Abraham Lincoln’s Encouragement to Industry and Enterprise

We find personal incentive and reward to be at the core of Biblical economics and also central to the principles of capitalism. In looking at what the New Testament says about personal incentive and reward, we find the following words in 1 Timothy 5:18.

For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Here Timothy is speaking of financially rewarding church leaders for their service, but the principle extends to all. Timothy quotes from Paul in Corinthians where he references the Old Testament talking about not muzzling an ox. Timothy also quotes Jesus talking about a worker deserving his wages. A clear theme Biblical theme emerges teaching us the importance of personal incentive and reward.

Fortunately for those of us living in the United States, this Judeo Christian worldview was present at its founding and incorporated throughout. Consider the following quote from Abraham Lincoln…

Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently to build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence… I take it that it is best for all, to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich: it would do more harm than good.”

So work. Be blessed. Live joyfully. Save expectantly. Give generously.

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The Ten Commandments for Making Money

At the beginning of the year many of us are thinking about resources to better ourselves. As our regular readers know, one of the resources I use for this blog is the book by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments For Making MoneyIn this book he explains the Biblical Hebrew worldview of making money we find in the Old Testament. If you have already read my book and want to read just one book to add value to your understanding of making money, this is the one I recommend.

However, for the many who will not read this book, I have summarized his 10 Commandments below to stir your thinking for this year. Perhaps one of these commandments will stir some practical steps you can take to change your finances this year.

Rabbi Lapin’s 10 Commandments:

  1. Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business.  Recognize that you are in business, and that the occupation of business is moral, noble and worthy.
  2.  Extend the Network of Your Connectedness to Many People. Only by actively and perhaps even joyously interacting with other people can the circumstances of wealth creation be set in place.
  3. Get to Know Yourself.  Even if you work for someone else, prosper in it by seeking new responsibilities and over deliver to exceed others expectations.
  4. Do Not Pursue Perfection.In both business and your personal life, try to become comfortable with the second best solution if the very best solution is unattainable.
  5. Lead Consistently and Constantly. Don’t try to become a leader; start leading!
  6. Constantly Change The Changeable, While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable. Convert change from enemy to ally by understanding when to enjoy the exhilaration of change and when to fight it and steadfastly defend the unchangeable.
  7. Learn To Foretell The Future. Wisdom is seeing tomorrow’s consequences of today’s events.
  8. Know Your Money.Your money is a quantifiable analog for your life force- the aggregate of your time, skills, experience persistence, and relationships.
  9. Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of your After Tax Income. Don’t live beyond your means: instead give beyond your means.
  10. Never RetireIntegrate your vocation and your identity by thinking of life as a journey rather than a destination.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments For Making Money.

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All Vocations Are Holy

The New Testament is clear that work is a good and godly thing. The apostle Paul encourages work ethic and productivity.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”                                                                        2 Thess. 3:10

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.   1 Timothy 5:8

Work for what you eat and posses. Provide for you family. Be productive. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. The incentive too work and enjoy the product of your efforts is a good thing. The early Christians confronted a Greek and Roman value system that had a low regard for manual labor and the dignity of man. Plato and Aristotle wrote that slaves should do all manual labor. Slaves were thought to be slaves by fate, and inferior to free men. They had no concept of labor or commerce being a virtuous thing until early Christians started to teach this truth.

In the late middle ages, Church monasteries played a role in setting a new standard of work. The Benedictine monks lived by the Benedictine rule, which demanded that brothers lived by the labor of their own hands. During the Protestant Reformation capitalism emerged in a significant way. John Calvin and Martin Luther taught that all vocations are holy. A person could be a priest, a merchant or a mason and still be pleasing to God as long as they were fulfilling their calling. It was no longer necessary to join a religious order to please God. It lifted the self-identity and stature of the common person.

