95,000,000 Shades of Success

95,000,000 Shades of Success

 

The 2012 earnings reports were in and no shocker here, E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, was at the top with over $95,000,000 earned in 2012. Yeah, you read that right, all of those zeroes are supposed to be there.

As I watched the news program I found myself having a little talk with Jesus (or, more like a whine-fest), “Why is it like that, Lord? Why is it that a book like that sells like that? Why is material like that so successful?”

But Jesus is good about bringing me back to the truth when I get all worked up over injustices, because it is an injustice. It’s an injustice when people—including many Christians—are more willing to spend money on a message about sex than on character building, encouraging, hope or healing. The demand is high for escape-ism, and painfully low for truth and reality. Sex and erotica are perfect avenues of escape into more me-ism (that is, the study of making ME happy, because I’m all that really matters) and those are avenues that earn writers (in those markets) a lot of money.

As great as having financial success sounds, it’s not what I am about. I don’t write Christian devotionals and articles and Bible studies because I want to be rich and famous. And if that was my motive, God wouldn’t bless it anyways. The more paychecks I’ve earned over the past year (and I use the term “paycheck” loosely), the more God has purged my heart of improper motives and given me multiple opportunities to bail on this whole writing-for-publication-in-the-Christian-market thing.

But you wrote a book, Rebecca, you’re an author. Surely you have some financial success in that regard?

Well—the truth is, my last (and only) commission check for my self-published Bible study was a little over $10, and that was for selling nearly 50 copies over nine months’ time. I make about $0.24 per book sold. So, contrary to popular belief, being a writer/author is not synonymous with money or glorious stress-free days of sipping mochas while watching the bank account grow with each online sale.

paycheck

(The above is a photo of a recent “paycheck” I earned)

Of course, there are exceptions to this. And I’m not saying all writers (namely, Christian writers) are simple folk like me. But I’m pretty sure if you talked with those “successful” writers, they would all say the same thing: If you want to make a living as a Christian writer, be prepared to work hard, sacrifice much, and make some investments of time and resources long before you’re earning that much desired “nice” paycheck.

I know this post is coming across as whiney but I am not whining, I’m merely sharing my heart as I’ve wrestled with this issue. A lot of you who read my blog are writers as well, or are involved in another Christian ministry of some kind where you’re tempted to judge your “success” in that area (heck, I am even tempted to judge my “success” as a Christian parent). I’m here to tell you right now, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment if you let go of your expectations; I mean really let them go—your expectations for money, success, or even how many people will be helped in whatever ministry you do.

In His response to my prayer, Jesus made it clear that there is only one shade of success as a Christian writer, or even as a Christian in general, and it is measured by how I choose to apply in my own life (live out through my behavior and my words) the following:

•Seek His will above my own (Matthew 6:33)

•Give all my expectations/rights to God—they were never mine to begin with (Job 38-42; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

•Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by making this about ME; it’s about Him and the fact that He really does know what’s best. Make it my goal to listen to Him and follow Him wherever He leads (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 6:6)

•Seek peace and pursue it (not the hippy, new age peace, but the inner personal peace that comes through living out my God-given purpose), and I’ll find that the success I was after was already a gift I’d been given (Psalm 34:14-15; 1 Peter 3:11-12; Psalm 119:165; Philippians 4:7) 

Advertisements

Why We Do What We Do…Part II: Overspending

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Does God really care if I buy an extra pair of shoes, a movie, some video games, or that magazine? Doesn’t God have bigger problems then how I spend my money? Isn’t that a bit extreme? After reading Luke 12:35-48 (I’d highly recommend checking it out) I’m convinced it is not too extreme and everything we do is important. Our Master is returning and we’re busy goofing off. He has entrusted us with material and spiritual gifts and He is watching us right now to see if we are using them faithfully. It bears no significance that our name is on the paycheck; it all belongs to Him. (1 Cor. 10:26) Consider this; Jesus is standing in front of you with a wad of cash, assuring you can do whatever you want with it. I don’t know about you, but my first response probably wouldn’t be running to Outback Steakhouse, buying a new T.V., or taking a trip to Disneyland. I’m guessing I would be motivated and obligated to use it for the hungry and needy. I couldn’t say for sure that’s what I’d do, but I have my dreams.

