Priorities and Profits

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Proverbs Select verses from Proverbs | June 16 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
June 16
Priorities and Profits | Proverbs Select verses from Proverbs
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Let’s pray. O Lord, we ask now that You give us attentive minds and hearts, for we have no interest in wasting our time, simply enduring another sermon. We’re here, and so teach us something. Convict us of sin, help us to know how to live for you, show us more of Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.

One of the hazards pastors face because they talk all the time is that they can pontificate about things that they don’t really understand. I’m sure that’s never happened to me, but other pastors. Sometimes this happens with science. A pastor can read one book, or most likely one article online somewhere, and then feel armed to explain all sorts of scientific controversies to his congregation. The other area that I’ve noticed this happens with great frequency is when pastors try to talk about business. Most pastors, understandably, know very little about business. They may be less adept at spreadsheets and financial tables than you’d like to think. But, we don’t run a business, we don’t a business. We, many of us, most of us, have not worked for a business. And because the Bible warns against the love of money, pastors can sometimes when they talk about business things, or economics or financial matters, speak as if all of that is just money-grubbing, good-for-nothing greed. And maybe you have to do it because you need to make a living and you need to give money to the church, and maybe you have people to evangelize when you are at the office, but the rest of it is just sort of a dim, dirty business. And pastors end up making statements and giving the impression that actually what most of you do during the week is not really an area that can be pleasing to God except in so far as you make some money to give to others.

I’m not putting myself forward as the noble exception to the rule, but over my years in ministry I have tried hard to understand what people do with their weeks. Often that’s what the men, not exclusively, many women here work as well, often what you do in your places of employment, and oftentimes that means trying to understand something about business. I think I know at least enough to know that Christians face unique temptations in the world of business. There are unique dilemmas, gray areas abound. It can be hard to balance proper ambition with godly humility. It can be hard to handle the pressures and stresses of typical corporate environment.

Now the good news is God’s Word has something to say to those of you in business, something to say to all of us as we try to live virtuous lives in this complex world. Now the Bible isn’t going to tell you everything that you need to know to be a good employee at Bank of America or Wells Fargo or wherever, but it does give more direction than you might think in this whole area of business.

I want to suggest there are four priorities for the person in business. When you think about what you are trying to accomplish, what are your goals? Whether you are a mortgage lender or you have a concrete business or you work in law or you work at a grocery store or a publishing company or you sell cars or you sell insurance or you work in support staff for a Fortune 500 company, these are the four priorities that you ought to aim at as a Christian. And they all start with the letter “P”, that’s why I went to seminary. [laughter]

In order, from least important to most important: Profit, product, people, and principles.

If you want to think about how do I think Christianly about my work in my business, think this is a place to start. These four words.

Profit. We’ll start here. Profits are not evil. They simply are not ultimate. It is not wrong to pursue profits. It is wrong if you pursue profits at the expense of everything else in that list, like people and principles. But to pursue profits is not sub-Christian.

Now that sounds very nice, Pastor, I appreciate that. Are you getting that from the Bible? Yes, I am. I’m getting it in Proverbs from a place that you would least expect to find it.

Proverbs 31. Now you hear that and you think that’s the, that’s the great wife that we all have, the Proverbs 31 woman. All the husbands say “that’s my wife,” all the women say “oh, that’s terrible, I never could be this person.”

But look at what she does. Proverbs 31. And have your Bibles open because we’re going to turn to a number of different passages.

Verse 16. So this is part of this, this really wisdom personified. You understand that wisdom is this woman throughout the book of Proverbs, and sometimes the fool is likened unto this, this harlot, this adulteress, that’s folly, and then wisdom personified, this woman here in all of her splendor and glory, and part of what she does, verse 16: “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that there merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.”

Verse 24: “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”

This woman, who we all have heard of as the great paragon of virtue for women, but notice this: She’s praised because she is profitable. She is working hard. She is selling something at the marketplace.

Think likewise in the New Testament, the parable of the 10 minas. There the servants are commended for getting a return on their master’s investment. And the one, even though it’s, it’s not chiefly a parable about investment strategies, but what Jesus draws out is the one who actually played it safe and just buried it in the ground, that person was chastised. But the one who, who took what was given and made something more, is praised. They invested wisely and received a profit. And even if Jesus was not meaning to give us parable about financial matters, it’s striking that He had no problem using something from the financial world. It wasn’t that it was so dirty or beneath the Christian to pursue a profit. And we see it here with this Proverbs 31 woman. It’s a good thing.

