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."
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!
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)