This article is the first in a series by our esteemed brother Alfred P. Gibbs. It is his intention to direct us in learning things which God considers profitable.
These articles should be conducive to the deepening of spiritual life, to the control of Christian conduct, and to the strengthening of our personal testimony.
While each is complete in itself, all articles are complementary to the others; to miss one is to miss an important link in the chain.
It will surely be conceded that we are living in a world characterized very largely by materialism and governed by a mercenary spirit. It is a day of “big business,” and of huge combines which employ thousands of workers, each of whom is carefully selected, trained and paid to contribute his part to the smooth and efficient functioning of the whole, so that the employer will be able to run his business on a profitable basis. Thus the words, “profit and loss,” play a large part in the councils governing the management of these combines, for it goes without saying that no business can operate, for long, at a loss.
In view of the strong competition which obtains today, many businesses employ the services of efficiency experts, who are skilled in the fine art of detecting anything that would contribute to the loss of efficiency in the manufacturing of the article they produce. In this way, leaks are discovered and remedied, production speeded up, and the profit increased.
By the word “profit” is meant a gain, benefit or advantage. The person who invests his capital in an enterprise does so because he is convinced it will be to his monetary advantage, and yield him an adequate gain on his investment. This, of course, is perfectly right and proper. It is the basis of all business enterprise. Every firm sees to it that, at least once a year, an inventory is made of the stock and a record is prepared and published. This record makes careful note of the income derived from the sale of their product and the expenditure necessary to its production. The difference between these figures represents either their profit or their loss.
Eliphaz, in the oldest book of the Bible, asks a question every person should seriously consider: “Can a man be profitable unto God?” (Job 22:2). The incarnate Son of God, who is described as being both “the power and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24), and who spake as no man ever spake, propounded a question that still challenges humanity: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Here is a problem that each person is well advised to face, for to gain the world’s wealth, power, position and popularity, at the cost of the loss of one’s own soul, is a tragedy no human language can describe.
Solomon, the great king of Israel, to whom God gave wisdom, wealth, power and glory above all his compeers, turned away from God and plunged into a life of voluptuous and sinful self - indulgence. Satiated, wearied and utterly disgusted with all the world had to offer, the backslidden and profligate monarch confessed petulantly: “There was no profit under the sun!” (Ecc. 2:11). The Book of Ecclesiastes is the inspired record of the working of man’s deceitful heart. It represents the findings of a man of the world, as he tried, but in vain, to obtain satisfaction from all the pleasures the world had to offer. At the end of his fruitless search, he declared: “Then I looked on all works that my hand had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and behold, all was vanity (or emptiness) and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” At the conclusion of the Book he repeats: “Vanity of vanities … all is vanity!” (Ecc. 12:8).
Elihu, the mediator, in a magnificent passage, (from which many a gospel sermon has been preached) declared of God: “He looketh upon men, and if any say: I have sinned and perverted that which is right, and it profiteth me not; He will deliver his soul from going down to the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man.” (Job 33:27-29).
In the great summing up of the spiritual condition of all men by nature as being alike guilty, lost, helpless and undone, in the sight of God, occurs the inclusive statement: “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:12). Every unregenerate person would be far better employed in filling his papers for spiritual bankruptcy than congratulating himself on his possession of material riches, for God has written: “Unprofitable,” over the life of all who do not know Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord. A person’s life, before his regeneration, is written in the red, and is utterly profitless as far as God and spiritual values are concerned.
Our Lord’s own statement as to this fact should merit the earnest consideration of all, for He declared emphatically: “The flesh profiteth nothing!” All man’s vaunted intelligence, his prideful achievements, his boasted superiority, if performed only in the energy of the flesh and divorced from the knowledge of God, is utterly unprofitable in God’s estimation.
Paul indulges in a delightful play on words as he sends a letter to his friend Philemon, by the hand of Philemon’s runnaway slave, Onesimus, who had been converted through Paul’s ministry in Rome. Paul now sends him back to his master with a personal letter explaining the reason for his return. In it, Paul uses these words concerning Onesimus: “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and me.” The significance of these words will be appreciated when it is learned that the meaning of Onesimus’ name is “profit.” Thus, while Onesimus had belied his name and became unprofitable by running away from his master, he is now returning to live up to his name by rendering profitable service to his Christian master.
Paul also realized the fact of the profitlessness of a life lived in the flesh. After a recital of all his many natural advantages in the way of birth, education, religion, zeal, position and popularity, he concluded: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).
The Bible speaks of many things which are profitable, and it will be to our spiritual advantage if we consider some of these profitable things revealed in the Holy Scriptures. God has declared: “I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit” (Isa. 48:17). May it be ours to “learn, mark and inwardly digest” these things which God has described as being profitable to know and practise, and thus be of profit to the One who has redeemed us unto Himself at such infinite cost!