How can I serve God if I work for money?
My personality favors absolutes. I either want to be all-in or abstain completely. It’s the messy middle-ground where sin breeds. And that’s where money lives.
It is both a blessing and a curse. It is a limiting factor and a crushing burden.
It changes lives. That is why I chase it as a god.
Even as sit down to write these thoughts, money beckons me.
I no longer strive to be rich; by God’s grace that piece of my sinful heart died years ago. I actually refused to buy a Powerball ticket because I didn’t want to win.
But the trouble is, I am already rich.
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is enough.” – Wess Stafford.
I am constantly in pursuit of enough, and it is an ever-changing entity. It has changed from “enough to make rent,” to “enough for the down payment,” to “enough for financial freedom,” which I define as the ability to live comfortably without a full-time job.
Enough is never enough.
So I guard my excess and call my selfishness prudence. It’s not that I don’t give, I do. I just don’t give enough. Because enough is never enough.
Sometimes I feel like the rich young ruler who met Jesus. He asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus, knowing his heart replied “sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Then follow me.”
And he walked away from the Savior of the world because he loved his possessions more.
Of course God isn’t asking this of me, but He is asking me to discern my heart. Scripture is filled with warnings of the detriment of chasing money:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10
“As for the seed that was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:22
The pursuit of money leads us to an unfruitful life. And Jesus taught that a life that does not bear fruit will be pruned and cast into the fire.
We must fight against these thorns! The truth becomes our gardening shears to sever the brambles and reach for the light.
Here are 3 practical ways God is teaching me to resist the urge to chase money:
1. Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God
Cook for the glory of God. Deliver mail for the glory of God. Sell people homes for the glory of God. Wipe baby bottoms for the glory of God. Commute for the glory of God. Nurse the sick for the glory of God. Write blog posts for the glory of God. Design products for the glory of God.
Throughout college, I struggled with how my career plan was going to fit into God’s plan for my life. Of course that thinking is completely backwards. My plans don’t have to fit into God’s. I thought it couldn’t be possible that God wanted me to be an engineer. What a strange career path for a believer! But of course He knew better.
Even in college, I was called to be a light where I was placed. In physics classes, when everyone around me was shouting “We understand it all!” “Science and creation are incompatible!” “We used to think but now we know!” I had an amazing opportunity to share my faith, from an intellectual level. It became so clear to me that God and science are fully compatible, because science, at its simplest level, is the study of God. And I hope that my words softened some of my genius peers’ hearts.
Now I serve God in a different way, through my job. At first I kept my God-life and work-life separate, but when God asks for your whole life, there’s no holding back. So I serve Him at work as best as I can. I am reminded of a certain customer of mine.
This gentleman is the nicest guy you will ever meet, genuine to the core, constantly smiling, but he does not understand a darn thing about engineering–even things that many people would find to be common sense. He asks questions that I can’t even begin to answer, like “isn’t foam the same as rubber?” He asks me to explain things in mind-boggling simplicity with pictures and objects. And he has been turned away, scorned, and mocked by countless other engineering firms.
But I do not turn him away. I meet with him and try to be patient, and he has taught me so much. He has taught me how to pursue something you don’t understand, just because you want to help people. That is his only goal. And he has taught me to keep that as my goal as well. When it’s about working for people and not money, God is glorified.
And in serving the least of these, I am serving the Lord.
2. Spend as if all is a gift
We look up to missionaries as “super-believers,” those willing to give up life and health and family and home to serve the Lord. And we give money to support them, since they are doing God’s work for free. It just makes sense.
Now, say, you were sponsoring a missionary. You give a portion of your hard-earned money to them every month, so your hard work is furthering the Kingdom of God. This is good.
But say you came to find out that the missionaries you were sponsoring were not living a servant’s lifestyle. They were spending money on designer purses, and brand new cars, and jewelry, and art collections. (not saying these things are all bad, just hear me out!)
You would be furious! Why would they treat your gift as their own, to do with it as they please?
Here’s the thing…I am a missionary. You are a missionary. We are on a mission to make the Kingdom of God known and preach the gospel to all the nations, including our own. And all the resources we are given to do so are a gift. Our gift may not come from other people, but they all come from God. And He is furious when we squander His gifts on the treasure of this world.
When I start to see my money as a gift in this light, the lure of luxuries fades away.
3. Possessions Filter
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
For me, this started when we moved into our house. Anything that did not fit into these two categories was given away to someone for whom it does fit. The killer of this philosophy is the future! I am constantly telling myself “It may be useful at some point.” Let me tell you something, IT WON’T! And if it is, you won’t be able to find it anyways. Get rid of it.
Sustaining this is even easier. Do not buy something without passing it through this filter. Do not keep things to decide on later. Ignore trends, they come and go.
When you do inevitably acquire new, use the “get one, give one” rule. If I get a new sweater, that means one of my old sweaters is no longer needed. Give it to cold shoulders. If I get a new pair of shoes, that means I am replacing an old pair of shoes. Give them to bare feet.
It should be noted that I am so imperfect at this. We all have our weaknesses, and mine is books. The library is a great anecdote for that condition. The beautiful thing is my bookshelf literally will not fit any more books. And I don’t have a good place to put another bookshelf. So I am forced to live by my own rule.