Gain as an Ethical Imperative- Albert G. Ceren, IV
About the Author
Albert "Bret" Ceren is a Christian entrepreneur and businessman. Currently, he is the Grand Canyon University National Partnerships Manager for Faith-Based Development, as well as a student in Applied Management. Brent has two books in process: What Atlas Shrugs God Holds, a comparative review of the teachings of Christianity and Capitalism, as well as Burying Talents, a criticism of the Creation Care movement.
Is profit socially responsible? Such is the question asked in our current culture. This paper seeks to answer the question from a Christian worldview utilizing a Biblical basis and critical thinking. The concept is considered from a modern as well as historical standpoint with a focus on establishing a framework based in a scriptural setting. What does God say about profit? In a Christian worldview all rationale is subject to that response. Each of the following are taken into account: the definition of profit; its place in the worldview; the considerations of evil; motive power and self-governance of markets; and the Christian involvement in business. Finally, a thorough study on the scriptural use of the term is detailed.
What exactly is profit? Is it a bad thing, a necessary evil that we tolerate as a civilization in order to harness some overall greater good? Do we embrace the mentality of a means to an end? Or, is profit a positive thing that is required to effectively make and measure progress? Some also argue it is a misunderstood neutral concept that is used for both good and evil. Criticism of profit and profit-makers is en vogue, especially in many academic, political, and religious circles. Headlines regularly proclaim topics like, "Obama's Crusade Against Profits" (Ferguson, 2010), "Too Big to Care?" (Connor, 2010) and "The real crime: CAPITALISM" (Goldstein, 2010). Is it any wonder that sentiments exist labeling those who seek profit as "predatory" (Kucinich, 2010), "plunderers" (LeonVest, 2010), and "vultures" (Goldstein, 2011) that "value profits over people" (The Christian Post)? This trend seems to be in part tied to recent populist rhetoric motivated by the largest profits ever made in the history of mankind in the energy, retail, banking, and automotive sectors. Such profits can make for easy targets: "JPMorgan Chase is widely believed to be among the strongest banks in this group though [to report fourth-quarter 2009 results], and its healthy profits could lead to more criticism..." (Ellis, 2010) The level of rhetoric is so intense - as crystalized by the heralded 2009 documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story" - that some are asking, "Why is profit a dirty word?" (Stossel, 2007)
At its essence, profit is nothing more than the difference between an item's cost and the value for which it is sold (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, 2010). When boiled down to that most simple essence, how can it be considered evil? If margin is nothing more than a method of measurement, what about it is malevolent?
Well-structured and convincing arguments for each scenario have been made for millennia. This discussion seeks to frame the concept of profit as an inherently good concept mandated by God himself. Academically, it focuses on the merits and morals of the model from the Judeo-Christian perspective. As such, it will rely heavily on the teachings of the Bible as the ultimate authority of that belief system.
This rationale is for a number of reasons: first, if it could be shown that profit is an imperative given by a Supreme Being, then its morality cannot be questioned. Secondly, the Christian sphere of society generally casts much aspersion on the principle and practice of profit. It also largely structures its organizations in direct contradiction as non-profits; for example, in 2007, 22% of the nation's best 100 charities were Christian non-profits (Riley, 2007). Finally, as the religion of the author, it is the approach that can be taken in the most knowledgeable fashion.
There are two main parts of this paper: a description of profit and its framework within a Christian worldview. The primary source of reference is the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
The Biblical Framework of Profit
What does the Bible actually say about profit, the actions that generate it, and the consequences of those things? In the Old Testament, seven terms were predominantly used to describe profit, only two of which were negative. These terms appeared a total of 363 times in 299 verses of the Old Testament. A full review of these terms is found in Appendix A: The Biblical Framework of Profit. What these passages show is that God despises profit that is gained by the abuse of others, while ridiculing those who do things that are unprofitable, especially idol-making.
