Monday, November 12, 2007

Another Bible Student Question and Response

The following post references a letter that came in to the chosenrebel e-mail account.

Thanks for your letter. Wow, that message goes way back. It's an honest question and one that is not easy to answer. The text from which the principle comes is Psalm 15:4. The ESV translates it this way:

4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Let's try to un-peal this question one section at a time. Here's my summary of what you have told me.

  1. You had given a commitment to one employer.
  2. You heard a message that gave the specific example that this text applies to the guy who gets one job offer, accepts it, then another job offer comes along at better pay, decides to keep job 1 because of his commitment.
  3. You sense in the hearing of that message that it was specifically, (unknown to the preacher), directed to you and your situation by God.
  4. You made a decision based on that to honor your word and kept job 1 possibly forfeiting about $90k.
  5. That $90k would have made life more comfortable for you and your family.
  6. That $90k would have meant more resources available to NSC for her various programs and ministries on behalf of the kingdom of God.
    Now, in hindsight, you can't reconcile "the less pay issue for the same job." Here's your exact words:

    i don't see how keeping the lower paying job could serve God or your church. the extra help i could have given to your church members financially and the extra tithe i could have given your church not only would have been appreciated by both parties but it would have made things easier for the members of your church that i would have been able to help.

First, let me confess, I don't know the mind of God. The Scripture says, "the secret things belong to God" (Deut. 29:29). What we do know is what God has said in His word and what has actually transpired. We don't know what would have transpired. We know that you have had a lesser paying job for three years. We don't know that the higher paying job would have lasted. It is possible that the workers in that job might have sabotaged your own work, been completely impossible to work with, or that your supervisor would have not appreciated your sense of humor as much as your pastor does ;).

In other words your question is based on a "what if" and then moves to "why?" But as you know, God almost never answers "why" questions. He deals in imperatives. He tells us what to do, how to live, what to believe, who to trust, but almost never answers "why" or "when" questions. He always has "bigger fish to fry" in his growth processes for our lives. The issue is always, "who will we trust" it is almost never "what is the most personally beneficial and wise."

So the answer to the question why should i have kept the job that clearly did not pay a livable wage for my wife and myself? is that you should always do what you believe God tells you to do regardless of the personal consequences in the short or even long term.

Now I don't know what I said three years ago in the message you are referring to, but I am almost positive that when I preached on this text in 1998 (which is the date on the message in my files) that I qualified my point on verse 4 with a statement to the effect that it is not inappropriate to pray and ask God for favor with employer one and then to ask if they will voluntarily give release to go and pursue job 2. However, that is water under the bridge. We have to live with today. Which leads to your second question.

how long should i put up with an employer that is intent on not paying me for the God given talents that He has given me? I would say that if your don't feel that you are being properly compensated, you should look for a job that will do that. You have perfect freedom to do this. You have worked for your present employer long enough for him to have seen your value; you have done the job in a way that honored you and God; if he has not risen to the bar and compensated you, I for one would say that you have honored your word and are free to look elsewhere.

Your third question is impossible to answer. who benefited from my keeping the clearly deficient salary when compared to the rest of the work market? It is possible that no one has seen the full benefit yet, except maybe your employer. But God is after so much more than provision for us in the employment he provides. There are attitudes of joy. There are character qualities of trust, persistence, resourcefulness, thankfulness, etc. Perhaps there are people he wants us specifically to witness to in one job that another job would afford no opportunity. "The secret things belong to God." He doesn't tell us.

He simply requires our obedience and trust. You know the old hymn. "For there is no other way, but to trust and obey, for there is not other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

Did we receive our present state in an attitude of thankfulness and joy?
Have we worked to exhibit joy and grace in our present situation?
Do we grumble and complain about what God hasn't done and forget what he has done?

These are the battle grounds upon which our character is forged and when the battles are won and we become the lights to our neighbors that God wants us to be and have the preserving quality of salt that we are called to be, then God can trust us with more perhaps.

So my brother, I don't have an answer for you on the particulars of most of your questions but I hope this will give you some paths to travel as you pour out your heart to Him who demonstrated His for you in that while you (and I) were yet sinners, Christ died for you. (Romans 5:8) Meanwhile, I'll be praying for you.

Pastor Marty

P.S. Slight rebuke: It isn't "my church" it's Jesus' church and God is far more interested in you and your spiritual growth than in giving this particular church more money.

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