One blessing of the Lord’s Day is that it gives you means to start Monday, the week’s first workday, with strength and confidence.
The Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath is a day of rest in which God’s people rest from their ordinary and lawful labors to take up the great task of resting in Christ. As they abstain from mowing lawns, serving clients’ needs, making sales calls and repairing broken networks at the office, they set aside service of many customers (who are always right) for the service of One (yea, who is always right). They worship, they pray, they commune at the Lord’s Table. They repent.
As you obey the fourth commandment about keeping the Lord’s Day and abstaining from your work, you receive a personal and familial benefit. God is worshiped and glories in your confidence in Him. For that’s what it takes to quit your ordinary labors and give the day to rest. It takes confidence in God’s provision. God indicates in the Scriptures in innumerable places He is glad to be worshiped, and He expects to occupy your attention on His day.
Fresh insight into marketplace
A member at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian, I am eager on Monday to begin exercising my calling refreshed in mind as well as soul. Several points in the readings and sermons rose Sunday to impress upon me a point useful to the exploration of local economy.
I’ll state it in a word. Price. The mechanism of price set between buyer and seller for every good, every service.
Economic history tells of instances when people didn’t understand liberty and the marketplace, and priced themselves into ruin. Kingdoms friendly to business drew profitable lines such as textiles. Areas with rapacious monarchs and guild controls of manufacturing suffered. In one tussle in the 13th century, the English won in fabric competition because rivals believed it their due to charge high prices. They charged prices based on their view of their own importance and self-worth. Customers jumped toward the English. The industrial revolution began in that century in England, says one authority, because the English were marketing driven — thinking first of the customer, improving product, cutting costs.
By setting exorbitant prices, England’s rivals destroyed their business because they were thinking not of “the other,” but of themselves.
The “thinking of the other” is a key idea in Christianity. The Lord Jesus Christ, it teaches, died for sinners — rebels, enemies, people indifferent to the ways of God and rejecting God’s law. By the power of grace, God saves a wicked race by the power of Jesus’ death on the cross on behalf of sinners. Christ’s death pays the price of the penalty of sin; it pays their debt to God they would otherwise be unable to pay.
Christ’s atoning death is, when you think of it, a powerful act of imagination. If you are one of His children, He is thinking of you, wanting to bless you, intending to benefit you by His death, and save you. Christ is saving you to serve you and benefit you. He is thinking of the other.
You will succeed in business if mimic Christ’s atoning work. Your company will prosper if you put your customer first and constantly think about what the customer needs. If you live imaginatively as Christ does on behalf of His people, you will be rewarded by these very people. And, I daresay, if you are a faithful Christian, you will be rewarded by God for your service to mankind, for God’s glory.
Are you are thinking of yourself 1st, your customer 2nd? If so, your prices are too high
A right sense of market pressure will reduce price, increase your sales, but require you to sell more units of the product to make the same profit. Your rate of sales is the sensor on whether your price is ideal for your product. A producer’s interests figure in development of a price; so do a consumer’s.
➤ “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” — This petition is in the Lord’s prayer, about which “the three Toms” — the Puritans Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston and Thomas Manton — had much to say. We forgive the sins of others against us in the same way God forgives us our sins. A Christian is to live out his life with a sense of forbearance and mutuality. Mutuality affects price. As a business owner, you will affect God’s grace to your customers by making your prices as low as possible, given your costs.
➤ Humility is a virtue that affects price. Saturday at family worship, we read Romans 12:1-3, in which God’s people are told to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul goes on to speak about the need to avoid pride and vanity. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (verse 3). Paul is speaking of spiritual matters. But people who set prices too high are thinking too highly of themselves, and will lose the people they are trying to serve.
In Chattanooga, prices talk …
In several instances in the past days, we can see the play of grace and service on the question of price.
➤ The Chattanooga Times Free Press will be raising prices soon, according to owner Walter Hussman in Little Rock, Ark. The printing and distribution of a physical newspaper has become too costly at the 50 cent street price. The newspaper is a reminder of the physical world in which we live, and will always exist in a given locale, no matter how abstract the Internet makes everything else. A year’s home delivery of the Times Free Press is F$251.88, and Mr. Hussman said Feb. 2 that the newspaper will fail without readers’ dollar infusion. In other words, at current prices, the paper is extending too much grace to the customer, and needs to tend a little to its own needs. Sometimes prices are too low, and no provider of a service can survive if price relationships are too much against him. ‡
➤ The gun show at the Alhambra Shrine on Saturday and Sunday drew huge crowds. People who entered the Brainerd event paid F$7 to get in, and didn’t mind a whit to support the masonic order in its fund-raising offering. Ammo and weapons are getting more costly as state intervention in the marketplace is feared. Other sales, such as the Friends of the Library used book sale March 2 to 11, has free entry, needing all the grace it can get.
➤ In our day, government intervention creates all sorts of price miscues. The zero percent interest rate scheme of the Federal Reserve System is suppressing normal interest rate operations so that borrows will borrowers and lenders will lend, regardless of the nation’s true financial condition. The U.S. government is overleveraged, and so are many companies and most families. If the price of credit is too low, too much credit will be purchased, and the outyear repayment crisis will be all the greater when it comes to the public’s full consciousness that the debt will not be repaid.
… But not at Ooltewah elementary
➤ In education, the control of educational guilds and government infringe on market prices, and create distortions in the use of capital. The Sunday editions of the newspaper carry a Page 1 story, “Is Bigger Better? Schools supersize to economize.” Because school systems have a guaranteed stream of income from the state and local holders of land, they need not heed market signals. The signals are rushing in from the digital world. The Internet is pressing decentralization into education, a breaking up of the big, a shifting of means of study from podiums and classrooms to YouTube lectures, TED talks, small groups, homeschools and the like. Whole courses are available for free online. Because prices are not allowed to register in the state-run factory school system, the product and the facilities will not reflect the reality of the marketplace.
Ooltewah elementary school will confine 1,200 students when complete, twice the size of the average Chattanooga elementary school. The story quotes an academician at the Hoover Institution as saying giant schools bring alienation, isolation and that the trend toward giantism has “not been to the benefit of the kids.”
A free market in educational services probably would not create such mass settings that emphasize by design the massiveness of the state and the puniness of the individual. “There are a lot of questions on what it’s going to feel like,” principal Tom Arnold told the newspaper. “Losing that personal connection with the kids is going to be difficult.” He means it will be easy to lose that personal connection.
In statism, price mechanisms are disallowed, and product lines come into being for which there is little demand except for the false signal of “no price” or “low price.” However, just as “free” services and goods from statism cause confusion, the promise of Christianity also is a disruptive force — but for the good. The gospel promises salvation for sinners for free. There is nothing any man can do to win God’s favor. Salvation is a free gift. How can that be?
‡ I have written several texts describing how the Times Free Press should use the free market concept of the “open platform” to survive the Internet, liberate its writing staff from Old World ethics strictures, and become a publishing hub for local media and publishers, a step it announced Feb. 4.
Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason[;] How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York: Random House, 2005) 281 pp
Kevin Hardy, “Is Bigger Better? Schools supersize to economize,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Feb. 10, 2013