Christians are encouraged to give donations and free items to the needy.

But why are Bibles sometimes sold for profit, instead of being sold at cost-price, at a subsidized price, or even for free?

  • 1
    This Christian Commons (free ebook) gives some history and background on how Bible publishing got to be the way it is and outlines what some of us think should be done about it. I highly recommend the read for anyone thinking about this issue.
    – Caleb
    Apr 15 '14 at 7:48
  • Are you sure that Bibles are sold at a profit, rather than simply being sold at a price that covers their costs? Apr 15 '14 at 15:37
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    Not all Bibles are even sold, let alone for a profit. The Gideons International is an organization that exists to give away Bibles. Bibles Unbound is another program that exists to give away Bibles all over the world. Many organizations print Bibles to give away. There is also a market for them in the Christian world, so some are sold for a profit. However, it's all a matter of supply and demand. Bibles on the black market in Soviet Russia sold for a mint. I'm not sure this question is appropriate, though, as it ignores the fact that many Bibles are not sold at all.
    – Narnian
    Apr 15 '14 at 20:37
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about business practices, not about Christianity.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 16 '14 at 3:26

Because Bible publishers, like everyone else, must make a living, so they can pay their mortgages, buy groceries, and put the children through college.

It's the same reason pastors and missionaries are paid salaries.

  • Also wanted to add, the profit margin you are talking about is not always kept by the organization or the business itself. They are widely distributed to help the poor and fund many developments that aim to improve the daily lives of the unfortunates.
    – roosevelt
    Apr 18 '14 at 17:36

1st Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

The famous passage about reaping what you sow comes in the same type of context, one about making sure to pay those who teach the word:

Galatians 6:6-7 Let him that is taught in the word communicate [i.e. Elizabethan English for "share"] unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

As used there, "you reap what you sow" basically means you get what you pay for. If you are too stingy to pay for a Bible, then good translators shy away from the work and you only get crappy translations. Or similarly, if good preachers can't make a living at it, they enter secular employment, and what are you left with? That's the argument Paul is making anyway, whether you agree or not.

Now, of course, a key word in your question is sometimes:

But why are Bibles sometimes sold for profit...

There are organizations that give them away for free too, so what are you complaining about? Not only that, but I was at Lifeway Christian bookstore the other day, and although there are plenty of Bibles priced $10 and up, there were also many rather cheap, and not too bad of quality. They had rows upon rows of a pocket paperback New Testament in the Holman Christian Standard translation for just 50 cents, and a paperback HCSB full Bible for $2.99 (but without the translator's footnotes).


I'm not extremely familiar with the bible business, but of course the scriptures are always an authority on these things.

I'll simply paraphrase:

The Apostle Paul earned his own living making tents, if I'm not mistaken. He had hoped that his self-sustaining habits would make his ministry more fruitful.

1 Corinthians 9:17-18

However those who choose to receive some dues for their ministry are also entitled to a degree, so their time is better spent attending to the ministry, as opposed to mopping floors.

Then there is the other extreme, the very familiar story where Jesus had strongly condemned the money changers in the temple for turning the sacred work into a business of extortion (also prevalent in our world)


Anything is sold at a profit because it can be. Supply and demand.

Also, many ministries (although not all) have international outreaches to countries very impoverished, so they use the profits they make in the USA and other developed countries to pay the costs of publishing and printing the books in other languages of impoverished countries. Those international outreaches often get the book or workbooks for free, or nearly free, to spread the gospel into all the world. It makes sense, and it helps me to know this when I see the rather inflated prices of many things in the Christian bookstores here in the USA. I know John Bevere Ministries does this for a fact.

Those who have more pay more and support those who can't afford to pay at all.

  • You need references.
    – Double U
    Apr 15 '14 at 20:34

Perhaps an viable reason for this is that there are various types of bibles for specific purposes, examples being bibles for mass, and youth study. (see reference here)

Each of these bibles is produced by a company and may include extra hints/tips in order to live out the bible. While words may vary between translations, so do the extras that are included in these bibles. As Flimzy said:

"publishers, like everyone else, must make a living, so they can pay their mortgages, buy groceries, and put the children through college."

The people who edit and help us understand the Bible more clearly deserve a salary.

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