My bicycle tire was in tatters, shredded by a jagged rock hidden in an open field. I pushed my bike home and that night showed it to my fix-it-father. He removed the tire from the rim, turning it over and over in his hands, and finally, with a grunt, declared it unfixable.
“So, can I have a new one?” I pled, my green eyes caked with the dirt of a long day outside.
He handed it back to me and said, “After you have enough money.”
My shoulders sagged, the realization that my summer fun had suddenly hit a major roadblock. No money, no wheels. Eventually I earned the $3 by pulling dandelions from Mr. Edgeman’s yard and clearing out trash from the Conroy’s fenceline. Little did I know that this was the start of a lifetime of chasing dollars so I could be mobile.
From that day on, money and work seemed to go hand-in-hand. Some of it was because of the blue-collar nature of my family, never expecting help from another’s hand as long as you had two of your own.
Some of it came from my church life. I can’t find it, but somewhere I must have had the Protestant Work Ethic Red-Letter Believers Study Bible, with verses like “If a man shall not work, then neither shall he eat,” and “the man who doesn't provide for his own…is worse than an unbeliever” emblazoned on the cover.
Money should come from labor – it’s almost a universal law and a moral imperative. But is money always the object? What about giving away my talent? What about the joy of working for nothing?
Giving my Labor Away
In the past few years, I've discovered the sweet separation of money from work and the joy of giving my labor away without the pressing need for compensation. As I have matured, the line between work and money has blurred.
I’ve learned the pleasure of volunteering, taking those same gifts that help me earn a living and in turn, give them away – for nothing. I’ve raised my hand to edit newsletters, balanced the books for community groups, and organized files for a Boy Scout troop. I’ve written speeches for a friend suddenly thrust onto a stage, organized teams to communicate lofty goals, and penned obituaries for family members.
I work with many writers through The High Calling community and local writer’s groups. Instead of fame, or notoriety, or compensation, I encourage them to write for the passion of the craft. By forgoing the pursuit of money, it frees them up to follow their heart.
Now this sounds beautiful and wonderful, but if you are depending on your skills to put food on the table, it can be particularly insulting when you are asked to something for free. I had an awkward moment when I had to turn down “the opportunity” to edit a 50,000 word book from a friend who offered, “I can’t pay you, but I’ll buy you dinner.”
After all, that same work-ethic Bible says, “A worker deserves his dues.”
It's a delicate dance isn't it? This mosaic of work, money, and the Christian imperative to give both of them away.
What’s Your Story?
What’s your view on money and work? Is it healthy? Are you addicted to overtime, because you like the extra compensation in your check? Have you ever turned down a job because the pay wasn’t enough?
Here’s your invitation for you to be a part of the conversations we’re hosting. Consider the prompt, “Working for Free.” Write your story on your blog sometime before Saturday, July 12th, and then share it with us using the link-up tool below.
We’d love to hear your story about labor, compensation, and giving away your gifts.
We’ll be reading all of your stories, and we will choose a few of the linked posts to feature right here on our homepage next week!
Make sure your story is 600 words or fewer. Good storytelling is a must. Follow the theme as closely as possible, while still exercising your God-given creativity. Read past High Calling features to get a feel of our style and focus. Direct references to faith and Scripture are fine, but not required.
Publish your piece on your blog and submit your piece along with the URL on the link-up below by Saturday, July 12th, in order to be considered for a featured spot.
Working for Free
In this series, Working for Free, we'll take a look at the different ways people navigate the world of working in a job they love, even when it might not be the way they make ends meet. Join the discussion or share your story in the comments.