What is a profit? That is, with an “F.” A profit is what you get when you sell a product, goods or services for more than the cost to produce it. So this woman in Proverbs 31 is selling clothes. Maybe the material cost $3, she charges $10 for a shirt. Is she ripping her customers off? Well, not if in a free market of exchange they are willing to pay for the price that she has. That’s for them to decide. After all, she had to buy the spindle, she had to make the clothes, she had get it to the market, she had to have the idea in the first place. She is an entrepreneur. So how much are the clothes worth? Well, that’s between her and those who will buy it.

Products do not have an intrinsic value. You can say that a baseball card is worth $100 because you look it up in a book, and I learned as a child, this was back in the 80s and baseball cards were the biggest thing and I would have my Beckett Monthly and I would look up there all of my baseball cards, it probably doesn’t exist anymore, and I would find, you know, for a short time being I was almost a paper millionaire with all of the… The problem that I found, and you know I would go up and I would say “look it, that’s card worth 15 cents and that card is worth $10 and this card right here is worth $150.” The thing I found out, that booklet with the price of the baseball cards didn’t get me any money unless someone actually bought them from me. It was just a book of giving somebody’s indication of what they thought it would bear, but you would go to a card show and of course you never got that much for it. The thing was only worth what people would pay for it.

If you want to learn about profits and margins, just turn on your TV sometime and watch Shark Tank. That’s, that’s been my crash course in understanding business. I’m sure it’s exactly like that in the real world. But if you’ve ever watched this show, people come in with an idea, something they want to sell, and they have real-life millionaires and billionaires who can offer them money to invest in their product and they always ask well, this special new cat wine that was on last night, because cats need wine, supposedly, [laughter], “How much does it cost to make it? What are you selling it?” “It costs $1, we sell it for $10.” “Well, will people pay it?” Whatever you have there in between, that’s your profit.

A business transaction can be a win-win. If you freely give up that $10 for something that you want, you are instinctively indicating that that, in this moment, is more valuable to you than that $10 bill.

So business sometimes speaks of giving back to community. Now that’s appropriate, that’s a fine thing for businesses to do, but think about it. It can make a wrong sort of implication. If you have a business that is operating according to integrity, it’s not the case that they have been taking from the community. Hopefully, they’re providing goods and services that people freely want to exchange money for and in a way that’s profitable and employs people. They’ve offered a product that people find valuable and they pay for it.

So if the system is fair, say more about that later, and if you’re fair, profits can show that you are providing people with something they want.

And here, this woman in Proverbs 31, she’s not shamed. “That only cost you $3 and you sold it for $10.” No, she’s praised. She’s industrious. She’s fruitful.

Proverbs helps us understand that people are motivated by profits. Proverbs 16:26: “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.”

Proverbs often tells us the way things normally work. The way God has sort of wired us. A worker’s appetite works for him, his mouth urges us on. The idea is eventually you get hungry enough that you’re going to work hard because you want to eat. Proverbs does not say that is necessarily a bad desire.

This is very important for us to get: Self-interest is not always identical with selfishness. Self-interest is what we regard as valuable, and you have a whole hierarchy of things that you are interested in and you find valuable: Family, church, for other people cars or boats, or other people they simply want food and shelter. Well, this man here in Proverbs wants to eat, and the Bible sees it as a good thing, that his desire for food, and it’s not good that he’s starving, but his desire for food is driving him to work.

One commentator says this: “Though work is tiring and frustrating in this fallen world, nevertheless the drive to gratify his appetite cannot overcome his lack of will to work. The history of civilization is unimaginable without it. God and the wise person do not frustrate these primal, productive drives and appetites by denying them gratification, or by gratifying them apart from work.”

That is to say, when people are not rewarded for their work because they’re cheated, because the laws are unfair, or because someone or something else takes most of the reward away, we are de-incentivizing people to work.

And Proverbs tells us you are going against the grain of human nature.

Likewise, Proverbs tells us if sluggards are rewarded, and I’m not thinking of those who are down on their luck, those who need a helping hand, but those who actually could work but won’t, are encouraged in that folly, Proverbs tells us, we are undercutting one of the main ways God wants to motivate people to be productive, to participate in that creation mandate, to be good stewards, to have dominion over the earth.

