I’m going to say something controversial here. It may bother some people but it’s something that’s been on my heart for a while. Over the course of my business, I’ve worked with a variety of groups from ministries to Forbes 500 corporations. And there’s something that happens within the Christian realm that you really don’t see elsewhere. They want a deal. Now not all of them across the board and it’s not always huge, but it’s there. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been told because I want to work for a ministry, I need to lower my rates. But not my service. These ministries want my very best (as they should) but because they’re working for the Lord, I should expect not to get paid what I’m worth. Something about that equation doesn’t sit quite right with me.
Now listen, everyone wants a deal. I get that. But not everyone wants a deal because it’s my duty to God as a Christian to give it to them.
Whoa. Yeah. I said that.
I’ve been in business meetings where I’ve seen highly professional people get cut to the quick by ministry leaders because “We’re not going to pay that. Don’t you know we’re a ministry?” Ouch! So because you serve the Lord, I get paid less? That doesn’t seem quite right and it’s always been something that bothered me.
This morning, in my reading, I came across a story of King David. He’d messed up big time and the Lord was calling him to penance for it. He needed to go build an altar and sacrifice and when he found the place, the man who owned it basically said, “You’re the King! Take it!” But David refused. He said ” No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24) That, right there, is powerful stuff. David was the King. He could have taken it without a second thought. The man offered. But David knew in his heart that it wouldn’t be right.
See, the Lord isn’t going to let His people, who are faithful to Him, go without being paid what’s right. I believe that. Your ministry may be wonderful and in need. I get that. I do offer some special rates when I feel led. That’s the key though. Because it’s between God and me. Not me and you. My faith doesn’t get bigger or stronger by working for you at a lower price just because your ministry is awesome. I’m all about getting a deal and doing what’s right. I’m not all about using someone’s faith or your ministry to take well earned money from someone’s pocket.
And here’s something important for me to note. Negotiating a fair price is far different than demanding a lower price. There’s a give and take. There’s bartering and understanding. But I won’t negotiate if I feel that my value is being underestimated. Or if it’s well respected but there’s a flat out refusal to pay fair value. That’s not negotiation. It’s not honorable. And it shouldn’t happen.
Oh now – if my pastor is reading this, he’s probably in a panic. I volunteer my services for my church’s social media, and consulting for the business side of things. But I chose to do that. I volunteer it. I wasn’t asked to do it for free. My pastor and I have an understanding. I go to a new church that’s just starting out and I feel passionate about it. God led me to volunteer those services and my work is for Him. Not necessarily Compassion Church. (Am I getting too confusing here? I hope not.) God gives me very direct leading in what I’m supposed to do with my talents. Sometimes it’s working on a non-Christian project. (I know – I’m getting into really dicey territory here aren’t I?) Sometimes I volunteer my services. Sometimes I do offer a better rate than I normally would. But sometimes, my family needs that money that a ministry doesn’t think they should pay. That’s important to note.
Listen, I’m not trying to slam anyone here. When I read the verse this morning, it just became clear to me. I believe one of the reasons that Christian work (or the Christian label) has struggled to get recognition as quality work is because we don’t want to compensate like other businesses do. The work isn’t going to be as good as that of secular organizations because you’d never see Nike say to a marketing director, “We are Nike. Aren’t you happy to work for us? We’ll give you half.” No way. Why would someone put in quality work if that company isn’t willing to pay? It doesn’t work that way in the business world and I don’t think it should work that way in ministry.
I believe that our God is the father of creativity and excellence. Our work should shine apart from that of the world. We’ve been given our talents, our direction, and our plan directly from the creator of the universe. But I don’t think we’ll ever truly be able to shine in the world as long as we expect the highest caliber of work at yard sale prices.