Christianity and Industry: Seven
IN MODERN LIFE
ARE THE MOTIVES OF JESUS PRACTICABLE
MODERN BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE ?
AUTHOR OF "THE UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION,
"INDUSTRIAL FACTS," "COLLECTIVE BARGAINING," ETC.
The William Penn Lecture of 1922
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
ni Cents Net.
GEORGE n. DORAX COMPANY
POINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I: INTRODUCTION 5
II: TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THE INCENTIVES
OF MODERN LIFE UNCHRISTIAN?. 7
(1) THE DESIRE FOR A HIGHER STANDARD OF
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF LUXURY
(2) THE DESIRE FOR SUCCESS OR PERSONAL
(3) THE DESIRE TO SERVE
III: ARE THE MOTIVES OF JESUS PRACTICABLE
IN MODERN BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL
(1) THE MOTIVES OF JESUS
(2) HUMAN INSTINCTS
(3) JESUS' WAY OF LIFE AND HUMAN NATURE
(4) CHANGES IN THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE NEEDED
(5) THE OUTCOME OF CONTINUED STRIFE
(6) THE POWER OF PUBLIC OPINION
(7) THE RESOURCES OF RELIGIOUS PEOPLE
IV: APPENDIX: THE ACQUISITIVE SOCIETY.. 27
THE WILLIAM PENN LECTURE FOR
WAS DELIVERED AT
THE RACE STREET MEETING HOUSE
YOUNG FRIENDS MOVEMENT
A recent scientific bulletin estimates that three billion
slaves would be required in the United States to do the
work now being done by machines. It is further estimated
that the mechanical power available is equivalent to
fifty servants for every man, woman and child in this
country. A huge turbine now produces energy equal
to the labor of 400,000 strong men.
And yet this generation, which has fallen heir to
incalculable energy and countless labor saving devices,
is witnessing the spectacle of multitudes of people who
are hungry and ill clad. Not only in the backward
nations of the earth is this true, but across Europe there
is appalling destitution. Even in our own land, the most
favored of all the earth, large numbers of people are
lacking in the necessities and minimum comforts of life.
At a conservative estimate there are several million
persons in the United States who are living in poverty
or on the border of destitution.
An official commission of our Federal Government
reported that "at least one-third and possibly one-half
of the families of wage earners employed in manufacturing
and mining earn in the course of the year less than
enough to support them in anything like a comfortable
and decent condition."
Another startling contrast is that between the claims
and achievements of the churches. They claim to have
a solution for all problems of human relations. For
nineteen centuries they have been proclaiming a message
of love, peace and brotherhood among men. And yet
we are living in a world of strife. Everywhere men are
INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
divided" 1 into- warring "eamps. Nation is arrayed against
natia, : ratio Against rac'e/. class against class. Bitterness
aiid"*iaife'df ai'e widespread.
How shall we account for the present state of affairs?
Why are people hungry when the resources are at hand
to supply their needs? Why are the churches so ineffective
in overcoming strife and enmity?
II: TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THE
INCENTIVES OF MODERN LIFE
In a single address one cannot hope to deal with all
of the complex issues involved. Only one phase of the
situation can be considered. Much of the present turmoil
and suffering is undoubtedly rooted in the incentives
of modern life. We should, therefore, seek to analyze
the dominant motives of men today. What are the
chief influences which move men to action?
(1) THE DESIRE FOR A HIGHER
STANDARD OF LIFE
This is a stimulus which is prevalent among all civilized
people. The desire for wholesome food, serviceable
clothing and pleasant surroundings is almost universal.
One of the reasons why men exert themselves is that
they may secure these things.
With a large proportion of the population in the United
States the struggle is for the bare necessities and minimum
comforts of life. Fear of hunger and destitution is ever
present with large groups of people. With many other
persons the struggle is for the comforts and minimum
luxuries of life. And still others are striving for luxuries
in abundance. This desire to raise one's standard of
life is one of the impelling motives in modern life. Higher
wages and larger profits are desired primarily as a means
to this end. Modern industry rests upon the profit
system. The appeal to self-interest is dominant. Finan-
cial reward is depended upon to secure maximum activity.
