Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is Entrepreneurism Bad for Christianity?

Sony's latest video gaming system Playstation 3 is one of the hottest Christmas items of the season. The system is on the cutting edge of gaming technology and is in high-demand with most retailers selling out of systems before they hit the shelves, while some businesses haven't even been able to meet their pre-order demands. PS3 retails for $599.99. . High demand always drives up prices and it has been reported that one PS3 system sold for $8000.00 on eBay not long after it was posted online.

When the system hit the market a little over a week ago, consumers could be seen standing in line, outside in the elements, literally days before the system was released in stores. I personally know of a person who stood in line just to see if someone would pay them for their spot in line. Someone did. $400 just for a space in line for the opportunity to purchase a PS3. My brother-in-law, who is the General Manager of a Best Buy in South Carolina told me that most individuals purchasing the PS3 were doing it to sell it, not because they wanted the system.

Then I heard about this story from Columbia, South Carolina related to the "Circuit City Six". There were only six systems available at the Circuit City in Columbia, SC. The six individuals who purchased them did not even intend to keep the system. They are looking to make a buck. Of the six individuals, there were two married couples. This means that two families purchased two systems. For some of you, you're thinking, "What's the big deal?". Others are thinking, like Karen Lewis who wroted the linked article above, "What a selfish thing to do. Some kid is desperately wanting a system that they probably won't get because greedy adults are buying them up to sell on eBay."

But there is another tidbit that leaves you scratching your head. The two couples who purchased 4 systems between them are Christians. Not only are they Christians, but they were youth pastors. Now, we all know that every youth pastor needs a PS3 (wanna wish me a Merry Christmas?), but these weren't for themselves. They bought them to sell. When told of the rumored prices on eBay, Carly Bain (one of the "lucky" ones) said, "Praise God I'm selling it!"

Mrs. Lewis is angry. She is angry because she thinks it is sinful for these two couples to purchase a PS3 just to sell it. And it is likely they will sell it for a price way above it's market value. But who determines market value other than those demanding the product. Isn't this just good economics at work? Of course, I am thinking, who in the right mind would pay thousands of dollars for a PS3? I guess people with money will.

I guess my question is, where do we draw the line when trying to make a profit? If I own a car dealership, should I only sell cars to provide just enough income to meet my financial obligations to my staff, cover my costs, and feed my family? Is it wrong for me to get as much as the consumer is willing to pay for a car, knowing that I will pocket much more than what the car is actually worth?

What is troubling about the "Circuit City Six" is that, regardless of where we stand on entrepreneurism, in this case, Christians look greedy. Perhaps they are selling the PS3 to raise support for a life on the mission field (one can hope). Will not likely, would such a cause justify selling a gaming system at a grossly exaggerated, market-driven price? I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. So, won't the seven of you who read this chime it. It would make my day.


At 11:33 PM , Anonymous wes said...

Those poor kids don't get the PS3 for another month. It must be such agony having to play the PS2 and XBox for a few more weeks. Give me a break! It's not like people are witholding them food, clothing, or shelter. I would buy all six of those systems and sell them at a ridiculous price "to the Glory of Jesus":)

At 9:58 AM , Anonymous Jo said...

Sounds like greed to me.

"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity." Eccl.5:10

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.....but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." Mt. 6:19-20

At 10:08 AM , Anonymous jo again 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

At 12:31 PM , Anonymous wes said...

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”.

At 12:47 PM , Anonymous 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??

At 2:54 PM , Anonymous wes said...

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.

At 7:38 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

At first I thought, What's the difference between this and the usual church bake sale? I mean, as long as it's all legit. It's just on a bigger scale. But then again, I would say it is wrong to spend $1000/more on intertainment and that's what their helping people do. Fine line.

At 7:18 PM , Blogger Bradley said...

A-rod...what about paying a low price for a stock and the stock ultimately booms? Oodles of money is made off of a little financial investment which is what the intended purpose of the investment was in the first place? Do the same principles apply in such a scenario? Say I have a possession that is meaningless to me such as a baseball card. I share the card with an avid collector of baseball cards and he offers me an outrageous price for the card? Would it be wrong for me to sale him the card since I would be contributing to the “financial mismanagement and upside-down priorities of the Western consumer”? It is just how economics works which is indeed of this world. Where supply equals demand you produce and have your equilibrium price. How much profit is excessive most importantly for Christians? Who knows? If people are more than willing to pay a heavy price than maybe the price is not too excessive in the first place. All of that to say; I do agree with many of your thoughts. I’m just messing around with you. Was the couple in it to make a quick buck, greedy for money? I don’t know, but as you said that would appear to be the case. I think Christians must be consciousness and keep their thoughts focused on things not of this world in such matters. If lines had to be drawn about profits for professing Christians I would answer with some amount of trepidation since as far as I can tell the Bible does not succinctly define such a line, although, general ideas are certainly present about greed and money of course.

At 10:37 PM , Blogger Aaron said...


