Increasing Income with Honest Hard Work


I will probably oppose Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” doctrine until my dying day: the idea that God’s providence sustains the business world through the vices of self-interest and competition. The notion that if there were no self-interested business owners competing against one another, then there would be no competitive prices for products nor competitive wages for employees. I don’t question the truthfulness of this observation with regard to price and wage controls. That’s the way things are currently; and any thinking person involved on a sales team can observe that. Although it seems to me, that Luther was right when he said that prices and wages should be fixed by the government if possible.[1] If this were the case in the United States, then self-interest and competition wouldn’t be necessary to curb extortion and keep prices and wages under control. This should be considered the last resort: base human nature operating as the default after all Christian principles have been removed from the business world. Unfortunately, most Americans accepted such a view, right at the beginning of the American Revolution.[2]

The Limitations of Adam Smith’s Views

Look at the healthcare industry: has American self-interest and competition done anything to keep medical bills from inflating to high levels of extortion? Absolutely not! Health insurance cards can barely help to control this problem. Medicaid, Medicare, and Obamacare have all tried to help. If someone in the United States needs a root canal on a molar, for example, the going rate is over $1,000. The same procedure can be done in Columbia for under $200. Of course, Columbia’s economy is much smaller at somewhere like $327 billion GDP, versus the United States which is around $20 trillion GDP, but that could be due to the geographical size difference, the population, and more businesses. The rental prices in their capital city of Bogota are about the same as they are in America, and still: the value of the root canal is such that a dentist can charge $800 less for it in Columbia and still make a profit! Things like that make me wonder about the fairness of medical prices in the United States. Then again, Colombia is a communist country; and their government does place price controls on goods and services. But if Luther’s suggestion were to be followed, then a free-market capitalist country like the United States could also use price controls within reason; and avoid the chaotic hang-ups that price controls have had in places like the Soviet Union: such as preventing certain devices from being manufactured, because a single part was considered too expensive. I don’t see any need for there to be price controls on any of our manufacturing processes, because they are the cause of national economic growth. For a Biblical precedent of a reasonable price control, Joseph probably sold Egyptian grain at a fixed government price during the famine (Gen. 41:57). My personal suggestion to any U.S. leader, if they ever were to support price controls, would be to focus on two industries: housing and healthcare. The housing market has directly caused economic depressions for centuries, in both England and America.[3] I think that fixing prices on rent and mortgages would be very beneficial for any economy. Secondly, I think it goes without saying that literally all medical and dental services should have price controls. Maybe the U.S. government could help its economy with a third measure in the finance sector, by outlawing the practice of buying stocks on margin.[4] But these are just my opinions, informed by economic history: the Word of God doesn’t command these things. Although it would seem to be in keeping with common sense and the Golden Rule.

I think Smith’s “invisible hand” observation only works in some areas of the economy, but not in other ones. Internal competition is an awful thing to consider: how many employees compete with one another to no end, due to the lack of Christian atmosphere in their companies? They’ve been brainwashed to think that the only way to make more money is to climb the corporate ladder into management positions. Woe to them! What a miserable and unstable plan for upward mobility and financial security! They will never feel any contentment if they follow this approach: there’s always going to be the fear that someone more perfect than them will replace them. Suppose some do succeed at this. At what cost? Their souls? How many people did they ruthlessly step on to get that coveted management position? How many people watched this happen? Their integrity will always be questioned, even if they are promoted to such positions, even if they are outwardly praised for their accomplishments. If they go around thinking, “It is better to be feared than loved,” as Machiavelli said, then they will get exactly what they wish for.[5] Once they attain the many years quest of the manager’s salary, they will find that barely anyone respects them, and that it’s lonely at the top. Office politics generate hostility and damage the reputations of these secular businesses, eating them away from within like termites. They are on the path of self-destruction.[6] This nastiness also spills over into family life, inspiring competition, friction, and dysfunction there as well. Dads raise their boys to be “strong” and “macho” in the competitive way of survival of the fittest. God’s not in that. What Bible verse is better for this than “a greedy man stirs up strife” (Prov. 28:25, ESV).

But in other areas, though, such as winning a customer’s business: who can avoid the concept of competition with this? The Golden Rule says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). If we follow this general rule, then we can go about all of our business activities in a godly way: everything from production, marketing, sales, and employment. We would try to keep ourselves from lying, cheating, stealing, or insulting anyone. If all of our business was guided by being nice and treating people with respect, then employees would love their managers and be more productive; managers would love their employees, raise their salaries and give them longevity; and customers would buy our products instead of the other business that doesn’t treat their customers with any respect.

If CEOs allowed the Word of God to guide their business ethics, then their business would become God’s business; and customers would come to them instead of another man’s business, which would really be the devil’s business because they follow worldly principles. It seems natural that if a business treats its prospective customers with respect, then it would be right for that business to be rewarded with the customers’ purchase. But what do the vices of self-interest and competition do? To put it as simply as possible: they make people disrespect and fight with each other. That contradicts the Golden Rule or the second greatest commandment, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). This is where Adam Smith, Bernard Mandeville, and Machiavelli before them, had drifted away from the church’s teaching on economic ethics, which was always to encourage tradesmen to guide their business activity by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments.

Adam Smith on the Accumulation of Money

Once we have disposed of Smith’s “invisible hand” doctrine, then we are left with his still valuable teaching on accumulation to consider. His massive work The Wealth of Nations isn’t completely useless. Anyone who would suggest that probably isn’t aware of the observations he made about manufacturing. This lengthy treatment on the production of consumer goods led to the Industrial Revolution with its massive factories and assembly lines. As dehumanizing as some factory work can be, which Charlie Chaplin poked fun at in his film Modern Times (1936), it was the creation of factories that caused England and the United States to become the capitalist superpowers of the world. The same, however, can be said for Russia and China, who implemented Karl Marx’s take on Smith’s observations about productive labor, and created the communist superpowers.[7] But whether capitalist countries or communist countries are being considered, one thing’s for sure: all of them generated their wealth by producing consumer goods at an explosive rate in factories. This is because, as Smith observed, “A man grows rich by employing a multitude of manufacturers.”[8] So also does a country or a government.

