A Proper Calling

A Proper Calling

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to interview Roy Goble about his new book, “Junkyard Wisdom Rebuilt” and one of the themes in the book and Roy’s life is his relationship with his father. I want to know more about that as it sounds like we had similar experiences.

Before he died we took week-long trips together to walk and talk. Years ago while riding the train through the Canadian Rockies, I asked him to reflect on giving. While he had practiced giving all his life, I had never seen anything in writing. Dad talked it out with me while I scribbled some notes. Roy quotes John Chrysostom in his book and it reminds me of how Dad approached his own giving as a craftsman:

When I was young people would say to me, “It must be difficult growing up in the shadow of your father.” Yes, it was. Not  until years later was it that I understood there is a difference between the shadow of a father and the shade. While there were struggles that were painful to us both about my being “Jr.” the advantages gradually eclipsed the difficulties and today I am grateful for the shade of wisdom my father provided

“Indeed there are so many skills, each requiring many years to attain, that it would be impossible to list them all.  So what is the skill that rich people should acquire?  They do not need to fashion brass or wood, or to build houses.  Rather, they must learn how to use their wealth well, to the good of all the people around them.  The ordinary craftsperson may think that that is an easy skill to learn.  On the contrary, it is the hardest skill of all.”

Here is the essence of what Dad said:

“For me, giving is divided into four types. They may not vary by the amount but they vary greatly by the motive, effect and reward.

The gift. The gift becomes known, sometimes widely, but not the giver – or at least the giver does not let it be advertised to their glory. The widow’s mite was known but not because she rang the bell with the gift as did the others. As far as we know, only one person sitting off to the side out of her sight witnessed it and he only told a few people. She quietly demonstrated her faith with her sacrifice not knowing anyone would notice. It may be difficult to truly give anonymously because in our deepest heart of hearts we do not yet believe we are giving to God and that He sees and is pleased and will reward as He sees fit. I am sure the slight pinging sound of her penny  rang the bells in heaven.

A purchase posing as a gift. Here the giver buys a reward and it is generally recognition or social position. It is well publicized and your gift purchases you a reputation for generosity. It would be more accurate to call this giving an expense. It is the price of admission. It reminds me of the story of the gentleman at the fund-raising banquet who stood and said before hundreds of people attending, “My wife and I will give $50,000 but we want it to be anonymous.” As Scripture says of the Pharisees “They have their reward.” It does not say the reward was wrong or inappropriate; it simply says when you give for human reasons you get human rewards. If you want the reward here you get it…but there is no reward in heaven. You can enjoy the reputation as a great philanthropist but you cannot endow sainthood.

Giving as an investment. Giving as investment is particularly attractive to those who are acquisitive and concerned more with leverage and return than gratitude and love. They are protecting God from others misusing the money. There is little interest in giving to small things – only things that will “change the game.” This is not giving but investing. It is not just a reward but a return on investment that is expected. 

The ultimate reward. The ultimate reward for the profitable servant is to hear the Master say, “Well done, enter into my joy.” It requires a great deal more humility than most of us possess to find satisfaction in being a profitable servant. Money makes it more attractive and tempting to play the role of the master. The Master did not ask the servant how well known he was, what his standing was in the community, how he enjoyed himself or what were his future plans. He simply asked “How were you profitable to me?” When we fulfill our purpose completely we can expect the joy of The Lord. Profitability to the Master out of love and gratitude is a great and proper calling.”

Yes, it is indeed a great and proper calling.

Art by Mary McCleary

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