Friday, December 01, 2006

God, Money & Time

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.

7 Comments:

At 11:10 AM , Anonymous wes said...

your welcome

 
At 7:57 PM , Anonymous Sandy said...

Hey, Aaron. More people read your blog than you realize. I tried to post my thoughts yesterday, but I ran into some technical difficulties. Here is what I tried to post last night:

Is it a sin to purchase a PS3 for the purpose of reselling it at a big profit? Probably not, but is it wise—especially at Christmas time. I wonder if these youth pastors had any idea what a storm their actions would create. People generally hold Christians to a high standard and hold ministers to an even higher standard. I Thessalonians 5:22 states that we should abstain from all evil—or as the KJV states, avoid the appearance of evil—and maybe this is a situation that should have been avoided for the sake of their testimony and for the sake of the One whose birth we celebrate at this time of year. It may not be a matter of sin (although it could be, but that’s a subject for another blog), but of what’s wise. Unfortunately, it appears that these youth pastors are very greedy and appears that they are praising God for satisfying their greed.

 
At 7:59 PM , Anonymous Sandy said...

Hey, Aaron. More people read your blog than you realize. I tried to post my thoughts yesterday, but I ran into some technical difficulties. Here is what I tried to post last night:

Is it a sin to purchase a PS3 for the purpose of reselling it at a big profit? Probably not, but is it wise—especially at Christmas time. I wonder if these youth pastors had any idea what a storm their actions would create. People generally hold Christians to a high standard and hold ministers to an even higher standard. I Thessalonians 5:22 states that we should abstain from all evil—or as the KJV states, avoid the appearance of evil—and maybe this is a situation that should have been avoided for the sake of their testimony and for the sake of the One whose birth we celebrate at this time of year. It may not be a matter of sin (although it could be, but that’s a subject for another blog), but of what’s wise. Unfortunately, it appears that these youth pastors are very greedy and appears that they are praising God for satisfying their greed.

 
At 9:01 PM , Anonymous Sandy said...

Sorry! I don't know why my comments were posted twice. Like I said, I've been having some technical problems.

 
At 10:30 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

Sandy,

Thanks for the comments. I think you make an excellent point.

Wow. Eight people read the blog now. Awesome.

 
At 3:39 PM , Blogger ashley said...

my mom plays a role in the blog world... love it.

 
At 3:51 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!

8:44 PM

 

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