Later the Puritans took it a step further, emphasizing the importance of fulfilling one’s God given calling or vocation. Calvin and other Protestant reformers also encouraged the aggressive pursuit of wealth through honest, hard work. The emergence of capitalism to impact and provide an economic lift to society was an unexpected by product of the Protestant Reformation.

So what does this mean of us? Work and be productive. You have ideas that will help your place of business or employment be more productive. Create…make yourself and those around you better.


Source: Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Value by Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing.

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Compare Capitalism to Driving a Car

Jesus was clear about the futility of hoarding great wealth and avoiding greed. When a certain man asked Jesus to tell his brothers to give him his share of the family inheritance, Jesus cautioned the man about his attitudes.

…life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had a productive farm and built bigger barns to store all of his grain and goods…so he could relax and prop up his feet. Jesus spoke to the lesson of the parable as “being rich toward God”. A disciple of Jesus must not lose sight of the transitory nature of possessions. If one lives only to store up great amounts of wealth, this is vain and futile. There is a luring power of wealth, it is a warning not to be taken lightly.

Jesus also warned about the avoidance of greed. This too must be linked to the principles of capitalism. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being “full of greed and self indulgence” (Matt. 23:25) and “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14). The parable of the sower point out how the deceitfulness of riches can make a person unable to respond to the will of God. The desire to become rich can cause one to veer off course and head in a direction ending in ruin.

At first glance these cautions concerning seeking wealth may seem drastically opposed to capitalism. It seems like capitalism encourages the pursuit of wealth and these warnings seem to discourage it. What gives? It is important to understand the truths of the New Testament must be understood in the framework laid down in the Old Testament. The New Testament does not eliminate the teachings of the Old Testament. Instead, it builds on the Old Testament. The Jews were already founded in capitalistic principles. They were industries. They believed God wanted them blessed. So in the New Testament we find cautions that help to navigate the dangers of the capitalistic lifestyle God taught the Hebrews in the Old Testament.

Harold Eberle describes it like driving a car. “We can compare capitalism to driving an automobile. A person may travel fast and great distances by driving a car, however if one is careless they can harm others or easily end up in a ditch. Similarly, application of capitalistic principles will greatly facilitate the accumulation of wealth, however there are dangers involved for self and others.”  

I pray regularly for my character to grow so that I can handle the increase in resources the Lord is bringing.


Source: Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Value by Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing.

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Work Hard, Live Frugally, Save and Give

Even though the Bible does not teach socialism, the Bible does teach us to have social responsibilities. The same Lord who said, “to everyone who has, more shall be given” also said “to the extent you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you have did it to me.” The New Testament places strong moral values on compassion for the needy.

Thanks to the influence of Judeo-Christian values, the Western world was instilled with compassion for the needy, which separated it from the rest of the world. Ancient pagan religions offered no motive for helping the needy. Romans were ruthless and offered no compassion for the less fortunate. In contrast, the early Christians held to the Jewish belief that all people are created in the image of God. Hebrew society had many ways of making provision for the needy. They gave alms to the poor and purposely did not harvest all that was in the fields so the poor could have the rest.

Christians cared for widows, orphans and the poor. This came from their Jewish roots but also the standard Jesus set by the life he lived, many times interacting and helping the downtrodden. In the book of Acts, the early Christians took care of the needy. Deacons were assigned to care for the widows. Tertullian wrote how Christians voluntarily contributed to a common fund to help the poor. Justin Martyr wrote about collections taken during church services for orphans.

Throughout the 2,000 years of Western history, Christians have been at the forefront of building hospitals and running orphanages. YMCA and YWCA (Young Men’s/Women’s Christian Association) are institutions founded with Christian ethics to alleviate suffering, provide help, etc. Christians founded the United Way in 1887. Henri Dunant (1828-1910) founded the International Red Cross in Switzerland in 1864. Free market, capitalist nations from the West, that have been influenced by Judeo-Christian values, give multiple billions of dollars every year to help the poor around the world.

As Harold Eberle says, “The Judeo-Christian ethic was one of benevolent capitalism. People worked hard, lived frugally, saved and gave.”

