Please don’t worry–this blog has not embraced materialism! I will admit, though, the title of this post does appear to be influenced by the profit motive. But the notion that making money and following God are polar opposites actually represents a cultural bias, not a biblical one. Does that surprise you? Let me illustrate. It would not seem unsettling for a farmer to ask God to bless the harvest and provide a good crop. In an agrarian culture it would be only fitting to acknowledge God’s control over all the details that affect the harvest. Yet most of us would not recognize the same dependence on God’s control of business and retail that we do for agriculture. But the Scriptures teach that God is also intimately involved in business and profit. Notice these words from James 4:13-16:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
The bottom line is that things happen because God determines that they will. Even though the most careful business plan has been put in place and much preparation has been made to achieve a profit, James says that these things will happen only if the Lord wills that they happen. To think otherwise is boasting and evil. So it is not the making of money per se that is evil, it is the false perception that money can be made simply by human effort, without dependence upon God. Perhaps if people were more conscious of just how dependent they are upon God’s will in business, they might be more inclined to honor God in using the profits of their business endeavors.
The reason for raising this issue is Black Friday. Black Friday has become a major advertising and news theme this holiday season. This is the time when retailers are hoping to have enough income from sales that they will actually earn more than they spend for the year. So, from an advertising standpoint, deals abound everywhere. New products are introduced and store hours are extended, all for the one purpose of moving income from red numbers (a financial loss) to black numbers (a financial gain). In all of this it is safe to say that God–that is, the God of the Bible–is little more than an afterthought. This is the thinking that James says is evil boasting. Just as God is the one who arranges all the things necessary to produce a good crop (appropriate weather, lack of pestilence, healthy seeds, etc.) He is also the one who controls all aspects of the business cycle that determine whether or not a profit is made.
Our culture sees little practical need for God and his ways. But God really is the only one who is able to do everything and anything he plans. Every leaf that falls, every dollar that is made is all a part of the purpose and plan of God. This dependence upon the purpose and plan of God is what James is addressing. This is the reality that your children must embrace if they are understand how the world around them actually works. The economic ups and downs of business are intended to show us how dependent we are upon God for life. Yet we tend to forget this and talk of things such as recessions and inflation as the ultimate forces that determine economic growth. These things are only secondary causes. God is the one who wills whether we will live and carry out the plans we have made.
In the wake of this Black Friday, help your children to see the wonderful truth that James is teaching. Living life for Jesus Christ and His glory is the true bottom line.