I know you were just taking an angle so that you could argue, but using your example anyway, the difference between selling a PS3 for two to three times the value and someone asking to purchase your baseball card is in the fact that the baseball card was of no to little value to you. As a matter of fact, you said it was meaningless, which implies you didn't even know you had a possession of value. If the card collector is offering you what the card is valued, then that is fair. For example, if you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card in mint condition and it is valued at $50,000.00, then it is fair to sell the card for that price. The buyer isn't seek to exploit you, and you aren't exploit the buyer.

But the value of a PS3 is in its retail price of $600.00. Of course, you may argue that it may be of more value to a person than that price. In other words, it could be argued that the Mickey Mantle BB card is only worthy $50,000.00 because someone is willing to pay that for the card. And this is true. It really has very little value other than what a person is willing to pay. The same could be said for the PS3. If someone is willing to pay more than $600.00 for it, then it is more valuable than its retail price.

One poster reminded us in comments from my post today that we should avoid the appearance of evil. I think, in this case, they youth pastors "appear" greedy, even if they fit comfortably within acceptable business practices and ethics.

At 4:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd Bain is my youth pastor and he is the best youth pastor ever and he is a true christian. I don't care what any of you say...I love him and his wife and they have done a lot for me. I wouldn't be where I am with God today if it wasn't for them. I don't appreciate you talking abut them like that.

At 8:44 PM , Anonymous Todd Bain said...

Straight from the horses mouth.. Hey you guys I am Todd Bain one of the (according to Karen Lewis from S.C.) "greedy" circuit city six. I just wanted to say that you guys have started an interesting conversation on this blog and I figured who better to comment on it that one of the people involved in the situation itself.

There are so many things I want to comment on in regards to this that it may be hard to hold it all together but I will do my best to say what I think and we can go from there.

Yes we did camp out for two days (no it was not fun) and yes our intentions were to sell the ps3s on ebay. I honestly have no ethical or moral problem with what we did what soever. Ever since the wonderfully uplifting letter to the paper by Mrs. Lewis came out, I have thought over and over about it and my mind is clear on the subject. If someone buys a house, and then turns around and sells it the next day for a profit do we call them "greedy"? No. As someone stated earlier about the stock market, I would be considered wise if I invested my money and it turned a profit.

In regards to how we sold the Ps3s all of our auctions started at one cent with no reserve. We sold them for whatever people were willing to pay for them. We never twisted anyones arm nor demanded that they pay an extrememly high price, simply what they were willing to pay (which by the way, was no where near $8000.00).

I am not sure if any of you are aware of this but unless you are a big time televangelist, ministry doesnt pay well. I used what we made off of the selling of our Ps3s to pay some bills and buy my families Christmas presents.

One other thing that no one seems to take into consideration is the "slant" that the media gives to things. When you watch the news daily, 95% of the time you hear the bad, all of the people dying in Iraq, how hopeless the situation is etc.. Hardly ever do you hear the stories of children being able to go to school for the first time and the freedom that the people are experiencing for the first time. It is the same with the newspaper article they wrote about us. They twisted the words that my wife said in such a way that it did paint a picture that seemed tinted with greed. But neither Mrs. Lewis nor anyone else has even considered that.

I would also like to comment on the post that said that we could have used our time better. WOW. Honestly, short of totally ignoring my family, I give the majority of my life to trying to bring Gods love to jr. and sr. high students. I love God with all my heart, my family next, and my students after that. I would think that I (like anyone else in the world) deserves time off once in awhile to do with as I please and thats what I did. I approach ministry in a little different way than some and I am ok with that. I beleive that the best way to share Gods love with people is to show it. It's to do your best to live out a good example for them (if you want to say I set a bad one by trying to make some extra money oh well.. I guess I can't win for losing) in everything you do, to try and be there for them when they need you, and to constantly point them to the person with all the answers. GOD. I have found this much more effective than constantly preaching to them, people are tired of preaching, they want to see that Gods love is real, so I try to live it out in front of them (and I try to never take a day off of that). So anyway, thats my 5cents on that.

The last thing I would like to say in this really long post is this. Besides the lovely letter to the paper (which by the way began by saying how wrong it was to judge people, but then went right on to slam us for being greedy and saying how glad she was that she didn't attend our church etc..) we have seen other negative side effects. We received a letter from some college students who were attending our church informing us that because of the letter to the paper they would no longer be attending our church. Now I have a HUGE problem with this. First of all because these people (whom I have never had the pleasure to meet because we are always with the students) decided to send in their letter and storm out of the church without ever once asking for our side of the issue, withhout ever once meeting us and finding out if we realy were the "greedy" type. Instead they chose to just throw us under the bus. The sad thing is that (since I have worked in the church for over 8 years), this is an all to common occurance.

My point in mentioning that is this: perhaps if Mrs. Lewis and the people who decided that we were to "sinfull" to be around would spend a little more time loving those around them and trying to share Gods love with everyone they meet instead of pointing out what they see as "sin" in the church, then there would be alot less hurting people in the world. I have nothing against them at all, it just hurts to have people make assumptions about you when they have no idea who you are or how much you care for those you come into contact with...

Thank you so much for giving me an avenue to vent and share my side of the story. God bless and have a Merry Christmas everyone!


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