Virtues for Those in Business (Psalm 112)
Psalm 112 declares God’s blessings on those who do business—dealing and lending, to use the psalm’s terms—according to God’s commandments. “Wealth and riches are in their houses,” the psalm observes, and “they are not afraid of evil tidings” (Psalms 112:3, 7). The virtues that bring such blessings include graciousness, mercy, righteousness, generosity and justice (Ps. 112:4-5). Righteousness and justice may come as no surprise to us. People want to buy and sell from businesses that are upright and just, so these virtues can be expected, in general, to bring prosperity.
But what about graciousness, mercy, and generosity? Graciousness could mean informing a customer about a lower-cost solution that brings less profit to ourselves or our company. Mercy could mean giving a supplier another chance after they miss a delivery. Generosity could mean sharing specifications with others in the industry so they can make products that interoperate with ours—good for customers, but potentially creating competition for ourselves. Does Psalm 112 mean to say that such things lead to greater prosperity, not less? Apparently so. “They have distributed freely” the psalm says, yet they are firmer, more secure, steadier, and ultimately more successful than those who do not practice such virtues (Ps. 112:7-10). The psalm attributes this to the Lord (Ps 112:1, 7) but it doesn’t say whether this is because he intervenes on their behalf or because he has created and maintained the world in such a way that these virtues tend to bring prosperity. Perhaps he does both.
Then again, perhaps the Lord blesses the upright by giving them a different picture of prosperity. Wealth and riches are included (Ps. 112:3, as above), but the overall picture includes much more than wealth. Thriving descendants (Ps. 112:2) who remember (Ps. 112:6) and honor them (Ps. 112:9), stable relationships (Ps. 112:6), heartfelt peace (Ps. 112:7), and an ability to face the future without fear (Ps. 112:8) are equally important in God’s view of prosperity. Is it possible when we follow the Lord’s commandments in business, it is not only our fortunes that are changed, but also our desires? If we could come to want for ourselves what God wants for us, wouldn't we be guaranteed to find a happiness that endures forever?