It all comes down to money
I have argued that value-based pricing is certainly not a case of using a false scale, because any kind of pricing ultimately works off a value that is perceived—and agreed—by you and your customer. That goes for pricing up an outcome, or pricing out your time. It makes no difference.
But you might come back and say, okay, but what about obviously reprehensible examples of value-based pricing? Situations like, for example, pharmaceutical companies charging $10 per pill for life-saving medication that costs them 10 cents per pill to make?
After all, it is worth $10 per pill, because people will pay just about anything to save their own lives or the lives of those they love. The value is there—and everyone agrees to it, right?
Well, in a way that’s true. Yet the customers clearly think something is wrong with the moral calculus. They don’t agree that the value should be set at $10 per pill. They feel grossly exploited.
Surely it is because the value is being determined in the wrong way. Or, to put it slightly differently, the pharmaceutical company is deciding the value of their product based on the wrong goal, the wrong motive.
They are deciding the value based on the love of money, rather than the love of neighbor
And as 1 Timothy 6:10 puts it, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
Btw, you notice that it is the love of money which is the root of all kinds of evils. Not money itself being the root of all evil.
And this is because, as Paul says in the verse before, those who desire to be rich fall into many senseless desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. It is something Christians need to be particularly aware of, because this craving has caused some to wander away from the faith and to pierce themselves with many pangs.
John puts it this way:
If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16).
You can either love money, or God. You can’t do both. This is because money—more correctly mammon, material wealth—is the only physical thing the Bible describes as an object of idolatry. Usually, idolatry in Scripture refers exclusively to worshiping or serving other spiritual beings (imagined or real).
The only exception is covetousness; the lusting after mammon.
It is because seeking after mammon comes from the same motivation as worshiping other gods. It’s all about putting your trust in something or someone other than Yahweh for your wellbeing. This is why Jesus explains the love of money in terms of having a master. No one can serve two masters; no one can trust two masters to provide for him—either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Hence, you cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
So although the contrast I drew out in the pharmaceuticals example was between love of money, and love of neighbor, it actually boils down to love of money, and love of God.
If you serve mammon, you won’t serve your neighbor, because you’re not serving God. You’re not finding your wellbeing in God, but in your assets. And this is why Hebrews 13:5 instructs us to keep our lives free from the love of money and to be content with what we have—because God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. As long as we are committed to finding our wellbeing in God, we cannot simultaneously trust in mammon and place our affections there. But conversely, as long as we trust in mammon and place our affections there, our love for our neighbors will be deficient, because while God cares about our neighbors and wants us to love them, our assets don’t.
To turn it around slightly, the expert on love (the apostle John) puts it this way:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).
Now, with all this said, you might think that money is a terrible thing and we shouldn’t pursue it at all. Didn’t Jesus himself say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24)? And doesn’t God warn the wealthy to beware, lest they forget him and suppose in their hearts that their power and might got them their riches (Deuteronomy 8:17)?
Yet John Wesley wisely articulated three very important principles about money in a very famous sermon, and the first of them was:
Gain all you can
How can that be a wise principle? It sounds positively money-grubbing.
Yes, it does—if you have the love of mammon! But think for a moment about how this principle looks if you set your love on God instead. When you love God, when you’re seeking to serve God with all your heart, you automatically put money into the right perspective. You know that “riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4). You know that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). You know that laying up treasure on earth is pointless with respect to your own life—but precisely because of this, you seek to lay up treasure for yourself in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
And when you seek to lay up treasure for yourself in heaven, the pursuit of money becomes a completely different affair.
In his sermon, Wesley—who was immensely wealthy yet spent virtually nothing on himself—argued that money is a tool that can be used for great good or great ill:
It is an excellent gift of God answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree.
In other words, money in the hands of someone who loves God and serves his neighbor is a powerful tool for virtue and deliverance—for personal sanctification, and for being an agent of God’s love to others.
This is our duty, most especially to our own household and family (1 Timothy 5:8); then to the household of faith, our church family (Galatians 6:10); and finally to everyone as we have opportunity (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Now of course we must be very careful. It is so easy to slip into the pride of possessions. It is so easy to tell yourself you’re acquiring wealth for the good of others, when you’re acquiring it for the good of yourself. And it is especially, terribly easy to start trusting in money rather than in God, because any time you don’t desperately need God you automatically get complacent.
