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Hourly Wages

At this stage in my life, I have pretty much worked under just about every form of remuneration that is out there. As with many, I began work collecting an hourly wage. As a manager for Domino’s Pizza, I was paid salary plus commission, where my salary was modest, but I was able to earn an additional commission based on the profitability of the store I operated. When I was a mechanic’s apprentice, I was paid by “flat-rate,” which meant every job was assigned to it an “hourly value” and thus, if I was efficient, I could be paid for 60 hours of work in a 40 hour week. Then again, I had to be present for those 40 hours whether there was work or not. When I installed carpet, I was paid piece-rate, which meant that I was paid for every square yard of carpet I installed, no matter how much time it took, and, when the work was done, I went home. Then, as a teacher and a pastor, I have been paid a salary. About the only way I have not been paid has been on straight-commission. 

The reality is that most of us don’t have a choice in how we get paid. If we want to go to work for so-in-so company, we will accept whatever arrangement of payment that they offer. At the same time, I must be forthright that the way I have most preferred to be paid has been via piece-rate. In this model, you get paid for what you produce, so there is a clear correlation between the paycheck and the work you have done. Also, if you happen to have extra expenses or financial needs, you can simply do more work (assuming that it is available) to earn the extra pay. It is the closest thing you will get to being self-employed…and in fact, for much of the time I spent being paid piece-rate, I was self-employed. 

My least favorite forms of payment have either been salary or hourly wages. The benefit, of course, with salary is that you always know what your paycheck will be — week in and week out — and thus, it is easy to budget. The drawback is that your time is never truly your own and you never really have the opportunity to make extra money by working more hours (unless you go to work for someone else!). It is assumed that busy weeks and slow weeks will balance themselves out and thus there is no “over-time” for busy weeks and there are no lean weeks.

My problem with hourly wages is that it causes me to watch the clock. I recognize that this is my own weakness, but I have known many who have shared similar experiences. Yes, you do get paid over-time for additional work done and thus there are avenues to make more money when you need it in the family budget (assuming there is work to justify it), but when it is slow, especially, my attention is regularly drawn to wondering, “what time is it?” or “how much longer before I can go home.” And, frankly, I don’t like thinking like that. We should thrive in the work we do and we should view it as a God-given task by which we are commissioned to build Christ’s Kingdom. And, it’s on this aspect of the hourly wage that I want to build my analogy.

It is my fear that too many Christians have become “clock-watchers,” just biding their time until Jesus comes again. If you have spent any time reading these missives, you know that one of my complaints about the “pop-theology” of our culture is that people have a defeatist attitude and assume that the only thing that will right the wrongs of this world is the return of Jesus and the best we can hope to do is to hold onto our faith and survive until that day. People are essentially “watching the clock,” waiting for Jesus’ return, so they can go home and be done the work that makes them miserable. 

Yet, Jesus says that we are to “engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13). The King James, more famously, translates this phrase as “occupy until I come,” emphasizing the Dominion Mandate that is continued in the Great Commission. In fact, repeatedly in Jesus’ parables, the faithful servant is described as working to build the Kingdom while the lazy and wicked servant is simply biding his time. The thing is, we are not supposed to just watch the clock or bide our time; we are called to work, to do business, to take dominion of the world by making disciples of the nations. 

One of the devastating effects of the Evangelical sub-culture which has retreated from society is that the world is not being subdued and the strongholds of hell are growing rather than being torn down. Every thought is not being taken captive and the fools, who reject the knowledge of God, are rising to power. It is not our job to simply “survive with our faith in tact” until Jesus comes again to defeat his enemies, it is our job to destroy those strongholds with the weapons of our warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). Do we not believe that we will be given victory in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)? Do we not believe that our faith is the victory that has overcome the world (1 John 5:4)? Do we not believe that Jesus has disarmed the rulers and powers of this world so we may triumph over them in faith (Colossians 2:15)?

Where is the triumphant faith that turned the world upside down in the first centuries AD? Where is the bold and victorious faith that reshaped the mind and worship of Europe and then the world during the Reformation? Yes, it remains present in segments, but so much of the church has fallen into the trap of seeking an hourly wage and nothing more. Instead of living bold and triumphant, transforming the culture, too much of the church is subsistence-living, seeking entertainment that dulls the senses of one’s faith. How long will the Lord allow his church to sleep and what will he say to her when he stands in judgment and she returns but one “talent” of faith that she has kept hidden underground?

Active Learning

“Those things that you have learned and taken and heard and seen in me, engage in these things. And the God of Peace will be with you.”

(Philippians 4:9)

The idea of the disciple being an imitator of Christ by being an imitator of Paul is a theme that we have already seen in Philippians and that is common to Paul’s writings. But notice just how specific Paul is when he speaks of this here. Paul speaks of those things that the Philippian church has learned from him — their reception of Paul’s verbal instructions is in sight here. He goes on to speak of that which they have taken from him. Some of our Bibles render this as “received,” which is an equally legitimate rendering of the Greek word paralamba/nw (paralambano). I prefer to translate this as “take” in the context of learning, though, for while “receive” can be understood in a more passive sense, “take” is always understood in a more active way. It is not good enough to passively receive the instruction that Paul offers, but we must be prepared to actively engage with the ideas that Paul presents and apply those ideas to our lives and situations. Further, Paul says to learn even from those things that have been seen and heard in him.

Paul goes on and says, all that has been learned in this sense…it is this that the people of the church are to live out in their lives. For many professing Christians, faith is practiced in a more passive sense. Yet, Biblical faith is lived out in every aspect of one’s life. For many more professing Christians, the corporate worship of God’s people begins when they walk through the church doorway on Sunday mornings. Yet, imagine how different our witness would be if we saw all of the week as a time of preparation for that Sunday service of worship? Think about how much more people would get out of the service and the sermon if Christians spent the night before praying that God would help them understand both the Word and its application in the Sunday message — and then if they took notes and actively tried to live out those things that were applied from the text! Oh my, would our churches and our public witness be radically different if we engaged in this way.

So, what of this language of the God of Peace? Often peace, when referred to in this way, refers to peace from the oppression of evil. And, while the enemy will attack at every corner when the Church is faithfully being the church, God will be faithful as well and preserve his own even in the midst of trials and tribulations. So, be of good cheer, learn from Paul’s words and example and live out those things in life and while the enemy will be relentless, God is infinitely greater than all the power at the enemy’s disposal.