But Smith lived before all these massive factories spread across our lands. His idea of manufacturing was rooted in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Puritan view: that of the small tradesman in London who was an artisan or craftsman, who produced often roughshod consumer goods, and yet increased his riches by them.[9] There’s a certain degree of job judgmentalism in his thoughts on this point: he separates jobs into two major categories: productive laborers and unproductive laborers. The former are tradesmen such as “masons, carpenters, upholsterers, and mechanics,”[10] who are creating consumer goods like brick buildings, furniture, and machines. These manufacturing tradesmen then sold these goods and increased their riches by them: the more goods they made, then the more goods they sold, and the more income they generated for themselves.[11] The other category of jobs were the unproductive laborers, such as servants, soldiers, actors, musicians, teachers, and clergy. Such men are a convenience to any economy, but their income is derived from the spillover that is ultimately generated by the sale of consumer goods made by productive laborers. To answer the original inquiry of the long title of Smith’s book: the “causes of the wealth of nations,” was identified by him to be productive labor combined with frugal saving, and re-investing once again into even more productive labor activity.[12]

Adam Smith observed that riches were increased by increasing the production of consumer goods, which after being bought and sold, and the money then pocketed: the process was then to be repeated on a higher level, which increased the riches even more. Increasing the production of goods leads to increased sales and customers, which finally increases the income of the CEO; and if he was frugal enough to save a portion of every payment into a business fund: he would then re-invest the money into more factories and machinery which would increase the output of his production, so then he could sell even more products, and make even more money. This is capitalism in a nutshell. This is how to increase riches, financially grow, and experience economic growth. Whether we’re looking at an individual business or the economy of an entire country: it all boils down to how many products are produced either by farmers, masons, carpenters, mechanics, blacksmiths, shoemakers, saddle-makers, soap makers, glove makers, etc. It’s the business owners who make things—products that can be bought and sold—they are the ones that grow rich if they are frugal and save their money carefully.[13] Diligence and Thrift (or Frugality) were the names of the money-making virtues that Richard Steele and other Puritans like him adhered to.[14] Adam Smith agreed: he just used different terms: he called them Industry and Parsimony.[15] Financial growth he called accumulation. Both Smith and the Puritans held the view that hard productive work—combined with saving money—are the two main causes of financial growth.[16] One aspect involves hard work at making products or consumer goods, while the other requires penny-pinching frugality, reluctance to spend money recklessly;[17] careful saving, and the re-investing of business funds in even more productive business activities, in such things in our times like high powered computers, software programs, job-related certifications, or other kinds of tools that could increase the financial productivity of your business activity.[18]

Increasing Income by Doubling Productive Labor

But what is productive labor really? Does it have to be confined to the manufacture of consumer goods, as Smith insisted? I don’t think it does. The salesman is not a manufacturer of any physical products, but he does sell the products to customers. The more sales he makes, the more money he makes, if he gets commissions. Telemarketers and other marketing specialists are not product making manufacturers either; but if they work hard, they produce what are called leads for their salespeople to hunt down and make sales. Accountants aren’t manufacturers, but the more they work, the more accurate and plentiful their reports become for their businesses, which allows the CEO to make financial decisions with greater clarity. The same could be said of a janitor. If a company employed a hard-working janitor, it would keep clean buildings; but a lazy janitor will leave behind a dirty building with disgusting bathrooms. Sales, leads, reports, and clean buildings are not products, but to be brought into existence, they require determined productive labor. In a word, the Puritans called this work ethic diligence, which was taken from the Bible: “lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Prov. 10:4).

If a salesman, telemarketer, accountant, or janitor ever wanted to increase his income, then he would need to increase his productive labor: that is, become an independent 1099 contractor, and try to have more than only one job. The Puritans usually recommended two jobs as a healthy maximum, because “too many irons in the fire at a time” can make you neglect one of your jobs and hurt your reputation.[19] Two jobs, however, can give you independence from office tyrants, double your income, provide security against job loss, and fill up your work schedule without it becoming overwhelming.[20] Remember that God’s command was originally for man to work six days a week, not five days (Exod. 20:9). That’s a maximum of 48 hours per week. I don’t mean that by having two jobs a man should be working over 80 hours a week! I mean that the 40 or 48 hours that the diligent man does work, should be filled up with the kind of productive working activities, or projects, that would enable him to double or even triple his income. As far as I can see: this is only possible as a sole proprietor or an independent 1099 contractor: an owner of a small family business (SMB). Ideally, the husband and wife are both working at home. The husband has two jobs, but the wife has only one job, so she is freer to move about the house and cook, clean, and supervise the children with homeschooling. Like the husband-wife team in Proverbs 31, there would be three jobs contributing to the family’s income (vv. 16, 23, 24).

Proverbs on Diligence and Sloth

Solomon could be credited with being the greatest economic thinker of the Bible. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes have teachings in them about making money that have lasted for millennia among God-fearing businessmen: especially about working, saving, and investing: the core elements of financial growth that P. T. Bauer identifies over and over in Dissent on Development (1971). Out of all the people I’ve read on the Biblical doctrine of diligence, the ones that stand out to me as the most instructive, are Richard Steele and Daniel Defoe. They are glued together in their view, that Solomon’s teaching in the book of Proverbs, is the best place to go for wisdom about making money from a hard work ethic.[21] Defoe rightly said that

Solomon was certainly a friend to men of business, as it appears from his frequent good advice to them…to delight in business is making business pleasant and agreeable; and such a tradesman cannot but be diligent in it, which, according to Solomon, makes him certainly rich.[22]

Proverbs 10:4: “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” Matthew Henry, commenting on the Proverbs, rightly contrasted those businessmen who become poor by laziness and deceitfulness; and businessmen who become rich by honesty and hard productive labor. Tradesmen become poor when they are “careless and remiss in their business…nor ever set their hands vigorously to their work or stick to it” and they “think to enrich themselves by fraud and tricking,” but “will, in the end, impoverish themselves, not only by bringing the curse of God on what they have, but by forfeiting their reputation with men.” Also “the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Prov. 23:21). Alertness, being early to rise, drinking coffee, being energetic and ready to work hard, are all needed to be financially successful: not drunkenness, not gluttony, and not sleepiness.

