What if God Asked You to Take a Pay Cut?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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On a recent vacation to Ireland, I struck up a conversation one evening with a guy in a pub while out listening to some live music. Perhaps it was the Guinness that led him to tell me his story, or maybe he had kissed the blarney stone and been given the legendary gift of gab. He shared with me that he had gone to Oxford to earn his master’s in history, but he had somehow ended up in the wheeling and dealing world of credit and banking. Here he was, traveling all over the world, buying $30K watches just because he likes watches, and paying off a new home in just a few years. As far as anyone could tell, he was doing grand (a word they use a lot in Ireland). The truth, he confessed, is that he is quite unhappy and unsatisfied. He explained that he makes a purchase, hoping to satisfy some longing, and it always turns up empty. He sometimes wished he could work in the field in which he had studied back at Oxford. He was happy then. Maybe he could be an archaeologist. That would be lovely (another word they use a lot in Ireland). But the starting hourly-rate for an archaeologist is something like $12. I couldn’t really compete with the Guinness in offering some sage words of wisdom that might stick. I mentioned Jesus, which went over like a ton of bricks. I said something about sticking out his current commitment with an eye toward what might be next. But it was obvious that he was stuck on a path with no clear exit. I often think of my own life and the path I’m on. In the book Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation, the writer warns that the direction of our lives can be shaped by "the pervasive siren calls of consumer culture, or by [our] own quest for immediate satisfaction." I, like my Irish friend, find myself chasing after the security of a decent-paying job. For the past six months, I have been obsessed with getting a new car (an Infinity G37 coupe to be exact), even though the car I have is fine. I think I need a new wardrobe because my clothes don’t always follow the "rules" they would give me on What Not to Wear. Maybe I don’t buy $30k watches, but in my own corner of the world, am I coveting a lifestyle that will make me feel stuck someday, too? What if I felt God calling me to take a job where I would make a lot less money? Could I do it? My advice to my Irish friend would be to find a way to follow his passion, but I'm not so sure if I'd I be willing to step outside of my own comfort zone, even if I felt compelled. I wonder - If I knew that I would be glorifying God with the best of how He created me, and that I’d be meeting a need in the world that I cared deeply about, would I abandon my comfy lifestyle? We talk about business being a calling just as important as a calling to the mission field or the pastorate, and I wholeheartedly agree. But when we get into the world of business, do we continue to seek God’s best for our lives as our salaries increase and we get more comfortable – even when our talents and passions might better be unleashed elsewhere? Are we willing to take risks that may involve leaving everything behind to do something different? I’m not for a minute suggesting that everyone is called to a life of poverty just to be doing the work God has for us. I’m just questioning my own personal framework for what I would consider the possibilities. I guess, in the end, I want to make sure I’m not following the path of success at the expense of meaning and joy. Have you had an experience where you downsized your prestige and salary, and perhaps lived more simply, in order work in an area you felt passionate about? Do you ever wonder, like me, what you would do if you felt a nudge from God to go to a place that was not quite as comfortable as your current job? Post by Michele Corbett. Photo by Andrew.
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