Most major figures in the Old Testament were individuals of means; the Bible finds it necessary to mention that in the list of their accomplishments, vis-à-vis Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, etc. The point is that the pursuit of profit, with a proper relationship with God, and for the ends of accomplishing His purposes is the right formula. One of the ways God chooses to identify one of His perfections is the most compelling proof possible: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go." (Isaiah 48:17). A study of Job is also enlightening as it relates to this conversation. At the beginning of the book, we see that Job is blameless, upright, and Godfearing (Job 1:1). He is also incredibly wealthy (Job 1:2). The two facets of his life coexisted and did not impede each other. To the contrary, we are led to believe that they even fueled each other on to greater heights. We are shown that even Satan envied him in this status and believed that Job's morality was conditioned on his possessions. As a result, he wanted to take it all from him, which God allowed to happen. Yet when all was lost, Job worshipped God (Job 1:20-22). His friends also thought that his possessions were a result of good behavior and that the loss of them was the result of sin on Job's part; this logic remains to this day in many cases. The Bible is clear, however, that such is not the case; both blessing and calamity can and do occur to all (Matthew 5:45). Once Job's testing was complete, God restored the wealth he'd lost back to him two hundred percent! That would hardly seem plausible if wealth and profit are sin.In the New Testament, there are five terms that appear a total of 118 times in 105 verses. Not a single term is inherently negative in this case; the only criticism comes as it relates to the motives or desires that one has for profit. It is also curious that in the New Testament, we are introduced to the concept that a focus on profit has the possibility to detract from a focus on God (Matthew 19:16-26). In this way, it is also similar to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). Yet it is just as clear that God demands profit (Matthew 25:14-30) as much as He commends marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4). In reviewing the list of verses about profit, it is apparent that God has taught nearly every single principle considered to be important to the church in the language of commerce, trade, and gain. Again, the most compelling of these passages is the Parable of the Talents; here Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a master who expects his servants to provide a profit (Matthew 25:14-30). The master literally disowns the servant who fails to multiply what he is given; the harshest criticism that could be given is to literally be unprofitable! Through this,
Jesus shows us that heaven is a place of entrepreneurial capitalism. And, if we are to do on earth as it is in heaven, then all our efforts are seen in the light of business; that is to say, in the pursuit of profit. What remains to be determined is what that profit represents. It is here that Jesus helped us to understand that on earth the currency and capital for which we compete is cash, while in heaven it is human beings and their eternal souls.That is why when the Rich Young Ruler thought he had acquired both, but had not, Jesus was saddened that he missed the point. With Christ it is not an either/or proposition, as the young man and everyone around had thought. Even today we still misunderstood this truth. The insight Jesus was teaching is recognizing that the only way to acquire eternal life was through Him as a measure of substitution (Luke 18:18-34), not through our earning potential. Yet even in those terms, it is the concept of exchange - just different than how it was understood. This truth is also reiterated by Paul throughout 1 Corinthians 9 and Philippians 3.
In America, the modern ministry enjoys the manifestation and benefits of refusing to garner a profit through our tax code. By identifying ourselves as nonprofit, we are by and large not obligated to pay taxes on revenue and assets. This is an historical phenomenon and largely fueled by the heritage of our nation and its respect for religion. It is also unbiblical. Jesus told us to give honor to whom it is due and to pay our taxes as a sign of respect to governing authorities (Matthew 22:15-22). By this we recognize they are installed by God for His purposes (Romans 13:1-7). It could be argued that by not following this, our churches are operating outside of God's plan for effectiveness. By both refusing to garner profits as well as not doing their own tithe to our governing authorities, could churches be neglecting some of their responsibilities? There are very convincing arguments as to why this is not done; the point is just that it seems to be against Biblical principles. An entire other body of research could be dedicated to this premise.
Profit and Evil
Even with a thorough Biblical framework for profit, it can still be misused for evil. Like all creation, it suffers distortion as a result of the Curse of the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19). Examples of unsavory business endeavors can easily be found and have existed since that time. Original Sin was the first violation of trust in a partnership and the resulting consequences (Genesis 3). The story of Cain and Abel is an example of the need for proper return on investment and the results of the strain to deliver (Genesis 4:1-16). Both Scripture and history abound with stories of such intrigue. Imagine beauty without pain; work without sweat; life without death. So too is profit fallen from its ideal.