Proverbs 20:23: “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” Alcoholics are not successful; sleepy persons are not successful; overeaters are not successful, or at least are not prone to be, because they avoid the self-denial necessary to plunge them deep into business activities. Gluttons waste too much money on expensive food costs: “he also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Prov. 18:9). Self-denial and the avoidance of pleasure are necessary for success: “he that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” (Prov. 21:17); “the sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Prov. 20:4). The tradesmen who become rich are those who “are diligent and honest, who are careful about their affairs, and, what their hands find to do, do it with all their might, in a fair and honourable way.”[23]

Proverbs 12:24: “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.” Again, the slothful poor man is compared with the hard-working rich man. Henry believed that promotion into management positions often comes after other business managers have observed the work ethic of the diligent man. This was the case when Solomon promoted Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:28). My response to that: maybe this could happen in a few companies that have strong business ethics; and leaders marked by diligence and honesty. But I’ve personally found myself railroaded by two or three competitive sales managers before, because I worked harder than them and didn’t cuss at work. These insecure managers would then target me, bully me, give me a hard time, stop giving me fresh prospects to hunt, and try to make me quit, lest I be promoted over them. Job sabotage and office politics. Maybe in seventeenth century Puritan business culture, promotions for honest hard work were frequent, but how are such people treated in today’s godless business culture! I say, if you find yourself not getting promoted for no other reason than you don’t cuss like other co-workers do, then it is the ungodly culture that is holding you back, and not your work ethic. At that point, the best thing you can do, is to become a sole proprietor, independent contractor, and work from home. Take the skills you have learned at work; and now use them for yourself. Self-promote! It may be that certain occupations could lead to promotion based on work ethic alone; but I can’t say so from personal experience as a salesperson, because sales culture isn’t like that at all.

Proverbs 12:27: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Henry says that the slothful man is also a deceitful one; and he uses his trickery to steal expensive meats like ribeye steak and lamb chops from those who work hard for it by hunting. The hunter is a good illustration of the diligent businessman, who through careful planning and strategy, seeks to hunt down the money he needs for his family’s meal. The diligent man is like the worker bee who provides honey for the beehive, but the slothful is like the drone bee who does no work outside of the hive, but only feeds off the labor of the worker bees. The money that is made by the diligent hard-working man is considered precious to him, because he had to work so hard for it, and had to hunt it down: he does not take his money for granted. Sometimes we call money “bread” in common speech, as in daily bread, as did Henry: “It is his own daily bread, not bread out of other people’s mouths, and therefore he sees God gives it to him in answer to his prayer.”[24]

Proverbs 22:29: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” Henry’s view was that it’s hard to find “a man diligent in his business,” as if to say, do you see any? Where are any hard-working men? If you do, then you have spotted something rare and precious, because many workers are marked by “dulness and slothfulness.” The diligent man is he “who loves business, is quick and active in it, and goes through it, not only with constancy and resolution, but with dexterity and expedition, a man of dispatch, who knows how to bring a deal of business into a little compass.”[25]

The words constancy, resolution, dexterity, expedition, and dispatch all speak to us of a man who is unchanging and unwavering in his purpose: determined to succeed against all odds; being resolved, having his mind made up to apply himself to business success; clever and skilled and talented at what he does; “expedition,” in the sense of doing something expeditiously or fast, quickly, productively and efficiently; and “dispatch,” in the sense of a man who is quick to send a message to someone for some business purpose: he is quick to the draw when it comes to business communications, and he is going to apply himself intensely to marketing activities, dispatching word about his business all around the town and country, so that everyone is stirred up about it, and customers will come to his door.[26] This last word, dispatch, speaks to me as a salesperson: telemarketing or cold calling, email marketing or “spam,” SEO and digital marketing, and other forms of advertisement are absolutely essential to what Henry says about the diligent man knowing “how to bring a deal of business into a little compass,” by using various methods to generate new leads from faraway places, and roping them into his little sphere of business. Such a man will rise from his low position, excel in virtue, and speak truth to power, maybe even to men of government.[27]

Steele and Defoe on Diligence 

Richard Steele’s The Religious Tradesman is arguably the greatest Puritan book on business and economics ever written—the most Biblical book on financial matters from the seventeenth century. R. H. Tawney referred to it as a characteristic specimen of “the economic virtues.”[28] The first edition was published in 1684 as The Tradesman’s Calling, but it was subsequently republished many more times as The Religious Tradesman (1747), which was edited by Isaac Watts. In the Introduction, Watts compared the book to Daniel Defoe’s The Complete English Tradesman (1726), which might account for the similarity of the two books’ titles: the only difference being the word “religious.” If the two books are compared side by side, it becomes clear that Steele was far more “religious” than Defoe in the way he thought about business matters, the word back then meaning a devout Christian. It is completely true that Steele’s book far outshines Defoe’s book in the number of Biblical references on economic subjects like choosing a calling, prudence, diligence, justice, truth, contentment, religion, and retirement. While comparing the two books, Watts first referred to Defoe’s book by saying, “As it is chiefly employed in considerations of a prudential nature, it leaves room for an attempt of the present kind,” that is, a more plainly Christian book on business which guides businessmen who acknowledge that their “depraved nature” is subject to a “variety of trials and temptations from the world,” and that there is a great need for a book on business ethics which is “agreeable to the laws of God.”[29]

On the subject of diligence, which is the primary money-making virtue, Steele begins by defining the word “as it relates to trade,” as a

Habitual employment of our bodily and mental powers about our proper callings, in a just and happy medium between idleness, supineness, and trifling curiosity, on the one hand, and slavish drudging and immoderate care on the other…the good man considers himself, whatever may be his station in life, as the servant of divine providence, and makes the Word of God the rule, and the honour of God the end, of his common employments: he is diligent therein from a sense of duty, as well as from the prospect of gain.[30]

The Christian businessman has a work ethic that is driven by the fear of God as well as by a desire to make money to provide for his family. There is a sense of duty to God and a sense of needing to make money.

Steele refers to the work schedule with Psalm 104:23: “Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.” He is a first shift worker (9am to 5pm), not a second shift worker (3pm to 11pm), and not a third shift worker (11pm to 7am).[31] Police officers, security guards, firefighters, paramedics, air traffic controllers, hotel clerks, taxi drivers, emergency room staff, and warehouse workers might have to work the second and third shifts, but this is not the Biblical ideal, nor is it natural to do this for long stretches of time. David said he meditated on God “in the night watches” (Ps. 63:6). But a man is meant to sleep at night when it is dark, just as his eyes darken when he shuts his eyelids; and to rise for work “while it is day,” because “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). These are the normal business hours. Not only does the Bible point us to the first shift (9am to 5pm) for our daily work schedule, but also to a six-day work week (Monday to Saturday): “six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exod. 34:21).