The reality is, every Friday (or whatever the pay day is), we are presented with that very same opportunity! Yes, we have bills to pay and things we need for our survival, but how much of that is truly spent wisely? If Jesus looked through your checkbook register, would you be embarassed? I know I would be. Let’s spend a moment clearing out our spiritual garden again, digging up the roots to our spending habits.

Root #1: I Lust with My Eyes

“For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

It’s impossible to make an unwise purchase without the sin of lust being involved. We didn’t buy that 80″ big screen television because we had no choice. We saw it with our eyes, we wanted it, we lusted after it, so we bought it! If we want to be good stewards of our finances, we must rectify our eyes of lust, and ask God to give us new eyes; kingdom eyes. Does that mean buying items for entertainment is sin? Only you and God know what is sin for you and your finances (James 4:17 again). If He has convicted you of a certain spending issue, and you ignore it, you are sinning. What’s a sin for me may not be a sin for you; it is up to me and you to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and obey. Maybe you could try praying before making such a purchase, and see what God has to say.

Root #2: I am Discontent

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” Proverbs 19:23 (Emphasis mine)

A spirit of discontentment will most assuredly lead to over-spending. If we  found our contenment in God, we would be less tempted to buy junk we don’t really need. Jesus warns us, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Paul instructs us to be content in godliness, rather than accumulation of things. (1 Tim. 6:6) We need to ask ourselves: are we content with what we have or are we constantly looking to have more? (1 Tim. 6:8)

Root #3: I am an Idolator

“Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolator, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 (NLT)

“Greed causes fighting; trusting in the Lord leads to prosperity.” Proverbs 28:25

Ouch! All I have to do is be greedy (selfish) and I am labeled as an idolator! How many times throughout a given day am I more concerned with my rights then the rights of those around me? Selfish ambition is greed. The deep desire for self leads us into all sorts of ugliness, one of which is over-spending. I want what I want and I want it now! I have the money, so why not? Once again we need to consider the source of our desire. Are we making wise choices or selfish choices? I have a friend who almost never makes new purchases for her children. She always uses hand-me-downs from families and friends yet her kids have some pretty cool toys. Many of them were used and they work just as well. We may look at used things as being beneath us or not good enough for us; this is another source of pride, selfishness, and greed. Once again I implore you to seek God’s counsel before making any purchase.

If you’re looking to increase the kingdom of God, and use your finances to glorify Him, consider the above roots and whether they have held a place in your spiritual garden. Seek new ways to be a blessing to someone else, rather then feeding your own desires. One of the best ways to get kingdom focused is to focus on the needs of those around you,  keeping in mind the nice things you have are not going to eternity with you.

(For more information on frugality, see America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money or Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides: America’s Cheapest Family. You can also see their bio and info on facebook.)

Money Changes Everything…?

I’ll admit it, I like to watch The Voice, a singing competition where people get the opportunity to win a recording contract. One woman had a duet with famous rock singer, Cindi Lauper. The song was titled Money Changes Everything. The two women danced aggresively around the stage shouting, “Money, money money!” while large green dollar signs were projected over the walls.

Just what the world needs, a message showcasing the importance of financial gain. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all there are major religious sects that preach a “prosperity” driven gospel, emphasizing faith rewarded with material wealth.  As one who has experienced most levels of financial gain and ruin, even homelessness, I think I can say with the authority experience brings, money doesn’t change a thing. Some of the darkest moments in my life were during times of great material wealth. I had everything I wanted, more than I had dreamed of, but spiritually I was deader than a doorknob.

I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6-20, probably the most well known passage regarding money. Verse 17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” My husband and I have gone through many levels of finances; from selling possessions to pay rent, to times where purchasing a large TV was hardly noticed in the register. God has used those times to teach me what is important. I have a tendency to get concerned when the well is running dry, so, God allows the well to dry up. I am brought back to this passage again and again. “But godliness with contenment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

What the world needs is more people to discover the love God has for them. Christians rising up and proclaiming the truth. Godliness is all the gain I need. Becoming the person of Christ is the only way anything will change for me. I’m glad I saw that episode last night because it brought me back to the truth of the gospel. Jesus is all I need. Jesus changes everything. God help me, as your beloved child, to remember to “flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11) If my security is found in material things I will never be content and will likely be discouraged, disappointed, and deeply depressed.

I’ve been redeemed, I’ve been to the river and washed white as snow, I am a new creation,  I have a new life that is Jesus, and that changes everything. “In this way [I] will lay treasure for [myself] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [I] may take hold of life that is truly life.” (1 Tim. 6:19)