It doesn’t matter how often I invite them. They won’t come.
About monthly, I get together with a group of guys. We do something fun, such as, go to a ball game, play cards or go bowling. I started these outings because I wanted to create an environment where guys could pull away from their roles as fathers, husbands and employees and connect with other guys as humans.
I have over 20 people in my invite group. Each month I’m lucky to get a half dozen takers. The most common responses?
“Sorry, I have to work.”
“Sorry, I’m tired from working.”
“Sorry, my spouse has to work.”
What is Work For?
Perhaps I’m whining because “nobody wants to play with me,” but I believe there is a deeper cultural issue. I hear all the time what people can’t or must do, while the driving force is something unfulfilling.
People make life choices based on their income generation, but rarely their God ordained mission.
Their family rhythms, community and even relationships are determined by their job or business.
Isn’t that the tail wagging the dog?
IF we were made for a purpose. (Ephesians 1:4)
IF God prepared good works in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
IF God promises us the provision that we need to complete the mission. (Matthew 5)
Shouldn’t the income serve the lifestyle and the lifestyle serve the mission, not the other way around?
We’re so caught up in the cultural river of the American dream, that we don’t take a moment to wonder if we should even be in the river in the first place.
When we try and squeeze our mission around the margins of our income generation, it never happens. Whatever is at the center of our life has permission to push aside what’s left.
Does God have permission to push aside your job?
Risking Income for the Mission
In 2009 I was unemployed. I was twenty and recently returned from a tour in Iraq with no marketable skills. I had put out dozens of resumes for entry level jobs without a callback. Finally, I got an interview for a part-time minimum wage position at a local hotel. When asked about my availability I told them I was fully open except for Sundays. The conversation went something like this:
“Well, we trade off weekends. So, you would have every other Sunday off.”
“No, what I mean is that I don’t work Sundays.”
“Well, this is a 24/7 business, so we are open Sundays.”
“Right, I understand that, and I’m available six of those days. I go to church on Sundays and I don’t work on Sundays. So, I won’t be available for Sunday work.”
At this point, I was certain I was not getting the job. However, the manager agreed to let me work every Saturday in exchange for not working Sundays. This boundary played itself out multiple times in my career. A 7-day a week business asked me to work Sundays and I drew a boundary line that was honored by the employer.
I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but what I now realize is something was more important to me than income generation. I wanted my income to support my lifestyle decisions not command it.
God honors conviction.
- Daniel tells his boss. “Look man, we don’t eat this stuff. Give us stuff that honors God and it will go better for us.” (Daniel 1:6-20 paraphrased) God honored him in the eyes of the king.
- Nehemiah should have kept it together before the king. He shouldn’t have had a sad countenance, he should have kept his mission to himself, but he was bold enough to risk his job as cup bearer (and probably his neck) to express his mission to the King. Not only was he honored, his boss funded his mission! (Nehemiah 1 & 2)
- Esther violated her positional role by coming to the King unannounced, because she had a mission.
None of these people saw their role as a limitation to the mission. In fact, they were willing to risk their role FOR the mission. Church attendance, serving at a food pantry or even coaching your kid’s soccer team probably isn’t your ‘mission’. But our unavailability for these easy things reveals how backwards our priorities are.
If we don’t have margin for an hour a week, how could would we ever risk it all to live the call?
Margin, Mission, Managerial Disputes
What does this have to do with bowling?
People are busy. I’m not shaming the 14+ guys that don’t take me up on my invitation every month. What I’m imploring you to do is think about the driving force of your life decisions. Is it comfort? Is it income? Is it notoriety?
These aren’t the things God has for you. A life lived well isn’t one that satisfies the desires of the flesh, but one that walks by the Spirit (Galatians 5}. Living out your unique calling is how you experience life abundantly. We need our lives to be informed by the Spirit. Lives that value relationships, worship, Sabbath rest and creativity. A need for provision should pull us towards God, not towards our jobs!
But God’s provision often comes through work. Here’s how you might begin to prevent income generation from calling the shots:
- Determine how income generation is getting in the way: What are you convicted about? Maybe it’s church attendance, time with your family or volunteering your time with an awesome organization. Maybe you feel a sense of calling, but you don’t have time or space to lean into it. What is work keeping you from?
- Determine your minimally viable income level: Look at your Mission Minded Money Worksheet. If your income was cut in half, what would go? Are losing those things worth stepping into the mission?
- Determine boundaries to protect your calling: How could you still accomplish the work that your employer required and still have adequate income to take care of your family? Could you work four 10-hour days? Drop a day a week or take a voluntary demotion? Think creatively.
- Make the ask: Tell the boss, your business partner, or your clients that you like the work (if it’s true) and you want to stay (if you do), but that there are some priorities in your life you want to attend to. Lay out your boundaries and don’t apologize. If the employer refuses or your clients walk away, trust that God will provide a way.
- Determine if your mission can generate income: What if the work God has for you could also generate an income? Do you have a hobby that could produce income? A career change you should make? Could you do what you do as a contractor or freelancer?
Work is good. God created it because he wants us to tend His creation. But work shouldn’t be at the center of our life. It should be the outflow of our life. When we entangle ourselves in our work to the point it limits our relationships, calling and creativity, we have literally traded our birthright for our daily bread.
God instructs us to work, but he says provision will come from Him (Matthew 5, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Peter 1:3). If you think He is inviting you into something impossible given your constraints, reevaluate your constraints. Should they even be there?
Right now, employees have leverage. It’s a great time to draw some lines in the sand and build boundaries around your work so that you have margin for your mission.
And maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to come to bowling night!
Chaning the church culture around money isn’t easy. That’s why we need to start with the next generation. This six-lesson money curriculum for kids helps teach kids about money without teaching them to be lovers of it.