In summary then, it is not wrong to seek a profit from your labors. It is the way God designed the world. So every business designs in some way to be profitable. Even nonprofits, they have a different sort of tax structure, but they still have to make ends meet. So the problem is not that a business would want to make a profit. The problem is if that is all a business is concerned about.

Which leads us to the next “P.” “Profit”, and then “Product”. We won’t spend much time here, because it’s really implied in the third and fourth point. But in business, you want a product that you can stand behind. And that may be a physical widget or it may be some service, or something that you provide for someone else. Not every product has to be the best of its kind, that’s not what we mean “you have to stand behind it.” It’s fine to produce products for high-end and middle-end and low-end and you have restaurants that you want to go to on your anniversary and the restaurants you go to in the workday and the places that you take your children. You have, so you have different tiers.

And that’s fine as long as you are honest about what you are providing. This is really a corollary of the next two points related to people and principles. Christians in business should sell and develop products that don’t just have profits in mind, but give to people something worthwhile. Could be a casket or flowers or a toy or a breakfast cereal or an investment tool. And Christians will work to develop those products and advertise and sell those products based on Christian principles.

And you should ask to yourself questions like “Does this product add to life or detract from life? Does this product do what I am claiming it will do? Am I accurately representing what this product can do and why it is necessary?”

This is all common sense more than explicit teaching in Proverbs, but there, there’s another aspect of product that Proverbs talks about. A fool conducts his business by chasing after foolish products. That is, silly schemes, unwise ventures.

Proverbs 13:11: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle. People have gone and looked at those who win mega lottery winnings. Over time, they show that more often than not, they, they end up worse than they were before. Or there was one of these ESPN documentaries a number of years ago, it was called Broke and it was about all these athletes who make tens of millions of dollars, and yet by the time they’re done playing, they often end up in situations owing people all sorts of money because they, they came upon money very quickly, they started spending money rapidly, they thought it would never end, they got people around them who are grifters and who are using them, and then they stop playing and they’re 35 years old and they don’t make $100 million anymore.

When you gain wealth hastily, often you are unwise in how to handle it. Not always, but often. And often unwise in how to accrue it. More often than not, Proverbs tells us, the way to grow in wealth is to gather it little by little.

Many of you have read the book from years ago by Jim Collins, Good to Great, went through all of the sort of business cycles and even many people in the church were leading it as an example of leadership principles. And one of the things in there, businesses that went from good to great, is he showed that the ones that get our attention are these, these ones that seem to be shooting stars, but actually it’s those that have steady growth, hardworking, humble, honest leaders who put others in front of themselves, that tend to be the most profitable. The tortoise and the hare works for money as well as for life. Little by little.

Third. So “profit,” “product,” and “people.” The bottom line in business is you must think about more than the bottom line. If you only think about the bottom line, you are not acting as a Christian in business.

Proverbs 16:8: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenue with injustice.”

Okay, I can, I can be fabulously wealthy, or just upper middle class, nice home in south Charlotte, and I, I gotta cut some corners. Or I can be poor, or have much less, but have my integrity. That should not be a difficult decision for the Christian, but yet so many of us know that when you look at it in the abstract, it’s simple, but when it comes down to a hundred different choices that you must make throughout your career, it can become very difficult.

Sometimes the unrighteousness is obvious: Cooking the books like they did in Enron, or insider trading, or collusion, or scams, or out and out violence. But many situations are less obvious. Perhaps people paying less to their employees, just so they can get an exorbitant salary. Or creating a work environment that robs people of dignity or virtue. Or if you have people working underneath you, insisting upon such a level of commitment that it is not good for them or their family.

Not exactly a business illustration, but I remember a friend of mine telling me years ago in his Ph.D. program and he was, did his with one of the most brilliant scholars, maybe the leading scholar in his field, and he turned out amazing work, and I said “well, who was it?” and he said “well, he’s a brilliant scholar, and the divorce rate was astronomical with his students,” because he demanded so much and wanted you to put your academic career first and foremost above everything else.

