“Why didn’t you pursue a career where you could make more money?” The question came from a relative over what had thus far been an informal dinner gathering, and all of a sudden the room grew awkwardly silent.
I looked over at my husband, and he was now putting down his fork, same as me. I knew his mind was racing as much as mine was on how to address this comment. It wasn’t that we were blindsided by it — we’ve been in ministry long enough to expect questions about our career choice and the kind of money we make (or don’t make). But no matter how many conversations we’ve had with people on the topic of our personal income, we know things will usually end in a storm, with raw emotion and hurt feelings on either side.
Even before Aaron and I became church planters in Austin, Texas, we felt prepared for our calling (and we still do). We knew what we were getting into. We knew that ministry in an urban context would be hard, that it would take years to build trust, make friends, and gain traction in an otherwise non-religious community. In our time thus far as a pastor and pastor’s wife, we’ve done ministry with drug dealers, cartel members, ex-convicts with bullet holes in their chests, single mothers who have no money to feed their babies, and the homeless – and all of this feels like the easy stuff compared to dealing with outside criticism from well-meaning Christians, who label our ministry as insufficient, as a source of failed income and missed success all because we are poor.
Sometimes, I just want to weep. The phone calls and the emails and the passing comments, like “Haven’t you had enough of being poor?” or “Why isn’t your church growing faster?” or “How much are your people tithing?” or “Wouldn’t you rather make more money elsewhere?” can sometimes be too overwhelming to bear. I weep over the lies that we, as American Christians, have bought into. My heart breaks that our spirituality is so often choked to death by the desire to be rich.
Oh, sisters, why do we make money the rubric for our earthly success? This should not be. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV) tells us,
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
My continual answer to people who see me as a failure for my lack of earthly materials is this: I am content with what I have, and I know that it is enough. Ministry is not without its hardships – for any of us and in any context. Whether you are a working woman, a stay-at-home mom, a single woman, or a single momma; whether you’re a writer, gardener, receptionist, speaker, athlete, activist, or server, we do ministry in our spheres of influence and daily activity, and it’s hard y’all. But when we are content with proclaiming Christ, we can also know great satisfaction and joy, comfort and peace.
The American model of ever-striving, ever-reaching, ever-growing is exhausting, unending, and dissatisfying, to say the least. Even worse, the Apostle Paul tells us that temptation, ruin, and destruction come from our pursuit of wealth. I don’t want that kind of thinking to plague my ministry, let alone my life. I don’t want to become so consumed with the numbers, the growth percentages, my social media followers, my network or platform or my annual income that I lose sight of the gospel. I know these things breed nothing but comparison and competitiveness and the lie of failure.
Don’t get me wrong: as a church planter and pastor’s wife, I don’t use the guise of ministry to be lazy. I’m working it, y’all. My blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into the lives of the men and women in our community. I’m giving our church my best years, my best energy, my best time and skills and talents. I have laid myself bare for Christ and His kingdom, and I know that the toll of these beautiful hardships will someday add up. But I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to lay down and move aside just because someone doesn’t think I’ve achieved the American dream.
That’s all right. I don’t want that dream anyway. I don’t want comfort; I want Christ. He is enough. Proclaiming His gospel, His good news, is enough. I am poor, but I am content. I have little, but my reward is great. I keep my eyes lifted to the heavens, knowing that one day my Savior will call me home, and the only words I long to hear from Him are, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Sister, I long for you to know and experience that same contentment. I want to encourage you to lay down your earthly treasures. Let go of the things this world says will make you happy, the things with price tags attached to them. Let go of the American dream that says you have to own a certain type of house or drive a certain kind of car. Don’t give in to the lie that you need to wear certain clothes or buy fill-in-the-blank cosmetics and accessories or go on that fancy vacation. Whatever your income bracket is, whatever your monthly allowance is, let go of the need to consume and climb and gain, and instead, let Christ be enough because He is enough. Being content is not very American, but God tells us that it is good. Won’t you join me in experiencing some of that goodness today?
Let Christ be enough because He IS enough. -Michelle Reyes (@dr_reyes2): Click To Tweet