The Morality of Profit: (Mis)defining Generosity in a Win-Lose World


"Give me all your money...or else!"

This week at Common Sense Concept, I discuss Tom Palmer’s new video on the “morality of profit” as a follow-up to my post on whether capitalism is compatible with Christian values.

Palmer uses the charity efforts of Bill and Melinda Gates as a launching pad for discussion, focusing on their professed desire to “give back” to society. The problem with such language, Palmer notes, is that “you can’t give back what you didn’t take.”

The Gateses did not, of course, take anything, as true free exchange would not permit it:

We are not forced to fill company coffers against our will. We are not doomed to buy oranges or apples if the price isn’t right. Instead, we are free to collaborate of our own free will and by our own consent. In such a world, profit is merely a symbol of community value. If we reject profits as immoral, we should be prepared to reject the community that empowers it. The tricky part, as I’ve mentioned before, is that this is most often ourselves. This is what the “morality of profit” all boils down to: whether mutual exchange is indeed mutual.

This tells us something about the morality of profit, but Palmer’s discussion also teaches us something about the nature of generosity — namely, that when we misunderstand the way wealth is created, we also misunderstand the ways in which (or through which) our generosity should be and can be channeled and expressed.

Indeed, understanding this process is crucial for understanding how God calls us to use our wealth:

By diluting our charity to some redistributionist obligation, we dilute the very potential of our charity, both for ourselves and our communities. How are we to maximize our generosity and distribute compassion effectively if we harbor faulty, guilt-ridden sentiments about how we got our resources in the first place? With such logic, the prospects for true, unadulterated virtue are grim indeed, regardless of how much material stuff we’re able to shift around in the process.

It’s no wonder so many Christians believe in a Jesus who robs us and demands that we “go and do likewise.” Everything is not win-lose. Or have you forgotten?

To read the full post, click here.

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/72693892272762880 Remnant Culture

    How does our view of profit impact our view of generosity? Why do so many Christians believe in a Jesus who robs us? http://t.co/MErsi8I

  • http://twitter.com/levanrami/status/72707508178911232 Levan Ramishvili

    The Morality of (Non)Profit: Defining Generosity in the Win-Lose World http://goo.gl/B3LwU

  • http://twitter.com/commonconcept/status/72724564739764224 Common Sense Concept

    How does our view of profit impact our view of generosity? Why do so many Christians believe in a Jesus who robs us? http://t.co/MErsi8I

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/74154643067895808 Remnant Culture

    Misaligned views of profit lead to whacked out definitions of generosity. Give and it shall be given. http://t.co/WHxWQ3e