Years ago, what is it? Almost, I guess, it’s 10 years ago now, with the housing bubble and credit crisis. All sorts of people wrote books and articles, how did this happen? How did we get into this collapse of the housing market? And it is easy to point fingers and say it was a loose money policy, or it was interest rates that were held artificially low, or it was this President or that President, and again here I am about to break my rule of pretending like I know something about the financial world, but I read all sorts of books and articles and as best as I could understand, there were a lot of fingers to be pointed. Some things just happen, as they happen in a market economy, but you could go down a list and you could look at bankers who packaged all these mortgages and weren’t particularly interested in whether they were very sound mortgages or not. Or investors who bought them up and weren’t interested in thinking about what sort of mortgages were actually collateralized in these bundles. Or rating agencies who have a certain relationship with, with mortgage companies and have, at times, an incentive to give good ratings so as not to bite the hands that feeds them. Or lenders, sometimes writing mortgages that they shouldn’t have, or setting people up in sort of lending schemes that they can afford for a few years and then can’t later on. Or appraisers who just figure that values would keep going up and up and up and so continued to give higher and higher appraisals and that means more and more work without really thinking about the glut of houses on the market.

And lest we think that it was just bad people and it was the fault of mortgage companies or banks or the government, it was also the fault of lots and lots of ordinary borrowers. Many borrowers lied on their loan applications. They lied about income and assets and employment and credit history and whether they intended to live in the house. One study found as many as 70% of mortgages that defaulted in the first year turned out to have false information on their loan application. You could go on and on and on. That was a crisis on a national and, not an exaggeration to say, an international level when the housing bubble burst. And some of it was just good intentions gone awry, some of it are global and national policies that didn’t turn out, but then on the human level, at the biggest organizations down to the smallest person, people were putting profits in front of principles and people.

We often face these sort of hard choices. I remember a friend of mine who worked for a time selling cellphones, and he began to have a twinge of conscious as he realized that he was very good at it, and he would sell the higher and the higher models and the most expensive phones and he could tell, maybe by having to run a credit check or maybe he was making assumptions based on the people and what they were saying to him, but he felt like “I’m selling them products I know they can’t afford, or I know they should purchase other things before they spend all of their money on this top end cellphone.”

It’s a gray area. For him, he felt like he couldn’t do it anymore.

I remember reading a story of a used car dealer looking back and realizing as they looked at the people that they were selling to, that they were, because they would have a lot of negotiation with people for cars, they ended up giving very good deals to white men and bad deals to women and minorities. And it wasn’t that they woke up and said “we want to give good deals to white men,” but for all sorts of reasons, and you can speculate why, perhaps the people selling the cars were like them or perhaps they felt like they could get more from one sort of person than another, and they said “now we’re not breaking a law, but is this really how we want to be honoring the people who some and sell? We need to rethink how we’re selling.”

There are all sorts of examples, and you can think of them in your own life. There are two further examples of making people a priority in Proverbs that you, you maybe haven’t thought of before.

Look at Proverbs 11. We’re used to thinking of well, don’t cheat people. But Proverbs gives some, some other avenues of thought. Look at Proverbs 11, verse 24: “One gives freely yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.”

Verse 26 envisions a situation which was very common in the ancient world of drought or famine. And you don’t have a grocery store that’s just always stocked, except if there’s a flake of snow coming and then milk and water, we can’t live without milk and water. No, they didn’t have that. They rely on others, and if they’re subsistence farmers and they don’t have a crop, they rely on the few people, or perhaps like in Pharaoh’s day, Joseph, who had set aside storehouses of grain.

Verse 26 says the people curse him, the one who’s holding back grain, who’s saying I have something that you need, and I’m not gonna sell it.

Now why wouldn’t he sell it? Well, often it was because he wanted prices to get higher and higher. Wait until you’re starving, wait until your absolutely destitute. I’m the only one, there is a scarcity of supply, and there is a great fever pitch for demand, and so I’m going to hold this out, even though it means you suffer a little bit more, I’m going to get more.

Well, that may have been good business for the bottom line, but Proverbs says it’s not good business for the people of God. He is blessed, a blessing on the head of him who sells it. So even though he has this precious commodity, and by holding onto it he may be able to make more money, he sees this is going to be good for people. I am thinking not only how to enhance my bottom line, but how to help people.

One other example. Proverbs 26, verse 10. Interestingly Proverb here: “Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.”

This one’s really fascinating because this means that part of loving people in your business is hiring people well. And maintaining high standards for the people that work for you. Here it says “like an archer who wounds everyone,” someone who’s just shooting crazy and you’re getting arrows in your back, that’s like someone who says “well, a passing fool, a drunkard, ahh, come and work for me.” That may seem like an active of mercy, but if the person cannot really do their job, then everyone else is affected. If they’re producing shoddy materials, or they’re making a workplace environment difficult.

See how amazingly realistic and relevant Proverbs is?

If you don’t think about.. So you’re not just thinking about that person, you must think about lots of people when you run a business, otherwise the public may suffer, or workers will suffer.