Each person is supposed to make as large profits as he
can, so long as he follows the accepted rules.
8 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
For more than a century " enlightened self-interest,"
as a consciously accepted doctrine, has prevailed. It
has been taken for granted by most Anglo-Saxon people
that the welfare of all, can best be served by each person
seeking his own good. Edmund Burke once said that
we should be filled "with thankfulness to the benign
and wise Disposer of all things, who obliges men, whether
they will or not, in pursuing their own selfish interests,
to connect the general good with their own individual
successes." Archbishop Whately expresses a similar
opinion: "It is curious to observe how through the wise
and beneficient arrangement of Providence, men thus do
the greatest service to the public when they are thinking
of nothing but their own gain."
The opinion is still widely prevalent that modern
industry cannot exist on any other basis than individual
selfishness. A prominent banker recently said: "I
know of no way of making any human being give $50,000
worth of service for $1,500 in pay. Nobody would care
much about working hard enough to earn more than
$10,000 a year just to see someone else get it."
In our protest against "profiteering" we have
usually failed to realize how deeply engrained the profit
motive is in modern life. Many persons are enraged at
the few skilled workers who have successfully demanded
$15 per day. Just now the wrath of the public is directed
against coal miners and operators. It seems rather
strange that we should find fault with a few workers
and employers for doing the very thing which is most
characteristic of modern business and industry.
The man who purchases a corner lot for $5,000 and
two years later sells it for $12,000 is credited with good
judgment. The broker who buys at 89 and sells for
148 is congratulated by his friends. The name of the
"home-run king", whose salary runs into five figures,
is a household word throughout the land. The prize
fighter who receives $350,000 for a few well directed
blows is acclaimed as a national hero. The movie star
who draws a salary of a million dollars a year is the idol
INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE 9
of the fans. The farmer whose potato patch is transformed
into an oil well and whose old buggy is exchanged for
a Rolls Royce, becomes an object of admiration and
envy on the part of his neighbors. And so it goes through
modern life. The possessive instincts, the desire to
own and to display are dominant.
Is the desire for more possessions unchristian? This
question cannot be answered until we discover the
consequences of having more possessions: upon ourselves
and upon others. Possessions are the basis of culture.
They furnish security and leisure. Want and the fear
of want are deadly foes of the good life. The higher
values are endangered when one is compelled to spend
all of his time and energy in the struggle for mere exist-
ence. Family life, especially, is menaced by poverty.
Certainly we would not say that the struggle of a man
for possessions enough to enable him to support his family
in modest comfort and security is unchristian. The
unchristian thing in this connection is the set of circum-
stances which make this comfort and security impossible
for many families.
What shall we say concerning the desire for more
than the minimum comforts of life? Is such a desire
unchristian? What are the effects of an annual income
of $5,000 upon a family? There seems to be no doubt
that most families could use an income of this amount
to good advantage and would be enabled to live more
abundantly as a result. The question, however, cannot
be settled on this basis alone. We must also consider
whether or not this sum is more than our share of the
What shall we say concerning the larger incomes?
Is the desire for great wealth unchristian? What are
the consequences? For some persons great wealth means
the opportunity for higher culture, for others it means a
chance for riotous living. Great possessions bring larger
opportunities and* more dangers. At this point it will
be recalled that Jesus warned his hearers of the perils
of great riches and spoke of the difficulty with which a
rich man can enter the Kingdom of God.
Are great fortunes a good thing for society? Do they
10 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
promote the public welfare? There is no doubt that
large gifts to worthy causes, made possible by great
fortunes, have done an immense amount of good. In
almost every community there are evidences of these
generous gifts. In the realms of public health, education,
art and religion, the philanthropy of the rich has been
an important factor.
On the other hand, we must take into account the
menace of excessive concentration of wealth and power.
