Young Professionals Pick Freedom Over Money

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
David Goehring money square

"Despite the fact that people who work for themselves earn less, work more, have fewer benefits and experience more on the job stress than those who work for others, a majority of Americans would prefer to be entrepreneurs" (Scott Shane,

We’ve been assuming for years that money is where it’s at. Apparently, it isn’t. Summarizing a study done by the Max Planck Institute of Economics and the University of Sussex, Shane goes on to say, "Workplace autonomy is a powerful motivator."

Autonomy. Or, "freedom to make choices." That’s how Carl Lundblad put it last week in our interview on money as a common obstacle to integrating faith and work. For Carl, what money threatens is this freedom.

We grow up dreaming about what money can buy. Then we pursue a career that will help us earn it, and climb ladders to get more of it. Before we realize, our voluntary pursuit has become a force that obligates us.

Are we all victims of this cycle? I can’t recall hearing many confessions to an all-out allegiance to money, even among peers who make a lot of it. Yet how often do our priority photo albums show Jesus as that second cousin we somehow forgot about?

At 43, Carl is still trying to keep Jesus up front and he's still listening to that advice from a mentor: "Always live beneath your means. If you don’t, you’ll never have the freedom to walk away."

Golden Handcuffs keep an employee from leaving. The captor could be high salary, or stock options. It could also be the threat of instability, the promise of job security, peer pressure to maintain a desirable appearance. And yet,

"So valuable is the opportunity to be one's own boss that studies show you have to pay people twice as much to get them to work for others and still have the same level of job satisfaction as being self-employed" (Shane).

Being an entreprenuer isn't for everyone. Fortunately, companies are listening to their younger ranks and taking these findings into consideration.

Had Nehemiah Picked Money Over Freedom

Those captors—perhaps symptoms of an illness favoring the well-to-do—make for a sad situation. They do not, however, complete the diagnosis. In light of the topic of this series, Golden Handcuffs prevent us from following Jesus.

Imagine Simon Peter saying, "Drop my nets? I wish I could, Jesus, but, see, I’ve got a pretty good business going on here, and we recently broke ground to…."

Or Nehemiah, who had a privileged spot serving a king. When brothers came with heart-breaking news about Jerusalem’s shambles, Nehemiah didn’t hold up his wrists to say, "I know I can create an estimate and supplies list, and manage a large job site and lead a workforce—all the skills you need to rebuild the city’s walls—but do you see these babies? I can’t leave now." (Read what really happened here.)

The high calling of our daily work demands faithfulness, not our souls. Regardless of where we work, regardless of how much we earn, the more we surrender freedom to make choices is the degree to which we surrender our availability when an invitation comes. These findings give me hope. With each answer to a call, the available—the willing God-followers among you—become a host of 21st-century Nehemiahs and Esthers and Simon Peters whose work decisions bring salt and light to the world.

Mulling points:

  1. What advice would you have given to Simon Peter in that moment, if you knew he had a family who depended on him?
  2. At what point in your career do you think Golden Handcuffs—if presented—might carry the greatest threat?
  3. How likely are you to see Golden Handcuffs coming—slowly and unnoticeably, like in the boiling of a frog; or with warning, like the sales person whose goods you know should be refused but whose goods you know you won't refuse?


For more on freedom and money, read Scott Shane’s article Why Entrepreneurs Choose Freedom Over Money, and Sebastian Bailey’s article at called More Money Or More Freedom, Which Would You Choose?

Or check out the rest of the work and faith obstacle series here:

Image by David Goehring. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Sam Van Eman, Young Professionals editor and narrator of A Beautiful Trench It Was.