I always wanted to be a success.
When I was a kid, I was poor. So when I grew up, I wanted to be anything that would make me not be poor. Eventually, this put me in sales, where, if you have a strong handshake and a decent line of gab, a person can make a good living. If you are willing to bend the truth just a bit, you can make a killing.
At my peak, I fell somewhere between the good living and killing points. I read books like Think and Grow Rich and How To Win Friends and Influence People. I studied every word Tony Robbins wrote like it was the Holy Bible. I recited affirmations to myself daily, saying things like “I attract money even as I sleep!” and “I am a money magnet. Money is attracted to me in an irresistible fashion”.
I once heard a minister say from the pulpit that the best thing I could do for the poor was to not be one of them. I liked that – by my being successful, I was helping the poor. I quoted that minister often.
Then about 10 years ago, I began to do the most dangerous thing a person desiring financial success can do: I read the Gospels. I came to realize that the message of Jesus was not about getting into heaven when I die but about personal and global transformation.
Or, as Jesus put it, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
It’s ten years later. A lot has changed. Rather than sell for a living, I now pastor homeless people in the inner city. I am no longer anyone’s definition of a success. My financial condition is always tenuous at best.
The rent is always behind and I am always just one step ahead of having my power turned off. Instead of a Red Camaro, I drive a blue motor scooter that has a large amount of Duct Tape on it. I have had the experience of knowing people were coming over that night and having your water turned off for nonpayment that morning. Awkward…
This is where following Jesus has led me – on a path of downward mobility. I don’t know of any way to raise money around pastoring a flock of drug addicts, sex offenders and homeless folks. Telling people that the way of Jesus leads to inclusion of the other has thus far not been financially lucrative, or, for that matter, even all that appreciated.
I am not telling you that following Jesus will lead you away from financial success. But I am saying that if it does, you probably should not be surprised.