One of the things I do well as a husband is to watch a lot of old British movies and then I can pretend like I’ve read the book but I haven’t, but one of my wife’s favorite is North and South, in England, not this North and South, and it’s a man who owns this mill and it’s, you know, he falls in love and I won’t ruin the story, but you can guess that he falls in love and they love each other at the end. There, I ruined it. There’s an opening scene, so it’s industrial Britain, and there’s, and there’s, it’s looming and it’s clothing works and so there’s all sorts of wool and things flying in the air, and there’s a man in this midst who lights a cigarette, and the owner comes and absolutely berates him for lighting this cigarette. And not only berates him, but he punches him and he knocks him out and drags him out, he’s absolutely furious. And this is one of the opening scenes that, that makes you think this owner of the mill is, what a jerk. Who could possibly like him? He can’t be the protagonist of the story.

Well, as the story goes on and he gets softened a little bit, you realize, well, there really was no excuse to punch the guy in the face, but you realize he did have some good motivation for responding with great alarm, because in an environment with all of this dry material and all of this wool flying around, the little teeniest spark could set the entire factory on fire. And that’s why there were such stringent rules about not smoking anywhere near the place. And so he was looking out for, yes, perhaps his bottom line, but the factory, and the hundreds of people that it employed, and you understood that he was, at least in some part, motivated by a desire to help those who depended upon him and the factory for a livelihood.

Now don’t leave here and say “What was the sermon about?” “Pastor said I could punch bad employees.” That’s not what I’m saying. [laughter]

But what the Bible does say is that part of thinking of other people is thinking not only of the person right in front of you, but all the people that that one person is going to affect.

Profit, product, people, and finally, “principles.”

What are some of the basic principles that God would have us in business?

Well, we must uphold the law. Proverbs 17:23: “The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.”

This is perhaps the most common way of perverting justice throughout the Old Testament is accepting bribes. The magistrates, the judges, they would take a bribe, people had little recourse to it, and especially the poor and the vulnerable would be made poorer and more vulnerable.

There is almost nothing as important for national prosperity as the rule of law. Now, we don’t think about this, if we enjoy it in our country. I remember reading from a Peruvian economist a number of years ago who argued that property rights and clear enforceable laws regarding that property were the first and necessary step to any economic sustainability, that people knew what the laws were and they followed the laws, and if you didn’t follow the laws, you would be held accountable.

I remember hearing from an African leader one time, when asked what one thing he would do to, to help in his native country, if he could just wave a wand. He’s not thinking of spiritual benefit, but just material and prosperity. He said if he could do one thing, he would reform landholding legislation. Now that’s what we tend to see when we have the commercials on TV for giving money, but he was saying “we’re never going to get this settled out if we don’t know whose property belongs to whom, and that there are laws and they are equitable for everyone.”

Christians uphold the law.

We, second, don’t promise what we are not willing or unable to deliver, if called upon. Look at Proverbs 22, verse 26: “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts, if you have nothing with which to pay. Why should your bed be taken from under you?”

There are actually several times in Proverbs that it warns against putting security up for someone else’s debt, akin to co-signing on a loan. Now does that mean if you co-signed on your, your son’s loan that you did something wrong? Not necessarily. But what Proverbs envisions are people who are co-signing, or putting up security, for a debt and they have no means to pay that. So if you want to co-sign, and you have the wherewithal that if worst case scenario happens you can, you can put the money forward, then that’s one thing. But what so often happened in the ancient world is in an effort, these weren’t loans of capital, but these were some loans of desperation. And you say “well, I want my son to be able to eat, or have a home, or pay a dowry, and I’m putting up security for this pledge,” but you don’t have the means to actually pay that security if the bill collector comes knocking. And so it envisions there your bed, verse 27, is taken from you. Whether from a desire to please or a desire to look good or really a desire from benevolence, people would put up these securities, and Proverbs warns against it. Don’t be putting up securities for things that you can’t pay. Don’t be writing checks that you can’t cash.

Always tell the truth, most fundamentally. Proverbs 11:1: “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” You say “How can I please God when I go to work tomorrow? I don’t do what you do, Pastor. I mean, you get to pray with people, and you get to study the Bible, and prepare sermons. I’m doing all sorts of stuff and I’m doing data entry or I’m working with credit card retrievals. I’m doing all… How do I please God?”

