I declined another job offer this week. It would have tripled my market place income, gotten me back ‘in the game’.
It’s the third time this year that I’ve said ‘no’ to making more.
Perhaps, you’ve heard an old adage about how Christians should think about money and Christian career planning:
“Make all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.”
On the surface this ‘feels’ true. It seems right.
But is it God’s best for me?
As I’ve reflected this Holy Week, I’ve been struck, not as much by what Jesus did (though that is important), but this year I’ve been more struck by what He didn’t do.
- He didn’t take the Kingdoms when the Devil offered them
- He didn’t stop Judas from betraying him
- He didn’t argue with the false accusers in his trial
- And He didn’t come down from the cross.
There were, by human estimation, hundreds of ‘better ways’ for Jesus to establish His Lordship on earth. But He didn’t take any of them, because He was on a mission.
I know pretty much at any time, I could pick up the phone and call an old buddy or recruiter that could get me back to six-figures.
But I don’t.
I believe that by doing less, I’m actually doing more.
What’s wrong with Christian Career Planning?
Columbus, Ohio, the closest metro city to me, is a very diverse and transient city.
Ask anyone what brought them to Columbus and 8/10 times someone will answer “My job” or “my spouses job” (it isn’t the sunshine and beaches).
But how do we go about making these life changing decisions?
Even for Christ-followers I’ve found that Christian career plans are often made in a vacuum.
We think: This is… a better career opportunity, more money, more in my skill set, etc… so we take it. We move our family out of their neighborhood, leave our street, school, workplace, and church, for this new opportunity.
How often are we discerning if God has possibly called us as a minister to our neighborhood, committed members to our church, evangelists in our workplace?
Are we willing to make less money, even willing to be in a toxic work environment in order to spread the love of Jesus?
Is it outside the realm of possibilities that God has called you (yes You!) to bring the redeeming love of Jesus to a workplace or business or career that pays LESS than your current one?
But we don’t seem to have a theology for that.
We coach Christians how to get better jobs, negotiate raises and find ‘the job of their dreams’. If every Christian got the best job, who would minister to the people in the worst jobs? (whatever those are)
As Christians, are we career planning to fund, and support our mission created by God? Or do we think the job is the mission and everything in our life is subservient to it?
This isn’t to say that no one should ever take a promotion, or move their family. But is the job of the Christian to get more? To be the best? Or is it something else?
Am I called to give or called on a mission?
Isn’t it interesting that for all the people called to be wealthy business people, that missionaries still spend half of their time fundraising?
Mathematically, it would seem that the number of people called to ‘give’ so exceeds the number of people called to ‘serve’ that the givers should be knocking down the doors of the servants, not the other way around.
I too, used to be a ‘ministry check-writer’, behind the curtain of the ministry, funding it faithfully and proudly with my (for me) large checks.
The current Christian career planning culture, praises the busy bee. The hard worker. The successful ladder-climber. The check writer. The churches have giving campaigns, pastors handle donors with soft gloves, and non-profits run fundraisers constantly.
Go work. Give Money. So WE can do the work.
What if we aren’t actually called to MAKE more money or even GIVE more money? What if we’re called to use the money we have FOR the mission we’re called to. What if we’re called to…”Seek first the Kingdom of God” Matthew 6:33
”Seek first the Kingdom of God”Matthew 6:33?
This very likely involves giving, but it likely involves a lot MORE than that.
Have you considered God might want you to work less hours and make less money to have time to foster a child? To serve in a food pantry? To go to seminary?
Is it possible you are overlooking God’s call for you in the place you already are?
Do you NEED a bigger house or are your neighbors the life-long mission partners that you haven’t even bothered to meet yet?
For me, I’m tempted.
I’m tempted to go make more money because ‘look at all the good I could do with it.’ I’m tempted as a Christian to career plan, with the success, the wage, or the status in mind and then rationalize how I can ‘do something for God’ with it.
This reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha. Martha is busy hosting Jesus, while Mary is doing less, doing…nothing!
But Jesus says SHE chose the better portion.
Are we choosing the lesser portion when we career plan to make the most, in order to simply ‘give more’?
Are we living our calling? Or giving God our leftovers?
As God himself says “I desire obedience, not sacrifice” 1 Samuel 15:23
“I desire obedience, not sacrifice”1 Samuel 15:23
What can We do?
This is a nuanced approach. It is individualized. I can’t write you a nice neat roadmap or chisel 7 ‘baby-steps’ into a stone tablet and hand it to you.
It requires an actual living, walking, listening relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Anything less than that is a guessing game at best, and superstitious ‘magical-thinking’ at worst. It requires thinking about our money differently than the world, and even most of the church.
But it’s worth it.
And we’re in good company.
- Noah spent a good chunk of his working life building a boat where there was no water
- Moses left the king’s household to rescue slaves
- David didn’t take his kingship though it was his
- Nehemiah left the King’s service, to be a construction supervisor
- Amos became a prophet, even though he was a shepherd
- John the Baptist was a crazy guy in the desert although born to a priest
- Jesus stayed on the cross even though he could have come down
Here’s a few things you can do today to start leaning into your mission:
- Pray- Ask God what you’re called to. What’s the sense you get? Even if it doesn’t make sense, write it down, ponder it.
- Consult- Talk to a mentor, and compare notes, often the people around us see the calling on us, well before we do. They will likely ask you what took you so long to see it.
- Assess- What would it cost you? Do you have the margin, the finances, the training to step into that calling now or do you need something?
- Lean in- What’s one simple step you can do that would ‘test the waters’ of the call? If you are called to foster children could you take a class or interview a foster parent? Called to missions? could you go on a short term trip? Called to start a new business? Could you create a side hustle or get a job in that industry?
Christian career planning looks an awful like worldy career planning.
Our church culture doesn’t celebrate ‘less’.
It doesn’t celebrate:
- A church that decides to grow healthy instead of grow fast.
- The cubicle worker who faithfully sows the seeds of faith in countless co-workers without ‘earning’ a promotion
- The Mom who quits her prosperous career to stay home with the kids.
- The dad who passes on the promotion to avoid traveling or moving.
- The family that is dedicated to nurturing the work of Jesus on their street, regardless of its safety or school quality.
And it should. Because Jesus could have ‘done more’, but instead he gave it all.
And today especially, I am grateful for that.
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