“You’re so greedy!” As the words flew across the desk the young entrepreneur sitting on the receiving side of this assault instinctually shrunk back into his chair. He had just finished delivering a proposal when the potential client blasted him with these hurtful words.
Jumping to his feet, Mr. T. lashed out again. “Ripping people off like this should be a crime! With this deal, you would be making hundreds of thousands of dollars off us this year alone!” At this point, the dejected young man had two options. He could either high-tail it for the door like he had in previous encounters or he could face this challenge head-on.
Slowly he stood to his feet. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he looked directly at the middle-age business tycoon who was virtually steaming. After a brief moment of silence, he spoke with a voice as calm as he could muster. “Mr. T., you are right. With this contract, we would make hundreds of thousands of dollars and a healthy profit.” The other man bristled. “But I’m not sure you understand the value that my firm is bringing to the table.”
The young man paused once again as he collected his thoughts. This was his only chance to say what he was about to say and he wanted to get it right. “Once you sign this contract our digital marketing service will actually decrease your overall ad spend by 3-million dollars. Our digital ad platform is targeted in such a way that every dollar you spend with us will reach 10 times as many potential customers as your current advertising methods are reaching.”
At this point, Mr. T. shifted his feet. The young entrepreneur knew he was starting to hit home. He concluded by saying, “Not only that but if you choose to move forward with this contract we promise to deliver with the highest level of quality and professionalism that you have experienced working with a marketing firm.” There was a moment of intense silence as the young man finished.
Slowly, Mr. T. reached inside his coat pocket. He looked at the young man and said, “Son, you’ve got guts! I can see that you mean to deliver on what you say. If you can do that… you’re hired!” The younger man let out the pent up breath that he had unconsciously been holding in. “Sir, you have my word.” With that, Mr. T. simply pulled out a pin, smiled, and said, “Where do I sign?”
Greed VS Profit Takeaways
In the story above, the young entrepreneur was being accused of being greedy because he was making a significant profit. When compared to the value he was offering the client, though, the profit, while large, was more than justified. Greed is not a number. It is an attitude.
While this is just a fictitious story, the reality is that a large number of people judge entrepreneurs, business leaders, and wealthy people in general by saying that ‘they are just in it for the money.’ Their perspective seems to be that just because those people are interested in making a profit that they must be greedy and evil in some way.
Frankly, anyone who shows up to a job and expects a paycheck at the end of the week is ‘in it for the money.’ If they quit getting paychecks they will almost certainly stop showing up for work as well. This incrimination of wealth and profit is flawed but tragically common. Yes, greed is bad, but profit is good!
When tackling the question of greed vs profit it is important to understand the following perspectives.
What is greed?
Being greedy is the last thing we want people to think about us. But what really is classified as greed? According to Wikipedia, Greed, or avarice, is an inordinate or insatiable longing for material gain, be it food, money, status, or power. In other words, greed is when one becomes obsessed with making money, obtaining status, or gaining power.
Another way of looking at this is when you are willing to put monetary gain above moral responsibility, you are being driven by greed. Does the name Martin Shkreli or Bernie Madoff ring a bell? Sadly, tales of greed and corruption in pursuit of wealth are readily available. However, a few bad apples don’t mean that all the apples are bad. Similarly, profit isn’t a bad thing just because a few misguided people abuse others in their pursuit of wealth.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.1 Timothy 6:10
“He who by charging excessive interest and who by unjust efforts to get gain increases his material possession gathers it for him [to spend] who is kind and generous to the poor.”Proverbs 28:8 AMPC
What is profit?
On the other hand, profit describes the financial benefit realized when revenue generated from a business activity exceeds the expenses, costs, and taxes involved in sustaining the activity in question. (Investopedia) Profit is innately one of the primary goals of business operations. Without profits, the business can not sustain itself or reinvest for future growth.
When a business owner starts a business he/she takes on an incredible amount of risk and responsibility. Consequently, they take home a larger portion of the proceeds because they took on a larger portion of the risk and responsibility. This isn’t greed at all. It is their just reward.
In all labor there is profit, but idle talk leads only to poverty.Proverbs 14:23 (AMPC)
The line between greed vs profit
In our article Do the Rich Deserve Their Wealth? we listed out a number of qualifying questions to bring perspective on the question of greed vs profit before judging another person’s pocketbook. Those same questions apply to this conversation as well. Here they are:
- Was it acquired honestly?
- “Wealth [not earned but] won in haste or unjustly or from the production of things for vain or detrimental use [such riches] will dwindle away, but he who gathers little by little will increase [his riches].” Proverbs 13:11 AMPC
- Did they work for it?
- “He becomes poor who works with a slack and idle hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4 AMPC
- Did they inherit it?
- “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22 ESV
- Did God bless them with it?
- “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18 KJV
- “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22 ESV
- Are they good stewards of it?
- “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God…” Ecclesiastes 2:26 ESV
Connecting profit to mission
Wealth, in the Biblical context, was intended to be used to further God’s mission in the earth. We discuss this extensively in our post about God’s Plan For Money. Ultimately, when profits are made honestly by delivering value to the marketplace and are used to finance the vision and mission of God, PROFIT IS GOOD!
Wealth divorced from mission breeds destruction.Pastor Caleb Adams | Christian Life Memphis
Greed vs Profit is an important conversation to have clarity on. As Christian entrepreneurs, we should intentionally be fair and upright in all of our business dealings. When we do, we never have to be afraid of making a profit!
Thank you for investing your time to read this article! If you would like to explore more content like this check out our podcast for episodes like The Virtue of Business and Business As Mission. Feel free to check out our other blog posts as well. For book recommendations and other entrepreneurial resources check out our business resources page here.