Well, here’s one way: A just weight is His delight. If you tell the truth, if you have a product that’s honest, if you operate according to Christian principles, it is a delight to the Lord. Tell the truth.

Advertising is a gray area, isn’t it? Is it wrong to drink a beer in moderation? No. So is it wrong to advertise for those things? No. Might it be wrong if you entice people, young people, toward a product that is going to be addictive? Well, you need to wrestle with those things. Is it wrong to present a book or a system of weight loss? Of course not. But if you have to promote your diet fad by first making people feel terrible about themselves and feel constantly overweight and unattractive, well, that end does not justify the means.

So we must tell the truth. We must tell the truth about people, tell the truth about our product, tell the truth about God. We must tell the truth whether we are on this side or that side of the exchange.

Here’s a Proverb you may not have thought of before. Proverbs 20:14: “Bad, bad, says the buyer, but when he goes away then he boasts.”

See, it’s not just sellers who can lie. Buyers can lie. They lie. Well, how do they lie? There’s a situation of barter, and you know you go in and whether it’s for a house or for a car and you want the car and so you say “I don’t know, that’s not a very good car, you’re not giving me a very good deal. I don’t think so.” And so you get it lower and lower and then what do you do when you drive off the lot? “You’ll never believe. This is an amazing car. This is the best deal I ever had.”

Well, you didn’t tell the truth. That doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate, that doesn’t mean you can’t drive a hard bargain, but you shouldn’t lie on the side of selling and you should lie on the side of buying. We deal with one another honestly.

The pursuit of profits must never be at the expense of people and principles. So you say, “Very interesting lecture on business, Pastor. What does this have to do with Jesus?”

What did Jesus say when they asked Him about the law and the profits? He’s thinking of passages like Proverbs. He’s thinking of Old Testament aphorisms, many of which have to do with business. How did Jesus summarize it all? He said “I’m going to tell you two things. All of that comes down to these two things: You love God, and you love your neighbor.”

Sounds simple enough, and yet I bet we’d all be humbled to think how often we forget of those two things when we get dressed in the morning and head off to the workplace. There’s a reason Jesus says “you cannot serve two masters.” It’s not wrong to pursue profits, but if profit is your god, God can’t be your God. Jesus says you cannot serve God and money. If you head out into the workplace on Monday morning and money, profit, is your god, well, I don’t know if you are a Christian, but you’re certainly not acting like a Christian, because you put God first. Whatever I have to do this week, I serve God. I serve God before I serve money. I serve God before I serve, in fact, I serve God alone so that nobody else… There’s an org chart here, and it’s God and then wayyyyy down is everything else.

Jesus says love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Augustin once famously said “love God and do whatever you want.” Well, the “do whatever you want” can only work if you fill up the “love God” part.

And then Jesus says “love your neighbor as yourself.” Isn’t that what this is really about? Don’t you want people to treat you as something more than a bottom line? Don’t you want people to tell you the truth about what they’re selling and what you’re buying? Don’t you want people to speak honestly with you?

If we had people all regenerate, fully sanctified and glorified, okay, we don’t, you wouldn’t have prisons, you wouldn’t have courts, you might not have lawyers… I’m thankful for all you lawyers, ’cause that’s not the world we do live in. You don’t have locks on your doors. Think of all the things that we have. People say “well, I don’t want the law, I don’t want all these, I don’t want God telling me what to do.” Things are a lot better when we do things God’s way.

Love God, love your neighbor.

Think how would I want this, what would I want someone in their position of influence, in their workplace, working with their goods, their services, their products, to think of me?

And at all times look to Jesus. Do we not see in Christ one who always put people before what was good for His own bottom line, so to speak? Do we not see one who always honored His Father’s principles, even above His own desires? Even when it meant the most extreme suffering.

So we find in Jesus not only our example, but the one who commands us to love God, and love our neighbors as ourselves. And in Christ, the One who can forgive us for all of the times that we have had and we will have where we don’t do these things as we ought. But by God’s grace, we can do them better than we are.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we pray that you would be with the brothers and sisters here who work in a hundred different industries during the week, face all sorts of difficult dilemmas that pastors don’t face and may not always understand. Give to them the heart desire to love You, to serve You, to honor You. To think at all times what would be pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, and how they might think of others before themselves. We thank You, Lord, for Your Word, which can bring us to the very heights of heaven and it meets us on the pavement, right where we live, so help us, Lord, to think through these things and live as Your people as salt and light in the world. In Jesus we pray. Amen.