God Bless Profit

Proverbs 11:26 The people will curse him who withholds grain, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

I love being a pastor. I also love being a computer repairman. It’s a great feeling when people are thanking me profusely while giving me money. The proverb above shows the reason.

I don’t have grain. But I do have a pretty good head for computers. And when people take what they can do and share it with others, the others are usually more than happy to compensate the person who has helped them. I’ve only had about one customer that I can think of that complained about paying my fee.

This is what is great about the free market. You make money in the market by making other people’s lives better. This is always the advice I give young people looking to make a living. I tell them, think of how you can make other people’s lives better, and do that. You do that, and you’ll never have a problem making a living. You might not be able to do it immediately. You probably will need to work toward that goal. But set that goal in mind- using the talents and opportunities that God has given you to serve others. And be sure to charge. Do it for a fair price, but don’t do it for free.

Sometimes you hear people talking about “public service.” Obama had proposed a plan where you got your student loans forgiven after 20 years, or after 10 years if you went into “public service”, by which he meant government. As if government work was somehow more noble and worthwhile than the private sector. And government is, of course, necessary. But when most of the public sector makes a lot more money than the rest of the labor market, it doesn’t seem to me to be exactly appropriate to talk about them as if they are sacrificing something for the rest of us. Yes, the policeman improves my life (except when he’s giving me a ticket), but does he improve it more than, say, the plumber? If you unthinkingly say that the policeman is more important than the plumber, then I assume your toilet is working right now.

I can fix people’s computers. And I’m happy to do it. I don’t do it for free, because from one perspective, I need to eat. But from another perspective, I wouldn’t be able to fix very many people’s computers if I did it for free. I’d have to spend my time making money and just fix computers in my spare time, along with playing with my kids, resting and everything else. But if I charge for it, then I can help a lot more people with my abilities. If the farmer gives his grain away, then he feeds the community for one year. But if he sells it, then he can plant again, and feed them again the next year, year after year. I am blessed to have a church that takes good care of me. But I have debts I’d like to pay faster and savings I’d like to pursue, and so I make a little money on the side fixing computers. If I couldn’t charge to do it, then I wouldn’t do it much, except for family and friends. Because I charge, I can use my abilities to help a lot more people.

Profit is a dirty word in our culture. I hear people say that the evil insurance companies are only in it for the profit. But profit is the only thing that enables them to do what they do. And the laborer is worthy of his hire. If people cannot make a profit doing something, they will not be able to do it very long, unless they are compelled to do it by force. And then they are slaves.

People all have gifts. People have things they can do that not many other people around them can do quite as well. Figure out how to make other people’s lives better with those gifts, and you will make a living. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to make a profit doing things that make other people’s lives better. Don’t be afraid to sell your talents. People will not resent you for it. They will bless you, as the proverb says. The one they curse is the one who selfishly hoards what he has for himself only.

We need to recapture the value of work. I read something recently on The Simple Dollar that I really liked- he said, he used to make the mistake of working during his working hours in order to improve his non-working hours. Working for the weekend, the American way. He became much happier and satisfied when he learned to work to improve his working hours, laboring to be able to do things he enjoyed and was satisfied in doing. We spend a great deal of our life working, and it’s a shame to spend your life doing something you hate. But if we recapture the value of work, the idea that God created us to work, to take dominion over creation, then we can learn to find satisfaction in our work and work toward job situations that are more satisfying, and make better use of our gifts.

So don’t hold yourself back. Don’t think profit is a dirty word. Sell yourself, sell your abilities, and the world will bless you. Figure out your gifts, figure out how to use them to better other people’s lives, and price those gifts fairly. They will thank you while they give you money. And that really is a great feeling.

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