, will draw us toward holiness.
Profit is a desirable outcome but it is not the primary pursuit for a Christian in business. Discipleship at the feet of Christ is our first aim. By obedience to God and trusting in His promises, we will profit. A growing knowledge of Christ and righteousness fostered in that relationship will guide us to worthwhile employment and grant us wisdom for the use of our gains.
God affirmed this when reminding Israel in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it was not by their efforts but His, acting on His covenant, that they would grow wealthy: “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
God gave us work, responsibility, relationships, and the call to holiness. But “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Christians are to pursue Christ in every aspect of life, including doing business. Profit will come as God sees fit. It is an intended function in a well ordered universe.