are you in business for the money?

Written by Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.

August 19, 2011

I have heard it time and time again.

“Well, one goes into business to make money” or “People got laid off because, well, the business is there to make money.”

The business is there to make money.

Well, I don’t know if I agree anymore.  At least in principle.

I think we need to change the cliché to…

One goes into business for the community.

Think of it.  Someone is asked why they start a company and their honest reply is to help support the community.

What if someone’s motivation was to take care of their family and at least four other families?

What if a large corporation actually paid people over “market value” because the community is more important than the earnings report?

What if 20, 30, or 40 percent of earnings was reinvested into taking good care of the families (highly paid, paid time off, etc.) that work for them or put into the community (parks, social events, etc.) where the corporation exists?

What if it wasn’t all about marketing and the corporate profit numbers?

What if companies refused to exploit employees at the least wage possible (minimum wage) and instead paid an employee $12 to $15 an hour when the market value only calls for $8?  But, this would hurt profits.  So what?  Is is not better for the community?

Now, we could not expect this type of love and care from the secular community (can we?), but I think we can from the Christian community (or businesses that likes to put the Christian fish on their website).  I think we should expect that the business cares more for its employees than the corporate profits or the CEO’s  six figure salary.

It seems to me that the better the company takes care of its employees, the happier the employees will be in the workplace, and the business will grow because of the great service.  But instead of the business stockpiling more and more money into the corporate books or the top-eschelon corporate people gaining more and more income – Why not invest the money back into projects around the community (parks, road repairs, churches, hospitals, hospices, etc.)?

Some businesses do better at this practice than others.  I know that when I weed through all the marketing hyperbole and find a business that really cares for their employees and the community – I take notice.  I spend money and I tell friends.

To me it seems more Biblical to be in the business for the community then to be in the business for money.  It is stated that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).  Therefore, if people are the image of God on this earth and my greatest worship toward God is how I treat my fellow humans, then by all means let us be in business for the community and not money.

What do you think?

18 Comments

  1. Evan

    “… the church should have a voice on this issue and speak up.  And the church should certainly not mirror the business world as it seems some churches do!!”

    Enjoyed this post, and I couldn’t agree more. Many may argue that blogs are ineffective at producing real world change, but just look at the word “repent.” It’s original meaning isn’t so much about action, but a continual and permanent renewing of the mind. Every post like this helps those who are kingdom-minded see things just a little more clearly when it comes to their role in a “secular society.”

    And community is our calling.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the comments and the reminder of the “continual”-ness of the word repent.  Good!

      Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the comments and the reminder of the “continual”-ness of the word repent.  Good!

      Reply
  2. Leslie J. Rowe

    It sounds good and decent and right. At first.  But let’s think. What if I went into business for the sole purpose of giving to an orphanage in India, but I didn’t want to toot my horn, so nobody knew it, and I structured the business to make the highest profits possible while still paying people a wage (even if minimum wage), and to the community, I may look like every other business, but really, the orphanage thrived? (This is fictional but I’m just thinking.) 

    What if I paid a lower-skilled employee a higher wage, just for the sake of community, and since she was comfortable, she never pursued that nursing degree? Maybe minimum wage is just the incentive one needs to stay in school?

    I worked fast food most of my youth. It was hard and I got paid peanuts. It kept me in college. Honestly. 

    Your ideas are good, but free-market principles actually work when left alone. 

    I’m thinking on the fly here…I bet there’s a balance.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for your thoughts Leslie.

      I think you make some good points. 

      However, what does the current free market system do about the single mother/father working at minimum wage while they are in their 30s or 40s?  I work with people like this.  What about the father or mother or both who work 50 to 70 hours a week so that they can make it?  What they spend their money on is certainly an issue and another big topic, but it is hard for a family to survive on $2,000 per month.  Let alone pay for health care, take a family vacation, etc..  College is great, but does a single mom or dad need to sacrifice their time raising their kids in hope for a greater future?  Each situation is different, but where is the community help?

      It seems to me that when corporate execs get excessive bonuses and corporate profits are up while they cut wages and jobs for the lower middle class then something is unethical.  Not that I expect better from secular society, but the church should have a voice on this issue and speak up.  And the church should certainly not mirror the business world as it seems some churches do!!

      Good discussion.

      Reply
    • Andy Carlson

      When greed takes over free market…the whole system falls apart.  Take the latest financial debacle…..Free Market, Democracy, the “right stuff” works, only where there is an underlying principle of moral responsibility and ethical behavior.   

      Reply
      • Mark Lafler

        The problem that crippled the US economy is GREED.  Unfortunately, I see very little that has led me to believe that this problem has been corrected.  GREED will be with us until Christ returns, but if people do not speak up against it and if Christian business people are no different than the world than GREED goes on unbridled and unhindered.

