My previous post regarding entrepreneurism and the Kingdom has prompted some good discussion. Since everyone won’t likely read all the comments posted, I thought I would post some of them and respond. If you are in the dark and don’t know where this is coming from, be sure to read the post “Is Entrepreneurism Bad for Christianity?”

Jo said….”As to the question, would a good cause justify the outrageous price? Does the good old golden rule apply? …however you want people to treat you, so treat them…Mt.7:12″

Wes replied…Not greedy. Smart. Multiplying my talents. Matthew 25:15. Just because you make money doesn’t mean you “love” it in a sinful way. Our economic system allows people to take products and sell them for a profit. Those folks at circuit city worked hard for what they received from selling those systems. They probably woke up in the middle of the night and waited in that line for a couple of days. I am sure that wasn’t very FUN. Jacking up prices on legitimate needs such as food is probably immoral, but entertainment devices are fair “gain”.

I think Jo raises a legitimate point. Would you want someone to charge you an amount excessively above manufacturers cost at an unfair value simply because they can, and if so, does this violate the Kingdom principle of treating others as you would want them to treat you? Even if the product being purchased is not an essential (i.e., food, clothing, medicine, etc), is it right, in the eyes of God, to charge someone exceedingly more than is necessary to cover the manufacturer’s cost and earn a legitimate income simply because demand for the product dictates that you can? For example, several years ago a student of mine purchased a guitar. After playing the guitar for awhile he found he wasn’t satisfied with it and desired to upgrade to a different model guitar. He sold his guitar to another individual, even though he wasn’t personally satisfied with the performance of the guitar (and he always had technical problems with it), for more than the price he purchased the instrument. Now some might say he was a savy buisinessman. I felt like he defrauded the new buyer.

Wes argued that our system of economics justifies taking products and selling them for a profit. Again, I guess the question is, “How much profit is excessive, particularly for individuals who claim to love Jesus and are supposedly Kingdom-minded? When does good, practical, American buisness practice become greed?”

And then there is the issue of time.

Jo said…”So was spending several days in line for the purpose of turning a handsome profit the best use of their time for Kingdom purposes?”

Wes replied…”Sure. All they had to do was be purposeful about using their time to glorify God. For one example, they could have used the publicity they received and explained to the public how their real treasure is in heaven and that God loves when his children are wise and God honoring with money. “

I would have to agree with Wes that these two Christian couples who purchased the PS3 systems from Circuit City only to sell them for a profit could in fact use the time they had to wait in a very purposeful way that would glorify God. But I would suggest that it would need to be more purposeful than explaining to the public that their real treasure is in heaven. Honestly, those words would fall on deaf ears because the astute listener would say, perhaps cynically, if your treasure is in heaven, why do you need to sell a PS3 for profit? If they are using their time in line to speak of Christ, prayer, spend time in the Scriptures, etc, then they may have redeemed their time appropriately.

But again, something doesn’t feel right about the whole situation. My sense is that even if these two Christian couples were telling everyone they saw about Jesus, as soon as those individuals caught wind that they were buying this entertainment system only to sell it at a ridiculous price to someone else, all of their words about Jesus and the Kingdom would become meaningless. No matter how we choose to justify this situation, it gives the appearance of a greedy heart, even if, in fact, greed is and was not a motivating factor. The only thing that might have justified their actions would be if they were selling these systems to raise support for missions or a child dying of cancer.

From a practical, secular-minded point of view, it seems that there is nothing wrong with selling something for more than it is worth. It may be good buisness to prey on the insatiable desires of the consumer-driven American public. It is certainly what makes our economy one of the most stable in the world and has provided an abundance of comforts and luxuries for us. However, those of us in Christ are not of this world. We are called to think “other-worldly”. We are challenged by Jesus, not to think about money through the grid of American economics and supply and demand, but through the lens of the Kingdom which should impact all that we do.

A final word. For many Westerner’s, Christmas is the one time of the year that we literally shower one another, particularly our children, with the latests gadgets and toys. Many parents feel pressured to provide for their children exactly what they desire in order to make the holiday “special”. This often means that parents with limited financial means go in debt to provide for their children what they desire. I am certainly not arguing that this is wise or necessary, but simply making a cultural observation. With the topic in mind, doesn’t it seem that selling one of the season’s hottest, most desired products for an exaggerated, inflated price, all in hopes of making a significant profit, is an intentional ploy to exploit and prey on the misguided pursuits of consumers? Whether it is right for a family to accrue significant debt to purchase for their children what their family cannot afford is not the issue (although this clearly is not a discerning use of income). The issue is whether or not it is right for Christian consumers to contribute to the financial mismanagement and upside-down priorities of the Western consumer. Is this the kind of Kingdom legacy we want to be known for?

This has been an enjoyable discussion and if you’d like to chime in some more, please do. Thanks Jo and Wes for taking the time to respond.

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