Other than pointing to the first shift, six-day work week, Steele also advises tradesmen to lay “hold of opportunities,” that is new job opportunities or projects or clients, for “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1);[32] and to pay “attention to little things” that may assist the pleasing of customers;[33] and to make sure that his desk, or “shop or warehouse should be the place of his delight,” and not “the tavern.”[34] Also, he advises against too much Bible study during work hours, as most of your time and attention should be given to your business. Although he says that this is much less of a temptation for tradesman, than for them to go to bars, and waste their time with ungodly activities.[35] Lastly, he tells you how to make money, and with the right kind of attitude:

Let the religious tradesman be excited to the practice of industry. It conduces much (under the favour of providence) to our temporal prosperity: the diligent are usually blessed with plenty; and no doubt affluence is a blessing, notwithstanding the frequent perversion of it, or else it had never been made the subject of so many divine promises; if riches and honour are good for you, this is the way to attain them; for, as there is no calling so great but sloth will impoverish, so there are few so mean but diligence will improve. But whatever our success is, I am sure it is most conducive to our comfort.[36]

In saying these things, Steele shows himself to be 100% pro-business. Although he issues an abundance of warnings against lying, cheating, stealing, unkind tempers, and greed, he is emphatically urging Christian men to be excited about their business activity, because hard-working businessmen “are usually blessed with plenty” and that “this is the way to attain” riches; and that there are few men who are so poor that, if they were to only change their attitude and become diligent in business—there are very few men that such a practice would not “improve” them financially; and would then have more money than they did before, which is definitely “conducive” to their comfort. Ecclesiastes 5:12: “the sleep of a labouring man is sweet.”

Steele finished his chapter on diligence by saying that “if earthly riches do not drop into the mouths of men while sleeping, nor are to be obtained without labour and care,” then we should think no differently about our salvation, which is the substance of “heavenly and true riches,”—we should not be antinomian or slothful with regard to our faith any more than we should not be slothful about our business.[37] If we are active and diligent in our business and finances, but inactive, lazy, and slothful with the Bible and faith—then we are backslidden materialists who have come to place more value on money than God. It should be the other way around: Bible first, business second.

Daniel Defoe’s chapter on “Diligence and Application in Business,” is focused mainly on warning tradesman against the neglect of their shops, against wandering off to malls, bars, theaters, casinos, clubs, and other places of diversion during business hours. Even going to church during business hours was a thing he had seen a couple of devout tradesmen lose their businesses over, because they had neglected their business for the sake of listening to sermons being preached during business hours. In this sense, he echoes Steele who had warned against doing devotions during business hours, lest the customers and business be neglected, and the business goes broke. But we should not neglect our Bibles any more than we should neglect our jobs. Defoe like Solomon, who was constantly comparing the slothful with the diligent, encourages the diligent tradesman to be characterized by a careful attendance and maintenance of his business, keeping his shop with a watchful eye, and serious about its upkeep. Not to do so is career suicide: it’s just asking to go broke. “Drive your trade,” he says, “that the world may not drive you out of trade, and ruin and undo you.”[38]

Obstacles to Financial Growth

Unlike Steele and Defoe who were of the Presbyterians, nonconformists, or dissenters, Richard Baxter and John Wesley tried as hard as they could to remain faithful ministers in good standing with the Church of England. In doing so, they were a different kind of Puritan. There were two kinds of Puritans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the Anglican ones and the Presbyterian ones. The Anglicans sought to purify the Church of England from within, while the Presbyterians were the more radical and no compromise preachers, and gave birth to the Westminster Confession as a more Biblical alternative to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Baxter and Wesley were of the Anglican sort of Puritanism; and with that came a theological perspective which could be labeled “Anglo-Catholicism.” This term wasn’t coined until the 19th century, but it speaks volumes about the theological orientation of the Puritans of Anglican persuasion. It simply means that these Puritans were more willing to borrow quotations and arguments from Catholic theologians into their writings than the dissenting Puritans were. Wesley was even accused of being a Jesuit once, because he preached Arminianism, which was the view on grace and free will held by the Catholic Church. Although there were no hard lines drawn, the Anglican Puritans were usually more comfortable with Arminianism and the Presbyterian Puritans were usually committed Calvinists, even to the point of preaching double predestination.

My point in saying all these things, is to now point out that the Presbyterians have always been the leaders on Biblical economics. They’ve always been the ones most in touch with the Proverbs on diligence, and the role that honest hard work has in making money, under the eyes of providence. If we’re talking about the “Protestant work ethic,” then it’s really the Presbyterian work ethic we’re referring to. Steele’s The Religious Tradesman is the best the Church has produced, and it was by a Presbyterian; and Defoe’s The Complete English Tradesman most likely is second place, and it was also by a Presbyterian. If there was a third-place writing, then I’d have to say it was those writings which were collected into Richard Baxter’s Chapters from a Christian Directory. If there was a fourth ranking collection of writings, then I would say it would be Wesley’s five economic sermons, which I have recently published and reviewed in my anthology called John Wesley on Money.

Baxter and Wesley have some really great things to say about economic ethics: in fact, I’m a huge fan of them both in general. But when it comes to the subject of financial growth, at times they both have a sense of reluctance and even hostility about it; and I would essentially differ with them on some of those conclusions. Seeing that they shared the Anglo-Catholic view and were separated by a century from each another, my only conclusion is that their occasional anti-growth orientations most likely came from Catholic theology. The monks preached of the virtues of voluntary poverty and simple living as a way to deliver the soul from the vices and demons of materialism. St. Francis of Assisi is probably the most well-known advocate of this teaching. A. W. Tozer, Richard Foster, and Art Gish are more recent simple life teachers. Baxter and Wesley had a respect for that kind of thinking; and I think that it has a strength if resorted to occasionally or in moderation, and there’s signs of it in the lives of Jesus and the apostle Paul (see Matt. 8:20; 2 Cor. 8:9; 11:16-33; Luke 6:24-25; 16:13; 1 Tim. 6:10; Acts 18:3).

I personally held to simple life teaching for a number of years, before I started changing my mind about it nine years ago.[39] But now, I don’t think it makes much sense to adhere to voluntary poverty as an absolute rule for all Christian men. Especially for fathers who have been tasked by God to provide for their families, slice up financial pies, and invest for their futures (1 Tim. 5:8). Jesus and Paul didn’t have any kids; and neither did Baxter nor Wesley have any children. Steele and Defoe, on the other hand: both had many children to look after: as did Abraham, Jacob, and Job. Biblical financial growth, it seems, is all based around providing financial security for many children (Ps. 127:3-5). If this is the case, then how the mighty have fallen! How many fathers today view their financial growth as primarily for the benefit of their wife and kids? Other than purchasing bachelor’s degrees for their kids in a very detached manner, one can only wonder. Are they truly nurturing them for long-term financial success or are they only buying a diploma for them? I don’t think I would be too far from the mark, if I said that most fathers today, aren’t much more than food providers and diploma buyers. How is that training up a child in the way they should go, or nurturing them, or admonishing them in the Lord? (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4). It’s not. It’s parental neglect.

