It has long been recognized that among the more notable and glorious uses of what is frequently deemed to be unrighteous mammon is for those earthly riches to fund heavenly projects. When one listens to beautiful music or travels to visit gorgeous churches and other religious buildings, one sees the classic ideal of physical wealth being spent for enduring spiritual purposes. Whatever my thoughts about the specific religious establishments for which these buildings have been built, as a global tourist I have long found many examples of religious architecture to be built with a high degree of beauty in mind. It is worth celebrating the beauty of what is created, especially to the extent that this funding was voluntary and made by people whose beliefs were being expressed in the construction that was done, and it is not my intention at all to hold people in contempt for seeking to build enduring works of beauty that correspond with their beliefs and practices, however different they may be from my own.
Nevertheless, just as one can lay up treasures in heaven, where the effects of physical processes of decay do not apply, one can also lay up treasures in hell. This reality is not something that I think is sufficiently well understood, but it is a phenomenon that I have personally witnessed and observed over the course of roughly thirty years now, and it is a process that seems to be far more common than it was when I first observed it. This has filled me with considerable concern, not only because I detest the idea of people laying up treasures in hell who themselves are under the misguided belief that they are doing so righteously, but because its implications are troubling far outside the financial waste that is involved in so doing.
What sort of person lays up treasures in hell to begin with? Let us at least briefly sketch some examples of such people so that we can understand the scope of this calamitous phenomenon. I first became familiar with the problem in witnessing a group of people who had largely grown up and inherited positions of religious authority in an organization where there was no commitment to upholding and maintaining the beliefs that had been taught by the church’s founders. These people had received good incomes in jobs with a high degree of authority without godly character and integrity or any sense of gratitude or appreciation for the gifts they had been given, and viewed the money and power that they had as being something that they were entitled to as they sought to bring their institutions into massive and misguided cultural change. In more recent years we have seen examples like the HR employees or marketing employees and consultants at large companies being miseducated to believe in the desirability of companies in trying to force immoral cultural change on their employees or insulting their customers if they happen to be conservative and traditional sorts of people. Such people view the companies they work for as not having a trust to employees and customers to provide good jobs and excellent products and customer services, but are a mere vehicle for the pushing of cultural agendas, even if they directly harm the bottom line.
This is not only unwise, but it is also unjust, which is all the more ironic considering that such people view their behavior as meeting the highest standards of justice when it fails to meet even the basic rudiments of justice. Such people believe that they have every right to discipline employees and alienate customers for the sake of their own corrupt beliefs and practices, but woe be to the person of a different belief system who would justify not serving people based on their own sense of virtue, who would face legal and other consequences for so doing. Such hypocrisy is, of course, unjust, but if such people did not have double standards, they would have no standards at all. Just as troubling, such people do not at all consider the obligations they owe to their shareholders (to say nothing of other stakeholders) to pursue their own profits, as these institutions revel in losing money that they increase some sort of fictive social credit score (often labeled as an ESG) that seems to provide a counterfeit measure of corporate effectiveness that values ideological rigidity over the pursuit of sound business activities that provide earnings.
Towards the beginning of his masterwork Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith reminded readers that we do not have faith in the benevolence of a businessperson, but rather in their pursuit of their self-interest. What causes people in business–and in authority in general–to practice behaviors that serve others is often their enlightened self-interest that reminds us that we receive benefit from the service that we provide to others. When people look down on capitalism as being mere theft and consider themselves to be too enlightened to serve old-fashioned people in the search of supposedly unrighteous mammon, they end up being less benevolent than those whose mercenary business interests at least allow them to pretend to be kind to people they may not like or respect simply so that they may profit by so doing. Such insincere conduct, as is common for those who must force a smile on their face in customer-facing jobs, is far more righteous than to look down on others and refuse to serve them or seek their well-being because such people are not viewed as being enlightened enough.
The economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out in several of his books that those who engage in discriminatory behavior against others do so against their own well-being and self-interest. The racist shop owner or hotel owner or railroad operator who did not allow blacks into their establishments or consigned them to far-worse second-class options did so despite the fact that doing so hurt their bottom line. For such people, issues of ethnic purity trumped the economic gains that would result from serving customers without paying attention to their ethnic identities. Hypocritically enough, contemporary businesses that have been corrupted by progressive policies similarly willingly (even enthusiastically) disregard the money that they could gain by catering to customers who are white, male, or of conservative and traditional views, instead seeking to pander to small and extremist niche minorities who have no money and no commitment to supporting businesses anyway. In practicing like their Jim Crow-era ancestors, they demonstrate that they have learned nothing from the process of history except the desire to demonstrate their own ideological purity at the cost of their own self-interest, to say nothing of the morality of providing a quality good or service to someone else at a fair price with reasonable good cheer. Instead of seeking to make or preserve treasure on earth, such people instead lay up treasures in hell. It would be far better for them to be selfish bourgeoisie both now and in eternity than being what they are, but what can one do about those who are hell-bent for self-destruction? The best thing that can be done is keep such people from corrupting institutions and spreading their misery and corruption to others.