Jesus said you cannot serve both God and Mammon.
But if we're honest, a lot of us are bent on figuring out a way to do both.
For those of us committed to serving God amongst the poor, this compromise is especially subtle, because we often hope that we can serve the poor, AND at the same time figure out a way to get paid well to do it.
Billions of dollars are invested annually to promote the agenda of corporations. One study revealed that lobbyists for the rich spent $5.8 BILLION dollars over recent years to influence the US government, and for their efforts received back $4.4 TRILLION dollars in federal business and support.
Lobbying for the rich pays. And it pays well. They are organized. They are serious. And they are good at what they do.
So one argument goes like this: we need to compete. If we're going to get serious about the needs of the poor, we need to pay well and get the best people into the Non-Profit sector. This viral TED presentation by Dan Pallotta argues this point among others.
But adopting the methods of the world (the free market) is not the Kingdom way.
In the free market, money talks, and those with money set the agenda. Sadly, it works like this in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex as well. Donors inevitably set the agenda. Whatever is the "cause du jour", the latest fashion in social problems (it just happens to be sex trafficking right now) - is where the money goes.
So, those who allow payment to determine their service to the poor, will experience a natural pull towards those areas that donors focus on. Simply put, the organizations working on those issues are the ones flush with resources.
Is this a bad thing? Maybe not. But it throws up 3 immediate problems:
1. Donor attention is fickle. Sex trafficking is the big thing right now. But I remember not too long ago it was AIDS. Before that it was micro-credit. The needs don't change much but the flow of dollars changes rapidly from season to season. I have seen more than one organization collapse when the issue they were addressing was no longer popular.
2. Donors don't understand the poor. By definition, donors have money. They are usually not poor. So, why should we let the rich define what gets done to tackle poverty? The best organizations take their role of educating the general public (donors) very seriously. They are not donor-driven. They are driven by something else.
3. Unpopular (unsexy) people groups and issues are neglected. This is the biggest problem. Jesus called us to love and serve the "least". And very often they are not the cutest, the most photogenic, the most "fund-able" or "like-able". They are not the latest fashion in social causes going viral on Facebook.
In the Upside-Down Kingdom, we pursue the agenda and priorities of God first and put the other stuff second. We love the least, the broken, the un-lovable. And as a result we often toil away under-resourced, under-promoted and under-appreciated.
The poorest of the poor, simply cannot pay for our services. Let's internalize that truth.
Let's commit not to serve merely where we can be paid to serve. But wherever God calls us - especially remembering the poor.
If you can be paid to do that - great! If you end up being paid well to serve God in the way that makes your heart sing - awesome (you can now fund others).
If not, get creative! Swallow your pride and Go Begging. Honestly, there is nothing more noble than walking in the footsteps of St Francis and begging for your living in order to pour out your life for others.
Live simply. Fund yourself. Trust in God. Have faith.
And as the Body of Christ - let's get serious about generosity and freeing up resources for others to serve the poor - even in "unsexy" areas of service.
It's time to do whatever it takes to serve Jesus, in the distressing disguise of the poor. For it is there, at his feet, that we will truly find our calling.