John Wesley was totally against materialismhedonism, and luxury loving. He had an extreme hostility for them; linked them with atheism; and issued many Hell-deserving warnings about them in his sermons. Note that he lived during the Enlightenment, the age of Adam Smith and Voltaire: a time of increasing prosperity in England alongside increasing godlessness. The American Revolution began during this time: a war that was almost completely motivated, by a desire for more economic prosperity, through freedom from British taxes. Much blood was spilt over those taxes! If this was a just war, then it’s hard for me to agree to that with certainty, because I wasn’t there. But if that’s all there was to it, then how superficial! Jesus said we need to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). He meant that Christians should pay their taxes to the very Roman government that came to oppress them. How’s that any different than paying taxes to King George?

Today taxes are also generally useful for American society, because they fund Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the military. A lot of our federal taxes have a philanthropic or beneficial purpose: to care for the health of the poor, and assist with the retirement of the aging poor, and to enforce law and order. If a person knowingly opposes taxation for such purposes, then I could easily make the case that they are heartless; and don’t really care about the security of the country against invaders or terrorists. Also, Jesus gives Christians no leeway on paying taxes. Even if we lived in a communist country, which would be a lot closer to the way things were in the Roman Empire, we would still be obligated to pay our taxes. This shows that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but also a man of common sense. The government needs our money: so, its wiser to pay them their due and not quarrel about it; because if you resist, then the IRS will eventually take the money by force.

Today many Republicans and libertarians, with young earth creationist K— H—- as a recent example, seem to think that tax evasion or searching for tax loopholes is a key to financial growth. They and their cronies often curse at the government, talk like anarchists, and say that it screws everything up. H—- even served a ten-year jail term for it; and he afterwards remained impenitent, maintaining his innocence while fully admitting to tax evasion; and speaking as if he were persecuted for righteousness. He should be completely ashamed about what he did. I wonder how many people began to question Biblical creationism as a result of his reckless behavior. If financial growth is possible through tax evasion, then it’s not a Biblically legitimate method of doing so. It sounds like some scheme that the Mafia would do. A responsible, God-fearing Christian should keep a good working relationship with the likes of H&R Block and the IRS, even if it means they take $6,000 away from your income over the course of the year.

John Wesley’s Views on Financial Growth

Wesley lived during times just like ours, with political enthusiasts opposing federal taxes, liberal Christians compromising on economic ethics, pirates plundering gold and silver from ships, and society supporting all kinds of unbiblical economic views, with an ever-increasing atheism and religious indifference in the workplace. In response to all of that, he wrote things that were so hardcore against materialism, like “The Danger of Riches,” that I haven’t found any theologian that comes close by comparison. But even with all of these anti-wealth sentiments, believe it or not, Wesley still retained some of the more Presbyterian views on Biblical financial growth.[40] But even though he mentioned the means by which people “grow rich”—through “diligence and frugality”—he immediately warns of the spiritual dangers that come alongside such financial growth, and says that you should “give all you can” in order to “escape the damnation of Hell.” Here is a sample from some of his concluding statements in the sermon “Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity”:

Why is self-denial in general so little practised at present among the Methodists?… The Methodists grow more and more self-indulgent, because they grow rich…And it is an observation which admits of few exceptions, that nine in ten of these decreased in grace, in the same proportion as they increased in wealth. Indeed, according to the natural tendency of riches, we cannot expect it to be otherwise.
But how astonishing a thing is this! How can we understand it? Does it not seem (and yet this cannot be) that Christianity, true scriptural Christianity, has a tendency, in process of time, to undermine and destroy itself? For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which, in the natural course of things, must beget riches. And riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every temper that is destructive of Christianity. Now, if there be no way to prevent this, Christianity is inconsistent with itself, and, of consequence, cannot stand, cannot continue long among any people; since, wherever it generally prevails, it saps its own foundation.

But is there no way to prevent this? To continue Christianity among a people? Allowing that diligence and frugality must produce riches, is there no means to hinder riches from destroying the religion of those that possess them? I can see only one possible way; find out another who can. Do you gain all you can, and save all you can? Then you must, in the nature of things, grow richThen if you have any desire to escape the damnation of hell, give all you can; otherwise I can have no more hope of your salvation, than of that of Judas Iscariot.[41]

So we can see clearly that Wesley had a very negative view about financial growth. What Adam Smith called accumulation, Wesley called “growing rich.” It reminds me of a book by Napoleon Hill called Think and Grow Rich, sort of a proto-prosperity gospel book on financial autosuggestion. It has a business-centered approach to instilling “bulldog determination” for financial success, which essentially goes back to the spirit of diligence.[42] Wesley said he had observed many Methodists “grow rich” over the course of his life; and that the richer they became, the more self-indulgent and resistant to self-denial they became. His observation was that 90% of these financially growing Methodists “decreased in grace, in the same proportion as they increased in wealth” (1.16). Whatever your personal beliefs are about eternal security and the perseverance of the saints, Wesley’s personal belief was one of conditional security: that a Spirit-indwelt Christian could lose the Spirit by gradually backsliding into persistent sin over time. He believed that growing rich was one of the primary causes of backsliding from God or decreasing in the grace and presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the above passage he refers to “diligence and frugality” or honest hard work combined with saving money in a frugal budget, as the two virtues which in “the natural course of things, must beget riches” (1.17). He says that it is natural for true Christians, or real Biblical Christians, to eventually be diligent workers and frugal savers, and over the course of several decades to “grow rich” over time—which will self-destructively undermine the very faith and holiness that they had in the beginning of their Christian walk. He says there is only one way to handle the problem of diligence and frugality leading to covetousness and damnation—only one solution: “give all you can” (1.18). This Wesleyan economic formula was repeated by him in his sermon “The Use of Money,” where he coined the Methodist expression, “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Gaining and saving go back to the Puritan concepts of diligence and thrift. Giving to the poor, which was also taught by Steele,[43] was seen by Wesley as having the spiritual power to curb covetousness and financial pride; and the only way to preserve the grace of the Holy Spirit in an upwardly mobile Christian’s heart.

