A Friday in January
The scene: my mission’s annual conference. I received a 15-year Bible and an enthusiastic round of applause from my co-workers. It felt great to be acknowledged by these faithful Kingdom servants, the ones who share the same life. Like any ego-bound human being, I reveled in being the center of positive attention for a few minutes. The only trouble was that it was over too soon!
One week later
The scene: a tense discussion about a family money issue with a relative, a successful businessman. It was clear that we were basing our opinions on different values. When I challenged his point of view, he erupted with surprising passion about my life as a supported global worker. “What do you know about responsible financial management? You live on other people’s money. You always rely on someone, somewhere, just writing another check.”
Some time later, I managed a weak laugh at how God allowed the timing of this thumbtack in my inflated ego. This led me to ponder: Where does the truth lie? What should I take in as wisdom from God?
The ‘kick’ felt around the world
Like most praise and criticism, neither of these external evaluations represents the whole truth about who I am, but they may contain elements of truth.
- It is right to acknowledge God’s work in me and to be grateful when others see it as well.
- It is right to recognize the fruit of some good choices I have made by His grace.
- It is also right to accept a ‘kick’ if it is generally well-placed.
The Lord will often use shock tactics to get through to us when nothing else works. Money management is not my strong point, but I have used that as an excuse for too long. It is a skill that can be learned like any other.
The kick also helped me remember the reality that others face back in the United States. I have lived simply but comfortably for several years as a global worker, and I seldom had to wonder if I would be able to pay the rent. I have a great organization backing me up with practical help and encouragement. I have health insurance and a modest pension plan. Support levels go up and down and exchange rates fluctuate, but I am not likely to be arbitrarily fired or laid off. I am cushioned from some of the harsh uncertainties of life that many of my supporters face. Perhaps we forget what those stresses are like when we begin to deal with new and different ones overseas.
Star or slacker?
Unconsciously I had been counting on this relative for his blessing, but it was time to let that go and be content with trying to please Jesus Christ, owning my choices and acknowledging others’ right to disagree. Underlying the criticism might be loving concern, or it might be the insecurity of one who needed affirmation for the value of his own life achievements as opposed to mine. Or a bit of both. That is not for me to decide. I need to sing my own song and applaud what is good in his.
So, are global workers stars or slackers?
When under attack from the Corinthians, Paul declared the foolishness of putting a final price tag on ourselves or others.
So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When He comes, He will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the ‘Well done!’ of God.
I Corinthians 4:5 (The Message)
How good that the final word is His!