R&L: What is the connection, in your opinion, between religion and economics?
Templeton: Economic systems based on atheism have failed. Religion teaches the infinite worth of each individual. Religion causes each individual to want to serve others. An increasing part of God’s ongoing creative process is to encourage each individual to be purposeful and creative. The free market system removes limitations and thereby encourages amazing and increasingly varied forms of creativity. Religion teaches love and brotherhood and truth and diligence which tend to cause accelerating creativity and productivity. Fortunes built on force or on inheritance can be harmful; but fortunes built on superior service are beneficial to rich and poor alike.
R&L: As a Christian and successful businessman and entrepreneur, how do you apply Gospel principles within the free market system? Is there a relationship to being a successful entrepreneur and a faithful Christian? Or are these irreconcilable?
Templeton: The parable of the talents tells us we should use to the utmost whatever talents the Lord has given to us. This is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs find better and better ways to produce and to serve. Just as the priesthood is a faithful Christian ministry, so too is every useful occupation.
Business management is the ministry of prosperity and such ministry flourishes within the free market system. Gospel principles teach honesty, faithfulness, peace, patience and service to others. These principles flourish in the free market system and these principles bring happiness, prosperity and spiritual growth.
R&L: You have contended that the most successful people are often the most religiously motivated. What is the connection in your mind?
Templeton: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things will be added unto you.” The basic principles of life taught in the great religions lead to high ethical principles. Clients and customers prefer to go to persons with high ethical principles whom they can trust.
R&L: How do you contrast the motive toward productivity with greed?
Templeton: Greed is trying to take from others. Productivity is trying to give to others. The Communist system focuses on how to divide up the pie and assumes that a person gains prosperity by taking from others. The free market system emphasizes the effort to multiply the pies so that everyone has a big slice. It has been estimated that the production of goods and services in the western world is now more than one hundred times as great as it was when Adam Smith wrote his great book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In America even the unemployed now have a multitude of goods and services undreamed of by noblemen centuries ago. The quality of life and the quantity of knowledge has multiplied even more rapidly than the production of goods. It has been said that over sixty-five percent of all the people who ever lived beyond the age of sixty-five are alive today.
R&L: A principal dimension of a market economy is competition. How do you respond to the charge that competitiveness is inconsistent with Christianity?
Templeton: Some Christian ministers focus on dividing the pie rather than multiplying the pie. Subconsciously they assume that prosperity for one causes poverty for another, whereas in truth the abundance of God is so infinite that prosperity for one automatically increases the prosperity for all. Competition is not one person stepping on another. Competition is each person trying to produce more and more goods and services with lower costs, higher quality and greater variety. Competition is not a win-lose game but rather a win-win game. The diligence of one competitor produces diligence in other competitors. Helping others enables them to help others. It has been well said that if you give a man a fish he will be hungry again tomorrow, but if you teach him to fish he becomes prosperous and teaches others to fish.
R&L: A number of chapter titles in your book, The Templeton Plan, contain paradoxes, such as “Helping Yourself by Helping others,” and “Winning through Humility.” Please explain.
Templeton: Common sense will tell you that humility brings a desire for learning and improving – including improving in spiritual growth. The sin of pride, however, tends to close doors. The person who already thinks he knows it all is not likely to learn much more. Humility is especially rewarding when it is humility toward God. When you humbly admit that no human has ever known more than a tiny bit of the infinity and eternity of God, then you desire and seek to learn more. When you humbly admit that God is making available to you his infinite knowledge and love, then you want to become a clear and open channel to radiate this knowledge and love to others. Love shrinks when hoarded but multiplies when given away
People who are overwhelmingly grateful every day for their multitudes of blessings feel a desire to help others. When you are diligently trying to help others – not only by producing goods and services but also by radiating love and knowledge – then, without any intention on your part, others will be attracted to you and you too will grow in prosperity and happiness.
R&L: Does government have a role in seeing that social justice is not sacrificed to unbridled competition and self-interest as many Christian social activists argue?
Templeton: Police are needed and should be honored. Those who risk their lives in defense forces are needed and should be honored. Courts are needed. Laws are needed. Governments are needed for those basic purposes which set the framework in which competition can be more productive than it would be under anarchy. However, in most nations in history, creativity and productivity have been stifled by the too heavy hand of government regulations and bureaucracy. Sometimes social activists are unconsciously promoting the sin of envy and covetousness. When you limit too much the freedom of an individual you thereby diminish the creativity and productivity which benefits everyone – including the poor. Voluntary charity inspired by religion and compulsory charity based on taxes are both needed in order to help those who are weak in body and mind. It is clear that God did not create all his children equal and it is the duty of the strong to help the weak. However, such help should not have the effect of creating dependency, but rather creating opportunities for the weak and handicapped to become part of the productive process. The greatest gift you can give to another is to help him also to become a giver.
R&L: What is the most positive role religious leaders can play in bringing about a lasting moral, economic and political social order?
Templeton: Religious leaders have the most powerful tools on earth – love and prayer. Religious leaders are needed to help themselves and others to grow in the knowledge and love of God. They can help both students and adults to learn the basic laws of life which lead to usefulness, happiness and freedom for individuals. The reputation of religious leaders has been diminished when they pretend to be knowledgeable in economics and politics rather than in spiritual growth and the spiritual laws of life. When a religious leader can help his people to be overwhelmingly grateful every day for their multiplying multitudes of blessings then those people will work in economics and politics to bring more and more blessings for others in terms of productivity, freedom, happiness and spiritual growth. Some say a major reason why older church denominations have been losing in members, resources and reputation is that some leaders, especially in headquarters, began over fifty years ago to place their ultimate trust in humanism as expressed in force and government; whereas many newer churches are spirit filled and wholeheartedly place their trust in God as expressed in prayer and love.