This is a complex ethical question, at least for me. An acquaintance introduced me to an internet marketing business which offered ad-sharing that returned $5 for every share purchased once the share retired. When I bought a lot of packs and received 2% per day ($10,000 investment) it adds up and I reinvested every day which made my shares grow. I checked it out and it is not a Ponzi scheme. Since I do not have a business to promote, the traffic that I am buying with my shares are sent randomly to all the other businesses who are promoting their sites on this traffic exchange – Traffic Monsoon by name. I have to view 10 ads personally every day to be a part of the revenue share.
One day an ad came up for a blog on the Koran, beautifully attractive. I am a Christian and aware of the persecution of my brothers and sisters. Then I saw a video by the owner (who) was raised a Mormon and converted to Islam. The video urged people to consider Islam as the one true religion. I can readily justify my participation because it is so lucrative for me and the money is appealing, tempting – I rationalize it by saying – If I live in an apartment building and a Muslim moves in, I don’t have to move out or if people buy stock, the other stockholders with different religions does not prohibit me from buying stock.
Is it the same thing here with this? I would rather trust God with my future than jeopardize being in good standing with Him. Thank you for your time Rabbi. I am a big fan of your podcasts! You bless my life whether you can get to this question or not.
∼ Victoria A.
Confronting moral concerns when it comes to money is one of the hardest ways of loving God and at the same time, one of the most precious. “And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that “means” (MeODechah in Hebrew) literally means your money, and that the verse is in rising orders of challenge. Loving God with your heart is really pretty easy. You just think about how much you love God and how much there is to love Him for. Loving God with all your soul, well, that is quite a bit harder. But loving God with all your money is an immense challenge. It can really hurt!
People in situations like yours are essentially saying, “I can make/am making much money doing a certain thing, now I must find out if what I am doing is in accordance with God’s wishes. Furthermore, my interest is not merely theoretical. If I discover that the money-making action is not in accordance with God’s plans for human economic interaction, I will not do it no matter how much money it costs me.”
This is true moral heroism. So by way of introduction, we want to say how honored we were to receive your question and how humbled we often feel by the moral heroism of our readers.
Now on to your question: To summarize, you are asking whether as a fervent Christian, you can invest in and profit from a business owned by a Moslem and which provides services to Moslems. You mentioned the business, Traffic Monsoon, so your question is both general and specific.
As a young boy (this is Rabbi Daniel Lapin speaking) I often accompanied my parents on week-long wild-life watching expeditions into the African bush. On one hot afternoon in camp, I asked my father if it would be safe for me to take a dip in the nearby Sabie River. He asked me what particular concern made me inquire. I remember thinking for a moment and said, “Crocodiles”. He laughed and assured me that there were no crocodiles right there. I happily skipped away toward the river when he called me back. “Don’t you want to know why there are no crocodiles on this stretch of the Sabie River?” he asked. I nodded, and he laughed even louder when he said, “The hippos kill them.” I nearly jumped out of my boots. Then he gently explained to me how careful one must be, both when asking questions and understanding answers.
To return to your question, we feel that there is no Biblical problem patronizing a business owned by a Moslem, a Buddhist, or an atheist. If you’re confident of the integrity of the owner of the business in which you want to invest, his or her faith is not a problem. We may not invest in (or own) a business which caters exclusively to anti-Godly activities or caters specifically for immoral purpose. Oregon bakers, Melissa and Aaron Klein, and New Mexico photographers, John and Elaine Huguenin, are moral heroes and both paid a heavy financial price for not wanting to make money supporting Biblically immoral activity. However, none of this applies in your case since even if Moslem or atheistic enterprises purchase advertising pay per clicks, this is not the entire customer base of Traffic Monsoon.
Therefore, Victoria, there are no crocodiles in the water.
But please don’t dive in yet!
Businesses we own or invest in, must provide services to God’s other children. If they do not, even if they produce revenue, they are illegitimate enterprises. There is nothing problematic about multi-level-marketing organizations like, say, Amway, since they do provide genuine services to customers. Neither is there anything problematic about investing in companies that manufacture pencils, porridge, or pajamas. However, we may not invest in or own gambling operations or casinos since they convey nothing of value to the people from whom they take money. This brings us to Traffic Monsoon and a great number of similar operations.
We are not Internet experts and cannot tell you exact nature of these companies, and in any event, they change rapidly with changing technology. However, we can tell you roughly how these work. Very roughly, companies with something to sell, will buy advertising deals from Google or from large advertising consolidators. Up until recently the most popular form of Internet advertising was what were called banner ads. These have now been replaced by deals whereby the advertising company pays a small sum every time anyone clicks on their ad. Note that a click is not a purchase. A click means the viewer has agreed to be shown the advertisement. We would imagine that things are set up so that when you click on your agreed-to ten ads a day, the small amount generated gets aggregated and results eventually in payment to you. Our concern is that the original company purchasing the advertising and paying the per-click fee, part of which eventually finds its way to you, is paying for a potential customer with a genuine interest in knowing more about the product. This is not what you are delivering. You do your ten clicks a day and probably immediately shut the browser and move onto your next contractual click. We suspect that if you click on more than ten a day, your “earnings” increase. But absolutely no value has been delivered to the advertiser. This is not moral.
What is more, we feel that this is a very temporary situation. We feel that firstly, the ‘payout’ you receive will start declining unless you up your clicks to, say, fifty or a hundred a day. Second, advertisers and consolidators will wise up to how you are gaming the system and they’ll find a technical solution that will restore the integrity of the advertising business while putting Traffic Monsoon and its hundreds of competitors out of business. This is the herd of hippos in the river. Get out while you can.
Thank you for your faithfulness and we pray you prosper through moral and profitable investments in the future.
Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin