Clearly, in the biblical system of ethics, profit is godly if it is gained in God’s way. And surprisingly, this means that not making a profit may also be a sin against God, one’s neighbor and oneself!
Adam Smith established by rational evaluation that profit making was an inherent part of human conduct as it worked itself out in the social environment of human culture. What Adam Smith described was actually a traditional perspective of the Reformed tradition as evidenced by Max Weber. This is not only evident in Weber’s analysis, however. It is in fact established by a careful reading of the Reformed tradition’s classic ethical treatise, the Westminster Larger Catechism. And this serves to underscore how an inherent hostility to profits gained in a just manner is actually an expression of the socialistic spirit that emanates from Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
While there clearly can be “obscene profits” under the Calvinistic system, that is, a violation of one’s duty to God and man in acquiring profits, it must also be maintained that profit making itself is not inherently obscene. If such were not the case, the parable of the talents given by our Lord could not righteously include the words to the faithful steward in Matthew 25:26–27, “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest” (NIV).
—Philip J. Clements, Peter Lillback, Wayne Grudem, and John Weiser, “Are Profits Moral? Answers from a Comparison of Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and the Westminster Larger Catechism,” in Business Ethics Today: Foundations (ed. Philip J. Clements; Philadelphia: Westminster Seminary Press, 2011), 160–61.
1. Phil Clements interviews Peter Lillback about the Reformed faith and capitalism:
2. Wayne Grudem begins to answer the question, “What is at risk for business if we lose a Christian worldview?”