Wesley often distinguished a budget of necessaries, conveniences, superfluities, and overplus. Necessaries were things like food, clothing, and shelter; conveniences were things like horses or carriages for transportation, or fireplaces to keep things warmer; and superfluities were seen as luxury items like expensive food and designer clothing.[44] The richer the Methodists became, the more superfluities he saw them buying, and the more materialistic they became; and attached to the worldly possessions that they now owned; and the more they tended to practical atheism and came to forget about God’s involvement in their lives (as in Deut. 8:11-14). Overplus, or in modern banking terms, surplus, is that amount of profit a person has made over the course of a month or a year. If viewed in a bar graph, if the income column is higher for the month than the expenses column, then the surplus is the difference. For example, if I made $8,426.50 one month for income, and I spent $6,225.13 on expenses, then my surplus for the month was the difference: $2,201.37.

Worldly Goods and Philanthropy

Wesley was a radical philanthropist: he essentially believed that Christians should have no surplus at all, that they should always be breaking even, if it be within their power to do so. The surplus category, or the superfluities category, should be changed into the philanthropy category in the Christian’s financial pie chart.[45] They should afford themselves no pleasures. However, this extreme view would be contradicted by Ecclesiastes 5:19: “every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.” John Calvin and other Puritans like him, viewed worldly goods gained from honest hard work, as gifts of God to be enjoyed. But only in moderation. Wesley sought to err on the side of caution, however; and told people to give all of their extra money away to the poor, so they wouldn’t be tempted to atheism by their worldly goods. On the other hand, Calvin said:

Why is a woe pronounced upon the rich who have received their consolation? (Luke 6:24), who are full, who laugh now, who “lie upon beds of ivory and stretch themselves upon their couches;” “join house to house,” and “lay field to field;” “and the harp and the viol, the tablet and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts,” (Amos 6:6; Isa. 5:8, 10). Certainly ivory and gold, and riches, are the good creatures of God, permitted, nay destined, by divine providence for the use of man; nor was it ever forbidden to laugh, or to be full, or to add new to old and hereditary possessions, or to be delighted with music, or to drink wine.

This is true, but when the means are supplied to roll and wallow in luxury, to intoxicate the mind and soul with present and be always hunting after new pleasures, is very far from a legitimate use of the gifts of God. Let them, therefore, suppress immoderate desire, immoderate profusion, vanity, and arrogance, that they may use the gifts of God purely with a pure conscience. When their mind is brought to this state of soberness, they will be able to regulate the legitimate use.[46]

Calvin refers to this section as “the nature and efficacy of Christian liberty, in opposition to the Epicureans.” Like Wesley, he saw the danger of Epicureanism or hedonism among rich Christians; but unlike Wesley, he showed much more tolerance for enjoying worldly goods as gifts of God. It was the immoderate misuse of God’s gifts, leading to luxury, self-indulgence, and drunkenness, which were condemned by him and viewed as woes upon the rich.

Avoiding the Errors of Prosperity Preachers

Anyone who has watched TBN, or religious television since the ‘80s, knows that most of the pastors on these shows are what you may call “prosperity preachers.” That is, they believe in something variously called Word of Faith, positive confession, and the prosperity gospel. TV has made these men so popular that all of Pentecostalism is often mixed in and confused with them. But to maintain a separate and distinct identity, the Assemblies of God issued a statement in 1980 called “The Believer and Positive Confession.” They rejected the doctrines of this movement, which has its origin in metaphysical cults like Christian Science,[47] as being extreme and taking the Word of God out of context. I agree with their statement in its entirety. What they bring out in that statement is to say that the prosperity preachers, teach people to deny the existence of negative realities in their lives like poverty and sickness. Denying that they exist either in thought, writing, or especially the spoken word.

They teach autosuggestion, or hypnotic self-talk, like saying, “I am rich. I am successful. I am healed.” Even though in reality, they are earning minimum wage, are deep in debt, and might have cancer. They think this will miraculously change their conditions. Some of them are so extreme that they refuse to accept medical treatment as that would be viewed as a lack of faith in their confession of positive and happy realities. But this metaphysical materialism is nothing but false testimony and lying. The ninth commandment tells us: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). Usually this refers to not framing someone in a court of law for a crime, such as theft or murder. But false testimony is a false testimony, whatever it may be. If a person is only making $8 an hour, but he goes around confessing with his mouth that he makes $70 an hour—either to others or only to himself—then he is bearing false testimony and living a lie. Not only is he not facing the facts, but he is misplacing his faith, not using common sense, not applying himself to any known business strategy, or any kind of problem solving to really help lift him out of the poverty which he despises so much.

I agree with these people that poverty is a negative and destructive force; and that it should be alleviated as soon as possible. But I differ as to method. Whereas a positive confession advocate would probably go through a series of strange prayers and positive confessions declaring that he is rich, my approach would be to fight poverty through doubling productive labor—not only with a strong work ethic—but by working two projects at the same time as an independent contractor. Then I would save 20% from every paycheck I earned. Then I would re-invest some of my earnings in business expenses which would enable me to either sustain my current output of productivity or increase it. This was essentially the method of increasing income among the Puritans and people in the Bible.

Let’s not only be realistic about poverty, but also realistic about wealth. Setting financial goals is fine. The middle-class American Dream is fine within proper limits; financial optimism about upward mobility is fine; and even healthy. But the most successful of the prosperity preachers are just so, not because of their strange teachings on manipulating reality by words of faith. They are rich because of their advertising through television; and they have seared consciences with no financial scruples. Many, many people donate to these preachers; and what do they do with their money? They buy million-dollar homes, luxury cars, designer clothes, and private jets; and often become investigated by the IRS and news media for embezzlement. They are Epicurean and worldly-minded heretics. Really no different than the liberals and non-Christians in the business world. No different than Mandeville, or Gordon Gekko who said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”[48] They are materialistic and preach that conspicuous consumption is a blessing from God instead of a curse that makes people forget about God. Exactly the type of preachers that the apostle Peter told us not to listen to (2 Peter 2). The Bible tells us to remain in the middle class and to never seek to be rich in the sense of these hedonistic millionaire televangelists:

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Prov. 30:7-9).

Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain

Suppose we remain poor and never climb up into the middle class; and never experience this financial success. According to the U.S. government, the “federal poverty level” (FPL) is $21,960 a year for a family of three.[49] The middle class is generally defined as $91 to $95,000 a year for a family of three; or $1,750 to $1,826 a week.[50] While we should try our best to work hard to better ourselves, we may at times find this more challenging than our abilities can muster. At those times, we shouldn’t lose heart and give up, but be reminded that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). There are too many people in the world, who will stop at nothing to gain riches, and especially stop at godliness. They’re like Scrooge or Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. They will lie, cheat, and steal, intimidate, gossip, partake in office politics, sabotage other people’s jobs, and do whatever they can to get into the middle or upper classes: Machiavellians. At this point, a spiritual vacuum enters their lives: a black hole engulfs their hearts: and their minds become filled with vanities. Things become more important than people. Careers more important than families. Offices more important than family rooms. Bank accounts more important than Bible study. Job titles more important than respect. Restaurants more important than dinner tables. Vacations more important than evangelism. Homes, cars, and boats more important than friends. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs!” (1 Tim. 6:10). That is materialism: financial success and material possessions are definitely viewed as more important than Biblical values and Christian relationships.[51]

Although this is more of a danger for men in the upper class, let’s not be like those men, even by a degree. On the one hand, let’s try to make as much money as we can to take care of our families. On the other hand, let’s not lose sight of the end by getting focused on the means. It’s good to be a man of means, but if you lose your family over it, then you have failed your mission! Evil people and tyrants think that the end justifies the means, even if the means are evil.[52] There’s no justification for evil: and there are no necessary evils, not in God’s eyes! Are you, the man of the house, a provider and nothing more? Not a nurturer and lesson-teacher for your kids? Do you have no desire to help the poor, even though you were once among them? Have you accomplished everything by yourself? Hasn’t God assisted your skills and determination with open doors, opportunities, and favor at work? Hasn’t he made you a lucky fellow? (Gen. 39:2, TYN). There’s a time to relax your efforts and put your focus back on God again. Observe Martha tirelessly working to cook a meal for her Lord and urging Mary to help her, while she sits down quietly and listens to Jesus teach. It was Mary who was commended and Martha who was rebuked (Luke 10:38-42). So also, you would be utterly doomed and condemned by him, if because of your “love of money,” you forgot how to “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).

[1] Martin Luther, “On Trade and Usury,” trans. by W. H. Carruth, in The Open Court, vol. 11, no. 488, January 1897, pp. 19-20. But he usually considered fair market value as the rule for fair prices, and he cited Genesis 23:16 for support: “Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.”

[2] While many evangelicals will acknowledge that greed is a sin, many will still just buy into the invisible hand doctrine, without offering a Biblical critique of it, or holding it up to the Golden Rule. Many conservative Christians automatically take Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as an economic gospel. He is never questioned about anything. If you ever criticize Smith, then you’re labeled a communist or a socialist. Most of this is influenced by a Republican or libertarian political ideology; and not by the Bible. Most people probably don’t realize that Smith was a deist, and a friend of David Hume and Voltaire, who were both atheistic philosophers (Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers, pp. 48-49). In my view, Richard Steele’s The Religious Tradesman is a much better starting place for Biblical economics.

[3] Richard Baxter, “Motives and Directions Against Oppression,” in Chapters from a Christian Directory (1673; London, England: G. Bell & Sons, 1925), p. 139; John Wesley, “Thoughts on the Present Scarcity of Provisions” 1.7 (1773), in The Works of John Wesley, 3rd ed. 14 vols (1872; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), 11:57; R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York, NY: Mentor Books, 1954), pp. 186, 196; James Ciment, ed., Booms and Busts: An Encyclopedia of Economic History from Tulipmania of the 1630s to the Global Financial Crisis of the 21st Century, vols. 1-3 (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), p. 674.

[4] Steve Wiegand, Lessons from the Great Depression for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2009), p. 21. “When the overheated market dropped and margin calls were placed in droves, few people could repay what they had borrowed. ‘Buying on margin’ became a recipe for disaster.”

[5] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. Daniel Donno (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2003), p. 66. “Anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” This and other like statements led the Catholic Church to put this on the List of Prohibited Books.

[6] Art Gish, “Decentralist Economics,” in Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views of Economics, ed. Robert Clouse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 144. While I would consider myself a Biblical capitalist in the Puritan sense, I still feel that decentralists like Gish bring a Biblical balance to the issues of materialism, frugality, simplicity, and Christian community. Decentralists are basically “back to the land” people like the Amish, who believe in rural economic self-reliance, and total separation from the business world. This in contrast to big city office-reliance. Gish believed that competition is not only self-destructive for an individual business, but that it’s bad for the whole economy. He might have a point: take the Great Depression and the 2008 recession as examples. If it weren’t for self-interest, competition, and deception, then unreliable mortgages and buying stocks on margin would have never been made possible. But because those things were encouraged on a massive scale by bankers, an economic depression and a recession happened; and it will probably happen again and again, unless the financial sector is totally reformed. The two main decentralist economic books would be E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful and Gish’s Beyond the Rat Race, which were both published in 1973.

[7] Karl Marx, “Labour, productivity of,” in Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume III, trans. David Fernbach (London, England: Penguin Books, 1991), p. 1073.

[8] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Books I-III, ed. Andrew Skinner (London, England: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 430.

[9] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 434. The Puritans’ “homely and coarse manufactures…must have yielded very large profits.” See Jost Amman’s The Book of Trades (1568) and These Tradesmen Are Preachers in the City of London (1647) on the front cover.

[10] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 449.

[11] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 439. “The real wealth and revenue” of a country is “the value of the annual produce of the land and labor…the sole use of money is to circulate consumable goods.” For Biblical examples, the increase of livestock was an indicator of the financial growth of Abraham, Isaac, and Job (Gen. 13:2; 30:43; Job 42:10-12).

[12] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 442. Business expenses should primarily be used for “maintaining the productive labourers.” If not, then economic disaster follows; Sir Egerton Brydges, The Population and Riches of Nations (London, England: Rob. Triphook, 1819), p. 42. “It is admitted, that increase of riches arises from increase of quantity of production.”

[13] Samuel Fleischacker, On Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 138. “Smith seems to have in mind mostly small independent craftspeople and farmers, not factory workers, when he talks of ‘productive laborers.’” Doesn’t this align with a Biblical view of business activity? Jesus was a carpenter, Paul was a tentmaker, and several apostles were fishermen (Mark 1:16; 6:3; Acts 18:3): almost all of them were independent productive laborers, except for Matthew who was a tax collector (Luke 5:27).

[14] Richard Steele, The Religious Tradesman (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1989), p. 79.

[15] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 473. “Parsimony, and not industry, is the immediate cause of the increase of capital.” Saving money is an even more direct cause of increasing riches than the productive labor of consumer goods. Massive amounts of people in England were frugal and saved their money to “better their own condition,” and this was the main thing which “maintained the progress of England towards opulence and improvement” (p. 446). Lots of people saving money during seventeenth century Puritanism—and manufacturing consumer goods with diligence and thrift—is what caused England’s national economic growth during the Restoration period. If there was no saving, then all the income would’ve been wasted on unnecessary expenses.

