Why Selling is Actually Service: a Christian Philosophical Perspective

We all know the old adage: "selling is service," but is it actually?

One may think of marketing and selling as a method to separate others from their money to our own gain. This is a terribly crony way to see it, but we must admit some people do this. If the only reason you're in business is to get money out of others, you're doing it wrong, and we all know it.

If we operate in the assumption that the purpose of business is to make money, than this is inevitable, and we as Christians cannot participate in it. Money is the tool that makes trade possible between more parties than two, so it is a completely necessary part of commerce.

I like to analogize this with 'Settlers of Catan,' a resource management board game. Several resources exist, which are all necessary to advance in the game in various amounts and at different times. One player may attempt to barter his wood for another's wheat, but what if that other player does not need more wood? The first player must find a resource the second needs from a third party.

In a board game such as Catan, the difficulty of the matter is pretty low, but scale this up to a community with real time and energy needed to trade and you have a major problem. One would cart his wares to the market to exchange them for something he does not need, and then bring that to the vendor who does have what he needs, or the chain may be longer than that. And what to do about niche services? Must a farmer exchange twenty chickens for a checkup with his doctor?

Money may be criticized as a philosophical conundrum because it commensurates the incommensurable.

We equate three loaves of bread to a number, and that same number may be equal to a small replacement part for your car. This is a reduction that disregards the varying needs of men.

A loaf of bread to the baker is worth very little on a shelf in his shop—just the ingredients, the time to process them, and the space in his storefront—but it is a day of sustenance and the pleasure of eating to his customers. The same with the replacement part in the auto shop: its value comes from the use to the one who needs it.

Money is not a quantifier, though men may use it to quantify that which is essentially qualitative. Rather, it is a symbol of trust in one's neighbors that they will in turn sustain him in his needs. When we accept money for our own goods and services, we trust that another will accept it in return. We ought to think of this as a 'thank you' which we may use to thank others for their goods and services.

It is the hoarder that misunderstands money, not the one who spends and gives liberally.

In fact, liberality is the virtue that opposes the vice of hoarding!

Back to the idea of "selling is service." If we understand that exchanging money is a 'thank you,' the 'thanks' must be less than the gift. It becomes business when the 'thanks' is greater than the cost to the giver yet lesser than the value to the receiver, and in that way each are in some ways receiving more than they gave.

To illustrate, say the potato farmer gives ten of his thousand to the apple farmer who returns ten of his thousand. For both parties, the ten he gives is worth less to him than the ten he receives but more to the other. Both are better off after having done business. This definitionally good business. We may substitute sea shells, gold, paper money, or digital currency for one resource so that we may turn around and continue trade with the chicken farmer also.

When we aim to make our neighbors better off through engaging with them in business, we are genuinely willing their good, and this makes all good business acts of charity, and all acts of charity are increase to human happiness and glory to God. When we approach one another with the purpose of good business, marketing our goods and services to one another, we may confidently say selling is truly service.