Messy Houses

John Sandeman

When Ms Pewsitter gets asked, "I see you up at church all the time doing stuff. When on earth do you do your housework?". She answers, "I don't"

They always think she is joking. But she is not. Sunday school and two long mornings running the church playgroup are at the top of her priority list.

Something has to give.

"You can't give God what is left over," she says. "I am glad I started doing playgroup when I did. It would be so hard to start now."

Setting a pattern early in your work career of giving time or money is really important. If you never have it (because you have always given it away) you will not miss it.

Starting to give at mid-career is really hard. I found out why in a very strange place.

It's not often that a marketing meeting sticks in your mind. But out of years of hiding behind a clipboard, I recall one great diagram. It showed a graph of someone's career, mapping their time commitments.

Somewhere around the late 20s the time to maintain a serious career exploded, time to look after kids expanded too, and the graph showed other things being squeezed down to nothing. 

This means that to give significant time to God will mean sacrificing something, most likely advancement.

One company I know of calculated that it made its staff work 52 hours a week on average, including unpaid overtime. The profit of the company depended on the extra unpaid hours. We are not talking a law firm or a medical practice here, but a relatively low payer.

The Christian man who owned a lot of shares in the company may not have realised his fortune was made in part by dashing the ministry opportunities of brother and sister Christians. (At least I hope he did not know what he was doing, because the alternative is so much worse.)

It follows that to ask Christians to increase their commitment to church means in many cases what Jim Wallis (of the left evangelical group Sojourners) called "downward social mobility".

The clergy are relatively clueless about this.  For a minister to gather a group of people who follow Jesus by giving away career advancement in time or money actually boosts their prestige. There is an awful conflict of interest here which I doubt that you have ever heard mentioned in a sermon.

(Of course some ministers have given away opportunity too. But not all: some will have done better as clergy than in their first career.)

All that means is that we should not base our decision on giving away time and money for the gospel just on what our preacher says. We should do it because we follow Jesus.

We will have a hard time matching what he has given away.