Commerce and currency, and therefore profit, is needed as a tangible measurement of trust. As a result of our hubris in the first sin, ways to measure productivity as well as exchange value beyond simple belief and observation became a requirement. We are not told in Genesis whether transactions occurred in the Garden of Eden as our first examples come only after the eviction. Does that mean that these things are sin? The existence of something because of sin does not make it sin itself. The need for profit does not make it evil. If it did, would that same logic also categorize other needful things as evil? Was not also Christ's ultimate sacrifice needed because of sin? And yet it was a divine act, necessary because of the desire to overcome evil. Paul tells us that great sin was also committed in Christ's name and His work on the cross, yet without demeaning that work. Consequently, though profit may be gained through sinful activities, it in itself is not.
The Christian Involvement in Profit
The need of a Christian's involvement in business should then be clear, especially from a moral perspective. Like other investors, we contribute our capital and efforts to those ventures we see as worthwhile. With our aims at virtue, we require such enterprises to contribute positively, or at least not harm, our worldview as well as delivering a return on our investment. In this way we help shape markets through our own collective invisible hand, a la Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations.
This is further enforced by the belief that we are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14). That is to say, preserving and redeeming influences. If we are, we believe our actions must accomplish those purposes. If we do not participate in an area of society, we leave it to decay and darkness. In business, this results in immoral purposes and products. Our abandonment causes confusion, leading others to believe that the ends of profit shares the means of immoral business by which it was created. Just the opposite is true: because we neglect our obligations, it is we who are responsible for the misuse of a holy means of accomplishment. It is only a short jump from there to also confuse the monetary gain, the profit, with the same unsuitable disdain. If a little profit resulting from bad actions is evil, it must also be so on a larger scale.It is this abandonment of profitable activity by Christians that allows for a demonization of the concept. Tragically, there is no substitute for profit and the purposes for which it was designed. If one has the ability to pursue worthwhile endeavors by Christ-honoring means for profitable ends, it is the business trifecta that God intended. If, however, profit is besmirched by unsavory goals and means, then so are the worthwhile and Christ-honoring ones if done without profit. Anything of God done contrary to His design for it is sin (Numbers 20:1-12; Romans 3:23). Consequently, both evil acts that deliver a return as well as unprofitable but otherwise holy ones are both results of the Fall, contrary to God's plan, and thus sin.
How does Profit fit in the Christian worldview?
The Bible couches the concepts of the eternal from the perspective of the temporal. This way, it helps us comprehend heaven by the way we understand earth. That is why Jesus taught in parables: the stories of the familiar with a plot twist that allows a glimpse of the unknown. It is in this same way that the Bible discusses the most important principles of life: the acquisition and use of finances.
Who invented money? Did man develop a system of trade, or are the concepts of value, exchange, profit and loss actually designed by God? This is actually a serious question. The answer reflects not only what we believe but also how we perceive the use of money in life. If money is the creation of man as a matter of necessity after the Fall, then it is born out of our sin and is inherently sinful. It would never be able to rise above moral neutrality, at best. And why would God, who is holy and immutable, use something so flawed to communicate other important information?
However, if God made it, then the Fall has only distorted a holy concept that has important and eternal uses. In this case, it makes perfect sense to discuss matters of eternal consequence in terms of profitability, or even model His most important work after it.
Perhaps the issue is not with profit itself, but in the manner in which it is acquired. Objectionable methods may tarnish the concept of profit for some. Methodologies like artificially inflated prices, exploitation of workers and materials, and confiscatory or obligatory transactions are clearly contrary to a Biblical worldview - even the Bible itself condemns gain by such means. Such methods of profit-making mar the idea, but do not necessarily condemn it as a whole.
Motive Power, the Self-Governance of Ideas and Markets, and the Necessity of Profit
What is motive power? It is the drive of individuals and organizations to make a profit. As a result, it is a critical component of effective activity. The desire for profit is the core of the entrepreneurial effort to develop, market, and sell goods or services to others. The concern for one's own well being is the energy and motivation needed to do this.
