AM I A TIME-CARD CHRISTIAN?
Clunk! This was the sound of the time clock stamping my time card as I quickly jammed it into the slot. I was out of breath after running to the radio station for my shift on WSMC on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Several hours later, I enjoyed hearing the “clunk” that marked the end of another shift. I loved my job, but it was always a good feeling to clock out! Like any job, it had pressures, like meeting the manager’s expectations, pronouncing composers’ names correctly on-air, and choosing music that people liked. Every two weeks I looked forward to opening the envelope to see how much my minimum wage job had earned!
I no longer announce classical music on the airwaves, and I don’t “clunk” in and out with a time card for my work as a pastor. My job today is different but has similar pressures. I still work to meet expectations, strive to say and do things the right way, and hope people will like the things I do for them. But it’s different now because I don’t “clock out” when I go home. Recently, I caught myself thinking back to those time-card days, wishing I could go back! Some days I feel like I’m working too hard, not effectively meeting the endless demands of ministry and never able to clock out. Other days I feel like I’m not doing enough—counting my hours until I meet the quota, and then calling it a day.
When we serve out of love for our heavenly Father, rather than in fear, or in trying to please other people, our work for Him—the stewardship of our time and resources—is genuine."
Check Your Symptoms
Am I exhibiting the symptoms of a “time-card” Christian? Is it possible that we can bring an employee mindset to our service for our Lord? We might operate like an hourly worker, clocking in and out and doing only what’s expected, limiting our work to certain hours and specific areas with which we are familiar. Some may think of their service as being more like that of a salaried employee: striving to please the boss, and working endless hours to meet the unrealistic demands of the people around us. We serve diligently, but easily forget for Whom we are really working. We give our time and money to God’s work, and expect to get blessings in return for our investment. “I’m ready for my paycheck, Lord!”
The Word tells us, however, that our service in God’s economy is not viewed like that on earth. Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23 that the only paycheck we can earn for ourselves is death, and we’ve all earned it. More than that, we are not just employees in God’s company. We are sons and daughters of the CEO! I remember visiting my dad at his law practice when I was just a kid. I did not have to wait in the waiting room—I was free to go in and find Dad, even if he was busy. Sometimes I would ask if I could help with his work, and he would give me a little task to do. I would do my very best to help Dad! The best part was that I had unparalleled access to the snacks in the break room. It makes a difference when you’re a son!
Romans 5:14-17 tells us that we are all sons and daughters of God. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out “Abba, Father” (Romans 5:15). At another job I had, the boss was very grumpy. Often I would sit at my desk with a feeling of anxiety in my chest, hoping that he would not come by and criticize the way I did something, or for not doing enough. Though I liked the work, it was often a relief to go home. Our service for God should not be like that. Paul promises us that we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 5:17) We are not just employees—we are heirs to the company!
Love is the Answer
When we serve out of love for our heavenly Father, rather than in fear, or in trying to please other people, our work for Him—the stewardship of our time and resources—is genuine. When we remember that we serve as heirs to His kingdom, it guards us from slackness, and it protects us from overwork from trying to meet unrealistic human expectations.
The gospels tell us a story about a prominent young official who ran out and knelt down in front of Jesus one day as he was leaving a town. “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked Him. (Mark 10:17) Jesus reminds the upstanding young man of the commandments that involve loving his neighbor. “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” He was encouraged for a moment by Jesus’ words—this he could do! But Jesus wasn’t finished. “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21).
“Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)."
Confronted with the true cost of discipleship, he could not bear the thought of emptying his bank accounts! As far as any person could tell, he was an upstanding servant of God, following the rules, and holding a high office. But his heart was really somewhere else. Jesus knew that the only way he could really be a disciple was by giving up everything that stood in the way of giving his whole heart. He wasn’t looking for an employee who knew how to meet the human expectations of the job—He was looking for a totally committed child of the Father!
In contrast to the story of the “rich young ruler” stand the examples of Matthew and Zacchaeus. They too had a lot of money. But when Jesus called, they got up and followed! Matthew left his money tables, and Zacchaeus gave up half his fortune to the poor. They were willing to give Christ their whole hearts. Theirs was a service of love, not fear. They realized they were not just employees—they were sons of the Father, willing to give up everything to follow their Lord.
To each of us, Jesus gives the call again today: “Follow me.” In my own life, the call to discipleship has meant going into full time ministry. But the call is different for each of us. He doesn’t call everyone to sell all their possessions or give up their jobs—although He might! But He does call us all to give up our hearts and follow wherever He leads. Whether we have to give up our old time cards, or our status as salaried employees, it’s time we realize that we are sons and daughters of the CEO!
Amazingly, when we learn to give our all to Him as sons and daughters, we can accomplish more than we could even as the best employees. Why? Employees serve to earn a paycheck and please the manager. As sons and daughters, we serve not from self-interest or fear, for, “Perfect loves casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) To know the love of Christ for us, and the unparalleled sacrifice He made for us, calls us to greater and higher sacrifices than we would ever be willing or able to make as just hourly or salaried employees. We “walk in love” in the light of the immeasurable love of Christ, who gave His life as a sacrifice for us. (Ephesians 5:2) We’re not out to earn a paycheck, we’re there to follow in His footsteps.
Wherever He calls me, across the street or around the world, am I ready to go? Whatever He calls me to give up—even all I possess—am I ready to lay it down, just like Matthew and Zaccheaus? Not as an employee, motivated by what I might get, or by fear—but serving as a child, motivated only by the Father’s love? Yes, I enjoyed hearing the “clunk” of the time clock as a young radio announcer. But now the only sound I long to hear is my Father saying to me daily, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” (Desire of Ages, p. 113)