BUSINESS IS GOOD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 29, 2017)
“Local business gives back.” “I like to support companies that give back.” “We feel that we need to give back to our community.” It seems that “giving back” is the new litmus test for being a good business. It is assumed that most businesses are basically bad because they only take from the people. Behind such thinking is the idea that deceiving people is the only way that businesses grow and their owners get rich. Hence, “giving back” is the moral way to come clean and make things right.
Is this really true? Do businesses profit only because they exploit the ignorant masses? Are the rich getting rich only because they deceive and take advantage of the poor? Before I answer that, let me acknowledge that throughout history there have been those who have prospered by manipulating the unsuspecting or seizing from the weak. I call them the “Mr. Potters” from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” With that being said, most are more like George Bailey.
The Bible is replete with examples of such businessmen and women whom God used in his eternal plan. In the Old Testament, he called Abraham and Sarah, a wealthy couple, to initiate his plan of salvation for the world. He led Boaz, a prosperous farmer, to redeem Ruth, the great grandmother of King David. In the New Testament, Jesus chose a small business owner to lead his church. Yes, Peter was not just some poor illiterate fisherman, as his letters (I Peter & II Peter) prove. Paul was helped by Lydia, a businesswoman from Philippi. But doesn’t the Bible warn the rich in James 5 to “weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten…you have heaped up treasure in the last days”? True, but keep reading – “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out…you have condemned, you have murdered the just.” The rich who were being condemned were those who were cheating the defenseless workers. The point is that God is not against those who have justly accumulated wealth through business. In fact, he frequently used them and even blessed them with more!
The slogan “giving back” wrongly portrays businesses as one-sided and parasitic. To the contrary, “giving back” happens when you receive goods or services in exchange for money. For example: When you buy a sandwich, you are getting back a full stomach; when you pay for a lawn care service, you are getting back a well maintained yard; etc. Good business is recognizing what people need, meeting the need, and making a profit from the exchange. Booker T. Washington (Founder of the Tuskegee Institute) said it best, “No one who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.” The reward can then be used as the owner pleases. Personally, I know many who give very generously to the community but choose to stay anonymous.
Lately, it has become fashionable to march down the street and hold up a sign against the greed of the rich. I wonder about their true motivation. As Father Robert Sirico once told Dinesh D’Souza, “If greed is the natural vice of those who have more, envy is the natural vice of those who have less.” How about dropping those self-righteous signs and check how much you’ve “given back.” Compared to the millions in the third world countries, you are rich!