However, because Christians believe in the fallen nature of man, we also frequently believe that self-interests are inherently destructive or, at least, unwholesome. We label "selfishness" as bad and condemned it and anything it could produce. Though this comes from moral desires to "protect" others from harmful products, this misunderstanding of scripture ends up in the misguided removal of this needed motivation. The reality is that man's sinful desires and the ones in him as a result of being in God's image are in conflict. This is especially true in the redeemed man who also has the Holy Spirit residing in him (I Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:14).
The primary effect of such misguided judgments robs others of the needed fuel of motivation. Without fuel, we cannot engage in the creative elements of our God-given nature. Consequently, new and innovative products, or better and safer versions of old ones, would never come to market for others to enjoy. Everyone is literally robbed because we misunderstand what we are supposed to do and be as Christians when it comes to profit. When the motivation of others is labeled so negatively, we literally cut our nose to spite our face because we miss out on what could have been created by that motivation.
The irony is that such judgment is shortsighted. No activity, motivation, good or service can exist in a vacuum or be self-contained: without a market to acquire the fruits of such efforts, they are in vain.
If an idea cannot be sold, its creator moves on to another until they find one that can. Furthermore, the effort and resources required to take a concept from inception to completion is immense. Without the prospect of personal gain, these needed works would never be undertaken.
The practice of such judgment also questions the sovereignty of God and His plans. When we believe we are to be the final arbiters of what is to be produced, as well as the acceptable motivations behind such production, we remove God from the equation. If He is in control, does He not supervise the activity of our markets (2 Chronicles 16:9)?
Even outside of any spiritual considerations, this fallacy can also be debunked through natural observations, namely again through market considerations. The proposition of value for value requires that we perceive that which we acquire to be of some benefit to us. This inherently excludes wholly harmful gains and the actions to obtain them. Also, because we live in a fallen world, purely holy ends, means, or products do not and cannot exist. Quality and virtue do exist in degrees, based largely on our efforts to make on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
This provides a natural self-governance to profitmaking efforts, for if a customer base is not pleased, they will discontinue patronizing and the product or service will cease to exist. Consumers demand value in return for the value they give. What is had will not be given without a prospect for return; however, what can be acquired without prospect of loss will often be pursued, nearly without exception. Consequently, the two beliefs are debunked: that for-profit activity does not deliver an inherent value that can even be philanthropic in nature; or that non-profit work automatically delivers the same. Does not a grocery store sell food so that we may feed ourselves and others? What direct benefit can be seen when the same value is given to a non-profit? This is not meant to besmirch those organizations that minister to others, but rather to clarify that there is not an inherent moral superiority to them.
The aims of some organizations nobly look to assuage the ailments of those around them. This ministry is both required and commended by the Bible. Jesus said that as we do to the least of those among us, we also do to him (Matthew 25:31-46). To witness the dearth of value and the glut of need can be extremely painful and even more so to experience. Consequently, many are compelled to address it. Their problem comes in that the situation they seek to address can never be exhausted (Matthew 26:11). The resources they can use to satiate it are limited and the audience they serve cannot give value for the service and benefit they receive. Instead of trading value for value, these ministers trade value for need; they give the finite to address the infinite. Ultimately, it is self-defeating - even with a divine mandate. This holds true regardless of whether the needs of this particular market are earthly or eternal in nature. Those who do this important work can become frustrated that resources run out before the vision is completed. When there is no inherent ability to replenish funds outside of profit, a work must necessarily end. Therefore, both for and non-profit ventures are governed by the same natural laws of efficacy. If success of the effort is the destination, then productivity is the vehicle and profit is the fuel. Regardless of if the venture is philanthropic or commercial, the rules are the same. Such is the point of this discussion: profit is an imperative. God designed it as a means to stimulate the work He desires to be done - both for business and spiritual concerns. It is a moral mandate. And, like God's other natural laws, to attempt to operate in contradiction to them is ultimately frustrating and ineffective. This is why we become exasperated with an inability to address pressing needs: if our organizations cannot deliver value for value, they have no right to exist, no matter how noble the calling.
