No one likes their first job, or at least we can complain about it later, when we learn how the world really works.
I have my own horror story. Just when I turned 18, almost on my birthday, I started my first real job. I left high school early and started working in January, in a cold winter, with short days and not much sunlight. I was hired to drive a small truck for a parts department in a shop that repaired construction equipment. Every morning I got up early, ate something in a bowl, and hurried to a bus stop. The bus took me to a remote suburb, and then I walked several blocks and crossed a busy road into an industrial area, and after more walking, I hurried into my workplace to punch the time clock. Then I did janitorial work and drove the truck when ordered, and I hardly knew how to drive.
Travel to and from work, on the bus, was in darkness for weeks, and the weather was severely cold. And my boss, and any other senior person was angry and abusive, most of the time. The industry was construction and it was rough in those days. I remember clearly that they paid me two dollars and fifty cents an hour, in Canadian dollars. That was terrible money, even in those days. You can add to this that before I started that job I was a relaxed and lazy high school student, and then I lost all contact with my friends and I had no social life. I remember that I still had a few friends at church, but I didn’t see them often. To this day I am a high school dropout; I was short two or three credits and there was no make-up course for me.
I was always tired and stressed, and the experience was really horrible. I have probably forgotten some sad memories, but you get the picture. What you may not get is that I am not complaining now. I am happy with the choices I made and I don’t regret doing that job. I think it was a gift from God.
That job taught me one of the greatest truths in money management: Earn for a purpose.
My purpose was a university education. My parents told me that I could stay at home, rent free, but I had to pay for tuition and personal expenses. Since I really wanted to go to university, that job was a privilege. I saved my small pay checks carefully, and I easily paid for my schooling, and eventually I graduated with a degree, which was the whole point of the exercise. Those eight months of miserable work opened the door to my adult life. God was good to me and that job was like a rough football game with my friends. Sometimes I enjoyed it.
So how does this story relate to your money and the church?
This morning, Sunday, the sermon included appeals for money. The church wants to pay off its mortgage. I do not recommend giving to the church. You can read that again, and I mean what I said. I do recommend earning for God’s work in the church, and then giving what you earn. Don’t pay money, pay in earning, and work for a purpose; God’s purpose. So OK, I do believe in giving.
Trust me, this works. In the Bible, Jacob, also known as Israel, the father of the nation, had to work for seven years at low wages so he could marry Rachel, the woman he loved. In the story “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (Genesis 29:20)
Rachel was definitively a purpose.
One topic that really hurts Christian churches is tithing, giving ten percent of our income to the church. This produces comments like “All they want is your money!” and it all starts with the ancient Hebrews, when they settled in their promised land “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it …” (Deuteronomy 26:12).
Notice that these farm people had to dedicate a tithe, and then work to make it happen. Imagine dedicating one calf out of ten, carefully raising that little animal into a handsome, full-sized cow, and then donating it. Today, farm kids raise an animal for a 4H show. That is more fun than picking out the best cow from the herd, and painfully parting with it. Apparently, the Hebrews missed this point and got in the habit of giving God the lamest, oldest, and sickest animals, and God was not happy; “When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.” (Malachi 1:8)
What we really give is a piece of ourselves. Speaking as a man, if we didn’t have wives and children, it would be very hard to get out of bed and go to work, some days. The purpose makes all the difference.
I believe that giving and tithing is a project for a Christian, and it starts with earning for a purpose. For some, that might mean a part-time job as a secondary source of income. All done for a purpose. A few years ago, I wanted money for a purpose, and a friend offered me a chance to work some weekends as a first aid instructor. I accepted and over many months I raised all the money I needed, and my personal finances were not affected. I know this plan works.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe, says the Lord Almighty. Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land, says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3: 10 to 12)
More in this series:
- Your money and the church — Part 1
- Your money and the Church — Part 2
- Your money and the church — Part 3