While great fortunes make possible generous gifts, they
also make possible a high degree of control in education,
civic affairs and political life, and of public opinion.
Great fortunes in the hands of selfish people do an immense
amount of damage to the public welfare.
THE SOCIAL EFFECTS OF LUXURY
The point upon which we need to do the clearest
thinking, however, is with regard to the social effects of
luxuries. Does the production and consumption of
luxuries promote the common good? There is a wide-
spread belief that the production of luxuries "makes
work" and "puts money in circulation," and is, therefore,
a good thing for everybody. Is this idea supported by
the facts in the case?
Let us consider an extreme instance, that of a wealthy
man who decides to build a two-million-dollar mansion.
He selects one of the most desirable plots in the city,
fronting on the park. Plans are drawn up calling for
fifty rooms, some of which are as large as four or five
ordinary apartments; elaborate decorations; furnishings
gathered from the corners of the earth; an immense
pipe organ; swimming pool and a score of bath rooms,
sunken gardens and a large hot-house; and a library of
several thousand volumes. Hundreds of workers are
employed for a year. After completion the building is
used by one family, with occasional guests, for less than
half the year. The public is rigorously excluded. Scores of
servants are employed and the upkeep of the place costs
upward of a hundred thousand dollars a year.
Has the expenditure of two million dollars upon this
mansion been a good thing or a bad thing for society?
INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE 11
It has "made work' 7 for hundreds of persons. It has
put an immense amount of money in circulation. From
the standpoint of society, however, it has done three
other things: It has wasted human labor, it has wasted
materials, it has wasted capital. The same workers,
the same materials and the same capital might have been
used in the erection of several hundred badly needed
apartments. As many workers could have been employed
and as much money put in circulation, and in the end
several hundred times as many people would have been
This is an extreme illustration and the number of
cases of this sort is limited. But it does bring out the
social consequences of the production of luxuries. The
fact which should be stamped indelibly upon our minds f
is this: Luxuries divert labor, materials and capital
into channels which are of little social value, and therefore,
raise the price of the necessities of life, thus increasing the
struggle of the poor. Upon this point economists are
In the light of this indisputable fact, the question
should be raised: Is a Christian justified in living in
luxury, at the expense of an intensified struggle on the
part of the poor for the bare necessities of life? Is a
Christian justified in even spending the amount necessary
for his own fullest cultural development, at the expense
of the less fortunate? What are the effects upon brother-
hood of living in luxury while many are in want?
Still another factor needs to be considered, viz., the
appalling human need in other parts of the world. The
obligation which rests upon a follower of Jesus knows
no boundaries of race or nation. The true Christian in
America cannot be unmindful of the tragic need in the
Orient, the Near East, or Europe. The expenditure of
even a few dollars in the needier places of the earth means
the saving of human lives, each of which is of inestimable
worth in the sight of God. Are any of us justified in
living in luxury in a hungry world?
At what point does the desire for personal possessions
become unchristian? This question demands clear think-
ing, resolute decision and courageous action.
12 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
(2) THE DESIRE FOR SUCCESS OR
A second major incentive in modern life is the desire to
succeed, to achieve a given end. This motive operates
powerfully with many persons who have no desire for
great possessions. Moreover it is often the basis of the
desire for great possessions, since possessions have now
become a badge of success.
Mr. Charles M. Schwab, President of the Bethlehem
Steel Corporation, once said: "When the achievements
of my life have been completed and my obituary is being
written, if I can leave as a monument a long line of smoke
stacks and boiler works and rolling mills and establish-
ments, I shall be prouder than of the grandest monument
men might erect in my memory. The men in business
in the United States are not working for money alone.