[16] Robert Heilbroner, “The Wonderful World of Adam Smith,” in The Worldly Philosophers, 7th Edition (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1999), pp. 63-64, 196; Leland Ryken, “Money,” in Worldly Saints (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), p. 56. The other thing Smith included as a third cause was high population: where there is a high number of people, there are more businesses, more jobs or “division of labor,” and more room for upward mobility (Heilbroner, op. cit., pp. 65-67). London and New York City, for example, are major business centers of the capitalistic West; David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1981), p. 228. “The only hope for the real elevation of the poor is capital accumulation and productivity.” In other words, financial growth is caused by saving money and doubling your efforts at jobs.

[17] Adam Smith, op. cit., p. 449. Smith agreed with the Puritans that the purchase of luxury items reveals “a base and selfish disposition.”

[18] P. T. Bauer, Dissent on Development. Revised Edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), p. 142.

[19] Daniel Defoe, The Complete English Tradesman (Gloucester, England: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1987), p. 51.

[20] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 158-159. Monopoly was condemned but having two or three jobs was allowed: “When persons endeavour to grasp at all the business in their own callings, or to invade those of others, merely to increase their riches; it is too plain an indication of a covetous disposition. In some cases, indeed, it may be allowable for one person to engage in two or three callings; but then a just necessity”; see pgs. 19-20 and note 7 for Baxter and Perkins on having two jobs.

[21] Daniel Defoe, op. cit., pp. 37, 43: both men cite Proverbs 10:4, 12:24, 18:9, and 21:17 in their teaching on diligence. However, Steele was more Biblically grounded than Defoe, and also cites Genesis 47:6; 1 Kings 11:28; Proverbs 10:5; 12:11, 27; 20:4, 13; 22:29; 24:30, 34; and Eccl. 9:10.

[22] Daniel Defoe, op. cit., pp. 37, 44.

[23] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), p. 690. Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Henry believed in honest hard work, or diligence and honesty: the early Methodists were the same way (Kathleen MacArthur, op. cit., p. 132).

[24] Matthew Henry, op. cit., p. 706. Proverbs 12:11: “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread.”

[25] Matthew Henry, op. cit., p. 758.

[26] Proverbs 21:5: “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” Henry says, “the way to be rich” requires that we do “not shrink from the toil and trouble” of business; and that we improve “all advantages and opportunities for it,” and “yet we must not be hasty in it, nor hurry ourselves,” but work at a thoughtful and steady pace, so there’s no oversights. Hasty men will rush their work or will be hasty by get-rich-quick schemes, or deceitful tricks “by which they hope to raise themselves,” but will only “ruin them” (Matthew Henry, op. cit., p. 748).

[27] Genesis 47:6: “The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.”

[28] R. H. Tawney, op. cit., pp. 202-204.

[29] Richard Steele, op. cit., v-vi.

[30] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 72-73.

[31] Richard Steele, op. cit., p. 74.

[32] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 74-75.

[33] Richard Steele, op. cit., p. 75.

[34] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 76-77.

[35] Richard Steele, op. cit., p. 78.

[36] Richard Steele, op. cit., p. 79.

[37] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 80-81.

[38] Daniel Defoe, op. cit., p 43.

[39] P. T. Bauer, op. cit., pp. 78-79. After seeing Bauer’s list of anti-growth attitudes found in India and other third world countries, being quoted by both Gary North (Wealth and Poverty, p. 50) and David Chilton (Productive Christians, p. 219), I began to turn away from simple life thinking in 2014: the main ones being a lack of interest in financial growth, placing a high value on the contemplative life, separation from the world (I preferred working as a nighttime security guard so I didn’t have to deal with difficult people), performing duties without achieving economic results, a lack of interest in job change and upward mobility, a lack of shame in receiving charity from others, and opposition to my wife working a job. All of these attitudes were direct causes of my poverty. If you are poor, then just do the opposite of what I did, and you will be on the road to growth. Sometimes if men are really zealous for spiritual experiences from God, then it can financially harm their families. Christian men should be aware of that. That was me. Balance!

[40] Kathleen MacArthur, op. cit., pp. 96-102.

[41] John Wesley, “Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity” 1.16-18.

[42] Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1983), p. 2. “Bulldog determination” is a worldly illustration of diligence and business perseverance. This is an allusion to bull-baiting, an old English blood sport, in which several bulldogs would try wrestle and immobilize a bull, usually one at a time. People would gamble on the outcome of the fight. At other times, dogs ganged up on the bull, while one of the bulldogs would chomp onto the bull’s nose ring. This bulldog was determined to bring the bull to the ground. Once he chomped onto the bull’s nose ring, he would not let go: no matter how many times the bull tried to fling him off. Sometimes he would be flung off, but he would go right back to it, determined with his other bulldogs, to bring the bull down. This savage analogy to animal cruelty is often used in the business world, to illustrate how sales teams need to gang up on big dollar customers; and close the sale to “take home the kill” for the pack. Sometimes the allusion is to pack hunting a large animal, as wolves and lions do; or to whalers taking down a whale as in Moby Dick. But in Hill’s book, it is used in a more general sense to pursuing business success, despite all the odds that are stacked against you.

[43] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 109-111, 164.

[44] John Wesley, “The Use of Money” 2.6; “The Danger of Riches” 1.1;

[45] John Wesley, “The Use of Money” 3.3; “The Danger of Riches” 2.8.

[46] John Calvin, op. cit., Book 3.19.9, p. 553.

[47] D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel. Updated Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), xi.

[48] Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone (20th Century Fox, 1987), 2:10:00. I wouldn’t recommend watching this without ClearPlay.

[49] The ASPE 2021 Poverty Guidelines.

[50] & | These numbers will inflate over the next five to ten years and more, so be mindful to use an inflation calculator website.

[51] The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House, 1993, s.v. “Materialism.” “Preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

[52] Sergey Nechayev (d. 1882) was an atheistic Russian terrorist who believed that acts of violence and murder were necessary means to achieve the end goal of revolution. His actions along with others led to the creation of the Soviet Union. He is credited with coining the expression: “the end justifies the means.” Many Christians have been tortured and martyred in Russia, because of his so-called means. Written partly in jest, but partly as business advice, another man once wrote a business management book under the pen name Stanley Bing called What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness (2000). He shows all kinds of ways, that managers can advance themselves in the business world, by taking advantage of others.


About Wesley Gospel is self-published in the spirit of John Wesley and the Reformers, as when they used the printing press. The truth of God won't be censored or suppressed!
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