The basis of a Christian worldview is the foundation of truth as given by God in the Bible. If God reveals something to be moral or immoral through that fashion, a Christian conforms themselves to that belief. Many times, we do not understand; others times, the truth does not seem to make sense. Jesus came to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:18-31) and as such, we may not fully understand profit or God's uses for it. As the Creator of all things who made them for His purposes (Colossians 1:13-17), it is entirely likely that He did, in fact create the concept of profit. At the very least, it is clear that God commends profit and desires it to fuel His Kingdom work on earth. If we attempt to operate outside of that methodology, the best we could hope for is frustration at seeing our noble endeavors fail. We must recommit ourselves to pursuing worthwhile work that produces profit, both physical and eternal. Profit is an ethical imperative, and thus inherently socially responsible.
Albert "Bret" Ceren is a Christian entrepreneur and businessman. Currently, he is the Grand Canyon University (GCU) National Partnerships Manager for Faith-Based Development, as well as a student in Applied Management. Brent has two books in process: What Atlas Shrugs God Holds, a comparative review of the teachings of Christianity and Capitalism, as well as Burying Talents, a criticism of the Creation Care movement. Mr. Ceren can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connor, K. (2010, June 16). Too big to care? The Christian Post. Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/news/too-big-tocare-45683/ Ellis, D. (2010, January 15).
JPMorgan Chase books $3.3 billion profit. CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/15/news/companies/JPMorgan_Chase_earnings/ Ferguson, A. (2010, July 15).
Obama's crusade against profits. The Weekly Standard, 15(40). Retrieved from http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/obama%E2%80%99s-crusade-againstprofits Goldstein, F. (2010, April 2).
The healthcare law, racism, and fighting the right. Workers World. Retrieved from http://www.workers.org/2010/us/health_care_0408/ Goldstein, F. (2010, April 21).
The real crime: Capitalism. Workers World. Retrieved from http://www.workers.org/2010/us/goldman_0429/ Kucinich, D. (2010, March 22).
What president Obama didn't say. Esquire. Retrieved from http://www.esquire.com/the-side/qa/dennis-kucinich-health-care-bill-032210 LeonVest, S. (2010, July 9).
Drill or die. Common Dreams. Retrieved from http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/09-0 profit. (n.d.).
In Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law . Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/profit Riley, J. (2007, December 10).
Christian charities rank high in top 100 U.S. nonprofits. The Christian Post. Retrieved from http://www.christianpost.com/article/20071210/christian-charities-rankhigh-in-top-100-u-s-nonprofits/ Stossel, J. (2007, June 6).
Why is profit a dirty word? RealClearPolitics. Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/06/why_is_profit_a_dirty_word.html
Strong's G2039- ergasia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bluelet\terbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2039&t=NASB
Strong's G2590- karpos. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2590
Strong's G2770- kerdaino-. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2770&t=NASB
Strong's G3786- ophelos. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3786&t=NASB
Strong's G465- antallagma. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon cfm?Strongs=G465&t=NASB
Strong's G5622- o-pheleia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5622&t=NASB
Strong's G5623- o-pheleo-. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5623&t=NASB
Strong's G5624- o-phelimos. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5624&t=NASB
Strong's H1214- betsa'. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1214&t=NASB
Strong's H1215- betsa'. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1215&t=NASB&cscs=1Sa
Strong's H3276- ya'al. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3276&t=NASB
Strong's H3504- yithrown. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3504&t=NAS
Strong's H4194- mowthar. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H4195&t=NASB
Strong's H5504- cachar. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5504&t=NASB
Strong's H5532- cakan. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5532&t=NASB
Strong's H7235- rabah. (n.d.). Retrieved from http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H7235&t=NASB
Strong's H8636- tarbiyth. (n.d.). Retrieved from http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8636&t=NASBAppendixA: The Biblical Framework of Profit
Appendix A: the Biblical Framework of Profit
1. Batsa/betsa: unjust gain acquired by violence. Also covetousness, gain, and lucre. Denotes the sinful and evil methods of possession (Strong's H1214 and H1215).