The chief pride of American character is successful
accomplishment. It may be measured by the dollars
that go into his coffers, but the real throb and thrill of
pleasure that comes to his mind is one of successful
accomplishment. ' '
The attitude of many business and professional men
has been described by a prominent sociologist in these
words: " American men make money as American boys
play marbles in spring, baseball in summer, and football
in autumn. The rich man toiling for more, often is
simply trying to run up a high score at the national
The desire for personal power is closely bound up with
the desire to succeed. Many men are thrilled at their
ability to manipulate things, while some find their
greatest joy in directing other people. The desire for
the success which brings recognition and personal power
is an important factor in modern life.
Is the desire for success and personal power unchristian?
It depends upon the kind of success desired and the use
to which power is put. None of us would say that it is
unchristian to desire personal power as a means of helping
other people. Unfortunately, power is more often desired
for selfish reasons. Many persons desire power as a
INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE 13
means of satisfying selfish ambitions or of gratifying
The wife of Zebedee once asked Jesus to grant to her
sons the privilege of occupying the chief places of honor
in his kingdom. In reply Jesus said to his desciples:
"Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over
them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
Not so shall it be among you : but whosoever would be
first among you shall be your servant, even as the Son
of Man came not" to be ministered unto, but to minister
and give his life a ransom for many."
(3) THE DESIRE TO SERVE
A third major incentive in modern life is the desire to
serve, to be of use in the world. This should not be
confused with a popular meaning of "service" in business
today. The word is often used as meaning courtesy,
thoughtfulness, fair dealing and efficiency for the sake
of higher profits. Many persons believe in "service"
because it pays.
There are, however, many persons in modern life
whose chief stimulus is the genuine desire to help other
folks and to have a share in building a better- world.
These persons are found in all walks of life as merchants,
teachers, lawyers, artists, preachers, scientists, surgeons,
carpenters, bankers, farmers, and miners.
The evidence seems to indicate that the group whose
chief motive is that of unselfish service is greatly out-
numbered by those who are spurred to action by the
desire for possessions or personal power. It seems
unquestionable that of the total number of business and
professional men in the United States, a large majority
are motivated chiefly by the desire for possessions or
for the power which accompanies success. Self-interest,
enlightened or unenlightened, is still dominant in the
lives of most people.
A well known writer has described what he believed
to be the prevailing spirit of the times in these words:
14 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
"Look where you will, it is the spirit of I Myself which is
paramount. Life exists for Me: all the dim aeons
behind have toiled to produce Me: This brief moment
in the eternal duration of time is only an opportunity
for My pleasure and My ease. I care not a jot for the
ages ahead and the sons of men who shall inhabit the
earth when I am dust beneath their feet. Give Me My
Rights. Stand clear of My way. I want and I will have."
Ill: ARE THE MOTIVES OF JESUS
PRACTICABLE IN MODERN
BUSINESS AND PROFESSION-
(1) THE MOTIVES OF JESUS
The dominant motive of Jesus was service. "For the
Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to
serve." "For the Son of Man has come to seek and save
the lost." "I have come that they may have life and
have it the full." "And for their sake I consecrate myself
that they may be consecrated by the truth." Love was
the supreme characteristic of his life. He went about
doing good, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, strength-
ening the tempted, lifting up the fallen, comforting the
broken hearted, calling men into companionship with
the Father. His manner of life and his message were so
unacceptable to the ecclesiastical authorities of his day
that in the end he was hanged upon a cross. And yet,
in the anguish of those last moments, he cried out,
"Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are
Is Jesus' way of life practicable for men in this gene-
ration? Are men so constituted that it is hopeless to
expect them to be dominated by his motives?
(2) HUMAN INSTINCTS
There is general agreement among psychologists today
that the actions of human beings are motivated primarily
by instincts, innate tendencies or psychical dispositions.
"The behavior of man in the family," says Professor
Thorndike, "in business, in the state, in religion, and
in every other affair of life, is rooted in his unlearned
original equipment of instincts and capacities." Are
16 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
these instincts or tendencies of such a nature as to make
the motives of Jesus impracticable for most men?