Source: Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Value by Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing.

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A Good Question

I received the following question from a friend and blog reader in the Caribbean…

How best can we protect the well being of the disadvantaged under free market capitalism, without supporting some social policies? Harmony and prosperity sounds lovely but it’s not easy to adequately opportune all participants.

The major problems with free market capitalism are greed and lack of integrity, as well as governmental intrusion, not the Biblically based principles of capitalism. We have already spoken extensively in these blogs about greed so let’s talk about the government’s role.

Can governments be trusted to take care of the poor? Their track record is not good. Consider the Roman government into which the Christian church was born and prospered. Many abortions were allowed to take place in the Greco-Roman world. Slavery was legal and encouraged by the government. It was estimated that in time of Christ about 75 % of Athens and over 50% of Roman population were slaves. Much of ancient society believed that the hungry and sick should be left alone. Plato’s statement, “a poor man should be left to die if he could no longer work, ” was symptomatic of the societal and governmental thought of the day.

Thanks to Judea/Christian influence and reformers this has changed over the centuries. Now the other extreme is true. Those in government feel they are the best at taking care of the poor; better than the churches, private individuals and private organizations. The problem with government programs that help the poor is that they tend to keep the poor “poor”, if I can say it like that; and sadly, dependent on the government.

On the other hand, research does show the best way to get people out of poverty is to create wealth. “Wealthier nations are healthier nations,” reported a 1996 study in the Journal of Human Resources. Researchers found that life expectancy sharply increases and infant mortality sharply decreases along with gains in per capita income. Wealth is such a powerful factor in public health that study authors reported that in a single year, more than “half a million child deaths in the developing world” were attributable to the poor economic performance of the previous decade.

So yes…governments have a role to care for the poor, but they will never lift the poor out of poverty. This has been accomplished historically by individuals and groups fueled by free market capitalism. For example, consider the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. They now give close to $3 billion annually to help the poor with public health around the world. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American taxpayers spent $12.8 billion last year on global public health. So one private foundation is giving a third of what the entire US government is giving and with a “business savvy” attention to results that cannot be matched in the government sector.

And progress is being made; there is a significant decline in global poverty. Consider that in 1990, 35% of the world population was living below the international poverty line. Last year, in 2016 this percentage has decreased to 9% (Brookings Institute).


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A Young Zambian Entrepreneur

When I first met Gilbert Mwale he was a student from Zambia studying in Mysore, India and attending Destiny Center Church there led by Phillip Omondi. But he had a vision for business and since I was teaching on Biblical finance and God’s abundant economy I had the opportunity to talk and help fuel his vision for business. He plan was to graduate from college, return to his native Zambia, start a business and get married. He has done all of these.

Gilbert returned to Lusaka, Zambia and started E-msika, an e-commerce company. Some coaching at the beginning helped Gilbert get off to a good start. His company started to win awards and recognition as it grew.

A recent article in the Times of Zambia newspaper explains what E-msika does and highlighted its success: E-msika is an e-commerce platform company that helps farmers find, buy and receive farm inputs in a fast, safe and convenient way and is working with over 2,000 farmers across the country. The company’s chief executive officer, Gilbert Mwale, said in a Lusaka interview that the e-commerce company was helping farmers with agricultural inputs that helped them eliminate the middleman.

Mr. Mwale said the company was helping out farmers to increase productivity in order to improve food security and increase household income. He said, “Farmers face a lot of challenges like lack of transportation, accidents, especially during the rainy season, but our company address such challenges.” Mr. Mwale explained that local farmers who have the potential to produce more food could do better with resource and technological assistance such as E-msika.

Recently E-msika was selected by the COMMON MARKET FOR EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA (CMOSA) as a showcase company with best practices to be a model and present a workshop on “youth entrepreneurship” at the CMOSA regional workshop.

Gilbert’s response to this success is simple…Glory be to Jesus. We keep moving.

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