        Reply
        • Andy Carlson

          Right On……stand and be counted….the need
          for our faith to be a part of the public profit and privet faith discussions are
          imperative.  I no longer accept that politics and religion don’t
          mix and that we should shy away from politics and religion in our casual
          conversations.  They are inexplicably
          intertwined.  

          Reply
  3. Robert

    I
    understand where Mark is coming from. I know people who work really
    hard and do a very good job while being paid peanuts. But when I try to
    get them to think about other, more smarter ways, of making money, they
    get quiet. My guess is that in 90% of the time, people are where they
    are because of the choices they make. Its not just about paying people
    more, its about their desire to work smarter, and some people just don’t
    have it. I have a regular job at night to help pay the bills, but with my business I have income coming in residually from many other sources. Some of my coworkers are students, but others just hang out in their off time playing video games or whatever. Each situation is different, but there are a lot of people out their who just aren’t willing to work harder, or even more importantly, smarter.
     

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Good thoughts.  I agree about being careful about paying people more if they are just down right lazy.  However, many people are just stuck in positions and just can’t get out of it (financially or intellectually).  Choices they make sure, but bad choices should always be surrounded by the community ready and willing to help people get their life in order.  It just seems to me that many people are so individualistic that the care and compassion for others in their community is lacking.

      Thanks for the comments.

      Reply
  4. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    This post is provocative, Mark.
    When we take money for what it is–a tool of exchange, a means of storage–there’s no sin in earning profit.

    I would submit that what is done with the profit is what counts. The Bible tells us to do our good deeds in anonymity, so it can be pretty tough to determine what a given company is doing with its profits. I know plenty of companies that aren’t big enough to get their name on that new wing of the hospital, but still give, consistently, to support their communities.

    Quietly.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      As always, thanks for the comments!  I am so thankful for the companies that help out – even in the smallest ways.  When everyone does what they can our communities will be much better places.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  5. Gina Carlson

    I think you’ve just touched on the beginnings of a much bigger discussion. I am currently searching for jobs, and wanting to have a balance of a good salary, yet working for a good company. I think that we as a country need to look at other countries – where people have a good work/life balance. From there, we move into salaries, and from there, profits. 
    I would be a much happier person if companies that were making a profit (millions and billions) would increase the wages of their workers to something more livable – single mothers/fathers working to support a family – can’t afford insurance, much less school…and I wish that, along with benefits, was more of a requirement.
    When people have what they need (money to survive, insurance and/or a “safety net”) – I think they are much likely to be happy, productive people – which in turn breeds bigger business.
    But in short – companies (for-profits, mainly) need to be doing more with these profits to help the communities and the people they serve.

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Right on.  Thanks for sharing Gina.  I agree that there are so many companies that don’t have their communities best interest in mind, let alone their employees.  I wish it was not all about the money.  It sure seems like it is all about the money.

      For instance, I know a company that cut their bottom-tier employees’ salaries by about $3.50 per hour suggesting that it was because of the economy and because other companies are doing the same thing.  I went to check-out their corporate numbers (which are public) and they still were making a profit that exceeded the previous year.  Where is the care and consideration?

      Thanks for the comments.

      Reply
    • Andy Carlson

      When the corporate stockholders become more important that the service provided or the treatment of those who provide the service…greed seems to take over…it becomes all about “my pocket book”….not the service I offer….

      Reply
  6. Andy Carlson

    As an employer we have strived to provide for our employees aw we would ourselves.  Often that provision has been in terms of extended vacation (with pay), extended sick time (with pay), very flexible hours; and always with the consideration of family (children, parents, grandparents or extended family) and personal medical needs before work….be sure that you and your  family are OK first.  Not for the purpose of improving a business model, rather simply for the health and welfare of the employee.  Frequently that works to the disadvantage of the business in the short term….but that is not the issue.  Our business exists to serve…and whatever comes from that…so be it.  Frequently because we are not “aggressive” the phrase “nice guys finish last” is applicable.  However….that is OK too…..

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the comments, as always.  It is great to hear of a business that puts community before profits. 

      Hopefully the good guys will win in the end.

      Reply
      • Andy Carlson

        I am thinking that winning is not defined as a monetary objective…..even in the “failure” of an opportunity or a business..doesn’t not mean defeat..or even a loss….

        Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. the christian and bankruptcy by Mark Lafler (filed in authentic christianity, the latest): BibleDude.net: read. pray. serve. – BibleDude.net - [...] week I targeted the greed in the corporate world.  But we should understand that there is greed present in…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

are you in business for the money?

by Mark Lafler time to read: 2 min
19