Among the strongest instincts of man are those of sex,
acquisition, anger, pugnacity and mastery. These
instincts are often expressed in a manner which is anti-
social, but it by no means follows that they are inherently
anti-social. They are frequently expressed in ways
which are of great social value. Moreover, there are
other human instincts which most readily express them-
selves through social channels. Psychologists are generally
agreed that the following tendencies are innate in human
(1) The instinct of creation or workmanship. It is
natural for men to make things. This is as truly a part
of the nature of man as the desire for possessions. William
James has said: "Constructiveness is a genuine and
irresistible instinct in man as in the bee or beaver." If
this tendency is not manifest in men today it is because
of the artificial and adverse conditions under which they
(2) The gregarious instinct and sensitiveness to approval
and disapproval. It is natural for men to desire to be
together. This is one of the reasons for the growth of
cities and the decline of rural communities. Not only
do men like to be together, they are very sensitive to
the opinion of the rest of the group. Ostracism is one
of the severest penalties which can come to any man.
Man cannot be happy by himself. A prominent sociologist
has expressed the opinion that the social motive is "the
strongest that sways us, even stronger in normal life
than hunger or sex."
(3) The instinct of self-respect. It is natural for men
to evaluate their own conduct and to desire to reach a
standard which they have erected. Men delight in their
own skill, strength, or righteousness. The desire for
self -approval operates powerfully in all normal persons.
(4) The instinct of parental love and self-sacrifice.
The love of parents for their children and the willingness
to sacrifice for them is universal. Closely related is the
tendency to be kind and considerate of others. Mutual
aid is natural to human beings, as it is to the higher
INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE 17
animals. The subordination of selfish desires to the
higher good of the group is characteristic of individuals
in ascending civilization. "The power of sacrifice and
renunciation," says Benjamin Kidd, "is the first and
last word in the kind of efficiency which is deepening in
the social era of the race. The progress of humanity,
has, therefore, over and above every other feature this
meaning. It is the epic of the vast, tragic, ennobling,
immortalizing, all-conquering ethic of Renunciation. "
(3) JESUS' WAY OF LIFE AND HUMAN NATURE
The reason for examining human instincts at this point
is that such a study shows that human nature is not
inevitably antagonistic to Jesus' way of life. The motives
which prompted him to action are deeply ingrained in
human nature and are altogether natural to normal
The best proof of this statement is found in the fact
that throughout the centuries many persons have applied
his motives in all relationships of life. This has been
true not only of Christian missionaries and ministers,
but also of persons in many other vocations. There
have been conspicuous illustrations of men of science
who were motivated by a passion for truth and the desire
to be of service to mankind, even though this devotion
cost them their lives. The glorious record of these men
is a repudiation of the idea that the possessive instincts
are always dominant.
It seems strange that there should be any lingering
doubts as to the power of self-sacrifice latent in all normal
human beings, after the world-wide demonstration during
the Great War. One does not need to be a believer in
the righteousness or efficacy of war as a method, to recog-
nize the fact that during the war there was a vast sacri-
ficial outpouring of treasure and blood. In all of the
belligerent nations the instincts of possession were
subordinated to the instincts of service and self -giving.
A stupendous volume of self-sacrifice was released and
millions of men Americans, Germans, Englishmen,
Frenchmen, Austrians and Italians gladly laid down
their lives in what they believed to be a holy cause.
18 INCENTIVES IN MODERN LIFE
The experiences of war-time should convince us beyond
doubt that self-sacrifice is just as natural as any other of
man's instincts and under appropriate circumstances is
absolutely supreme in the average person. The desire for
possessions, craving for mastery, love of family, are
ultimately less powerful than sacrificial devotion to a
At bottom there is no essential difference in the make-up
of missionaries, scientists, soldiers and the common
people in all walks of life. All are members of one species,
children of one Father. All have the same instincts
and innate tendencies. Love is just as natural as hate,
mutual aid as antagonism, self-sacrifice as self-assertion.
None of the motives of Jesus are unnatural for the
In this connection, Professor John Dewey says: "If
there are difficulties in the way of social alteration as
there certainly are they do not lie in an original aversion