"I don't wanna fundraise."
When I think to myself how we at InterVarsity and other ministries/non-profits need more full-time staff members I am most often met with phrases like this:
"I hate asking people for money"
"I don't want to fundraise"
"My parents didn't work hard for me to beg for money".
My response is disappointment. Not just because they won't be prayerful about joining us but because they have bought into the lies about money and control and the culture over them both. Sadly, they may never experience intimacy with God as Provider and the radical blessing of His people in a prayerful and giving community.
I am not saying we should all fundraise because I like it. I am not saying we should all fundraise because it's comfortable. I'm saying that we should all fundraise at least for a season of our lives because it makes us better people. It is beautifully difficult to sit across from someone and invite them to be an intimate partner in your life. And whether the answer is "yes" or "no" - there is blessing for both parties.
I am not saying that people who don't raise funds can't see God as Provider. I am saying it is immensely easier when the line is explicit. Jesus did not say to the disciples, "go out with enough money and clothes for the whole trip and if people give to you, then you get to save what you had already!"
When we rely on God and others for what we need, even if only for a short time it redefines what's possible. When a college graduate (or anyone for that matter) can raise their own paycheck to do the thing that God is calling them to do it unlearns for us the silent gospel that money is god and we learn that God is God - especially over money.
Everyone should experience being sent out with a vision from God and watch God be God through His provision and His people. The Gospel of Jesus is radical dependence on God and interdependence on His blessed community. The gospel of America is reliance on yourself and the use of the community to gain independence. Followers of Jesus are called to be much more than cogs in a meritocracy, capitalist framework or figures in an elaborately veiled selfishness that drives most of us to get up every morning and go to "work".
Contrary to how I used to feel working in fast food, construction, or real estate, now I look at a spreadsheet every month and see the list of prayerful friends who give to the life of delightful and difficult ministry that my wife, daughter and I have in NYC. Self-reliance, independence and "I Got This" are rung out of my daily life because my daily bread comes from people like you who are reading this piece. Every day, people pray for me, my wife and newborn child. Every day, I sit before God grateful that we have money to eat great food, pay our bills and be generous to others because I can't and don't say "God owns everything" and then work really hard to provide for myself. I know He is the source of very good gift because I've experienced it for almost 10 years.
When I look at my peers, I have the longest tenure in my place of work, most consistent benefits, and great relationships with my colleagues and partners. When we don't ask for money for our salaries, benefits, travel and meal expenses, we get to walk in the illusion that somehow we earned and deserve the money that comes via commission, salary, bonus or dividend. The lie is, "Because of my education, networking, great resume, that little joke I made or the subtle strength of my handshake - I did it! I got this job. I earned this raise. I deserve this because of all the sacrifices I made. Look at ME now!"
Over time the lie becomes more elaborate.
"The harder I work, the more I should earn. Look at those around me not working as hard as I am. Jimmy's only been working for a year and he's already making what I make. I have to study later, go back to grad school, spend extra time with the higher ups. That will get me to the "C" suite."
And the lie begins to spill over into how we see others because of how we see ourselves:
"Those people who don't earn as much as me are actually worth less than me. If they worked hard, they would have what I have. There are makers and there are takers and I am definitely a maker. Some people make, and I'm glad I did."
That is a tragic way to live. I learned two deep lessons about myself through fundraising that I would not have grasped otherwise:
- my self-worth is not determined by the size of my paycheck.
- the value of my work is not contingent on what I am paid to do it.
If we learn and apply those two things the social implications can be powerful. I am not comparing my value to my coworkers'. I am not jockeying for position or promotion. There is little "politicking" because we are all on and in mission together to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves in a sustainable way.
More broadly, because I don't favor people with higher salaries, nicer cars, and summer homes I will not devalue the unemployed, the factory or fast food worker nor do I idolize the banker or business owner. I see them as people because I see myself apart from my accolades as one valued and loved by God and community. And as long as I am on the perfomance treadmill with my value and dignity determined by a quarterly report and annual reviews I am missing out on the abundance God has to offer and calling the garbage of a meal I'm eating gourmet lifestyle that everyone should ascribe to.
In short, to determine our vocational opportunities based on if and how much we will be paid for it is slavery because money has mastered us. But we won't know that we're in chains until we step out of the prison that is this "American Dream". There are many Mother Teresa's sitting in cubicles in Manhattan because they are scared of not having enough. There are many MLK's sleep deprived in Silicon Valley because they are fearful of what family and friends may think of them if they left the job everybody wants. There are powerful leaders applying to grad school right now because they're not brave enough to do that thing they would do if only there was money to do it. Yet, because we don't have the courage to ask for the resources and help to get there, we go to idealist.com and apply for more jobs that supposedly give us control and security through the salaries yet to be negotiated. The world would be a much richer place if none of us defined the value of ourselves and our callings by dollars, pounds, or yen.