• "Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?" (Genesis 37:26)
• "So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors." (Proverbs 1:19)
• "He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live." (Proverbs 15:22, 27)
• " 'In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me,' declares the Lord GOD." (Ezekial 22:12)
• Also Judges 5:19, I Samuel 8:3, Job 22:3, Psalm 119:36, Proverbs 28:16, Job 6:9, Isaiah 38:12, Jeremiah 8:9 (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
2. Tarbiyth: excessive interest, usury (Strong's H8636).
• "Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you." (Leviticus 25:36)
• Also Proverbs 28:8, Ezekial 18:8, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
1. Ya'al: to gain, profit, benefit, good, and avail; primarily used to reflect the profitable nature of following God, especially as when shown against the opposite (Strong's H3276).
• "Samuel said to the people, 'Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile.'" (I Samuel 12:20-21)
• "Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit?" (Isaiah 44:9-11)
• "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, 'I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.'" (Isaiah 48:17)
• Also Job 15:3, Job 35:3, Isaiah 57:12, Jeremiah 2:8, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
2. Rabah: greatness, multiplication, increase; shows the importance of increase in God's plans (Strong's H7235).
• "You sell Your people cheaply, And have not profited by their sale." (Psalm 44:12)
• Also Genesis 1:22, 28; 3:16; 7:17-18, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
3. Vithrown: advantage, profit, excellence; exclusive to Ecclesiastes as Solomon's choice word for "profit" (Strong's H3504). This is interesting given his status as one of the wealthiest men to have ever lived.
• "What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?" (Ecclesiastes 3:9)
• "If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer." (Ecclesiastes 10:10-11)
• Also Ecclesiastes 1:3; 2:11; 7:12, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
4. Mowthar: pre-eminence, abundance, profit, superiority (Strong's H4195).
• "In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23)
• "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty." (Proverbs 21:5)
• Also Ecclesiastes 3:19 (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
5. Cachar or cakan: to be of use or service or profit or benefit; gain from merchandise (Strong's H5504 and H5532).
• "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold." (Proverbs 3:13-14)
•"She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night." (Proverbs 31:18)
•"Thus says the LORD, 'The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush And the Sabeans, men of stature, Will come over to you and will be yours; They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains And will bow down to you; They will make supplication to you: 'Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.'" (Isaiah 45:14)
•Also, Job 15:3; 22:2; Psalm 139:3, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
1. Öpheleō/ōpheleia/ophelos/ōphelimos: to assist, be useful, advantageous, profitable (Strong's G5622, G5621, G3786, G5624). The concept exists in the New Testament as literally both feminine and neutral nouns, adjective, and verb - meaning that, in the Bible, profit is a thing, an action, and a motivation.
•"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His
Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.'" (Matthew 16:24-27)
• "And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3)
• "If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE." (1 Corinthians 15:32)
• "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" (James 2:14-16)
• "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16)
• "This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless." (Titus 3:8-9)
• Also Romans 2:25, 3:1; Galations 5:2; Hebrews 4:2, 13:9; 1 Timothy 4:8, (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
2. Antallagma: that which is given in order to gain or keep anything; an item of exchange (Strong's G465).
• "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:35-27)
• Also Matthew 16:26 (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
3. Ergasia: work, business, profit, endeavor (Strong's G2039).
• "For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent." (Luke 12:58-59)
• Also Acts 16:16,19; 19:24-25; Ephesians 4:19 (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
4. Kerdainō: to gain, acquire, profit (Strong's G2769).
• "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." (Matthew 18:15)
• The entire Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
• "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." (1 Corinthians 9:16-25)
• "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:7-14)
• Also James 4:13 and 1 Peter 3:1 (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).
5. Karpos: fruit (literal and figurative), results, profit (Strong's G2589).
• "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:16-20)
• "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction...Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Philippians 4:10-20) (Blue Letter Bible, 2010).