Five years ago I was sitting in a nice hotel suite in Southern California when a man shared a story I will never forget.
A dozen of us were participating in a retreat called a Journey of Generosity. This man had been a highly paid businessman who also sat on the board of a non-profit ministry. He shared with me that the board asked him to consider a staff position leading the ministry. “You can’t afford me,” was his immediate reply. He was good-spirited and somewhat joking, but after all, this was a small non-profit where he would be paid a fraction of what he was currently making.
But that night he had a dream. Jesus approached him and said, “Follow me.” But the man saw himself look at Jesus and say, “You can’t afford me.”
I had chills hearing the story and I still get chills thinking about it today. I could see myself responding the same way he did. I might not explicitly say to Jesus, “You can’t afford me” but I’d find a more subtle way to tell the God of the Universe that my current paycheck is more important to me that what he’s asking me to do.
Bought By Jesus
When I look to Scripture, I’m challenged by the cost Paul willingly embraced to follow Jesus. In Acts 20 Paul was saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders and preparing to sail to Jerusalem when he told his dear friends, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
Paul willingly moved toward prison and hardship. This was not just a lower-paying job or an inconvenient volunteer opportunity! Paul didn’t ask if the mission could afford his salary or make his life more comfortable. He knew something deeper was going on because a few sentences later he told the elders, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
I’m not my own. I’m not in charge. I have been purchased and paid for up front by the blood of Christ. As the old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe.” It’s time I stop adding a list of qualifications to that statement.
Two New Responses
So now I’m working to cultivate two new responses in my heart:
- I’m bought by the blood of Jesus. I’m not worth anything apart from that, but worth much in light of that. Anything Jesus asks me to do, I want to be willing to do because I’m fully his. When I first came to know Jesus I wanted to follow Him radically, but since then I’ve softened. Now I’m working again to remember whose I am again.
- My life is oriented around Jesus’ calling. Anytime I get asked to look at a new opportunity, I want to remember there’s only one real consideration: Is this what God is calling me and my family to do? That’s the factor that trumps all other factors, including what the pay is, how much flexibility the job has, or whether the job is based in gorgeous Colorado or some struggling country around the world.
Heavenly Father, I don’t ever want to tell you that you can’t afford me. Instead, I give myself to you, ready to say yes to whatever you call me to, no matter what the salary or suffering. I’m nervous and scared as I type this prayer, still believing that I know what’s best for me, not you. But please continue to cultivate my heart to be about you and your Kingdom and to want to know you and walk in your calling for my life more than anything else. Amen.
Matt Mancinelli serves as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Volunteers with Generous Giving and is also on the board of The Seed Company. He and his wife Loretta and their two baby girls live in Orlando, Florida. You can write to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org