We must all judge ourselves with sober judgment, and work to our own personal limitations and temptations. But the overall principle of treating money this way is very sound. You should not be afraid to gain wealth. You should only be afraid to serve it.
To a large extent, this answers that common fear that “six figures is too much.” For many of us, especially solopreneurs, this is nonsense. Six figures is barely anything these days. Try for seven. Try—but “do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist” (Proverbs 23:4). When you work excessively in the hope of getting more, you neglect your family, you neglect your duties, you neglect God. You start serving money again.
I say “many of us” because not everyone is in the same boat. Many Christians run non-profits. They have to make careful choices about who to give things away to, who to sell to at cost, and who to make a profit with—and how much. I am not suggesting there is a one-size-fits-all answer; nor that all Christians should aim to be wealthy. Far from it. All I’m saying is, if you can make seven figures while honoring God, doing the things he has called you to do, why not? Imagine what you could do with that.
But this does raise the question…
What should you do with your money?
This, again, is where you must work to your personal situation. You will have to answer this question yourself, because God has given you different skills, different relationships, different obligations, a different place, and a different calling to me. There are obvious extremes that no one should approach: on the one hand, giving so much away that you cannot provide for yourself or your family. This is your most important duty, and failing in it through foolishness is little better than failing in it through laziness. Paul does not mince words—he says failing here makes you worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)!
On the other hand, hoarding everything for yourself on the premise that you need to have a “buffer,” and someday you will have “enough” to serve others is obviously just as faithless, just as unvirtuous.
There is virtue in living more humbly than you could, in order to help others less fortunate than yourself.
But at the same time, don’t forget that the most righteous man in the world was also the most wealthy (Job 1:2; 8).
In other words, God gives us a broad range of options for how we use our money; how much we choose to enjoy the blessings ourselves, and how much we choose to help others. He trusts us to follow our consciences and be alert to the needs of others that he places before us. For example, although Job was fabulously wealthy and his family enjoyed a lifestyle that included feasts that lasted for days (Job 1:4), he was also a father to the fatherless, a guide to the widow, and held nothing back from the poor (Job 29:11-20; 31:16-22). He did not consider his life to consist in the abundance of his possessions, but freely confessed that, as he came into the world naked, so also he would take nothing with him when he left it (Job 1:21).
Put simply, he felt only gratitude for what God had given him—not guilt. He was working with the principle of serving others, which presupposes that you’re serving God. The same principle I suggest should guide us in marketing.
Funny how all these complicated, stomach-twisting questions are ultimately answered by a very simple, very practical guideline. (I said simple, not easy!)
Hopefully you now have some clarity about what your attitude to money should be—and thus what your attitude to pricing and value and work hours and all kinds of other things that hover in the background of that discussion should be too. But to close out this topic, let me leave you with my favorite passage about what a practical Christian attitude to money should be—Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, and notice how the theme of giving and sharing is implicit, as well as the balance between the good and evil of wealth:
Whoever loves money is not satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth never has enough. This also is vanity! When you gain more, more people help you spend it. So you gain nothing, except to see your wealth before it is spent. The sleep of the laborer is pleasant, whether he eats little or much, but the wealth of the rich man does not allow him to rest. There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: wealth hoarded by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture. Although he has borne a child, he has nothing to leave to him. Just as he came from his mother’s womb naked, so he will depart; he will take nothing with him for his toil. This also is a grievous illness. Exactly as he came, so he will go. What profit does he gain for all his toil for the wind? Now he eats under a cloud all his days; he is frustrated in much sickness and resentment.
Look! I have discovered what is good and fitting: to eat and to drink and to enjoy all the fruit of the labor with which one toils under the sun during the short days God gives to his life—for this is his lot. And indeed it is a gift of God that another receives wealth and possessions from God, who also gives him health to enjoy them, to accept his lot, and to rejoice in the fruit of his labor. For he does not remember the brief days of his life, for God keeps his heart preoccupied with enjoyment of life.
Next: being openly Christian in your work