People’s choice to not live to their full potential disheartens me and this feeling amplifies among fellow Christians. I live my life based on the Protestant Work Ethic and feel it is a Christian’s moral imperative. The main premise of the Protestant Work Ethic is that Christians are inclined to become successful in the world. This ethic is one of the main reasons Christians are generally Republicans – they seek a government that helps those who help themselves.
Worldly success generally implies strong character and significant contribution to society unless you somehow control a significant portion of the market or lack moral and ethical character. My issue with Christians these days is that most do not seem to follow this Protestant Work Ethic.
What is the definition of worldly success? For me, it means wisely using all your talents to their full potential. This doesn’t mean that every Christian has to be a CEO of a company or can’t be a humble social worker, but one should make sure that is where he or she belongs. Worldly success doesn’t mean you should make as much money as possible, but donating money to various causes helps people much more than most things your hands could do.
The problem with Christians is their false sense of purpose: many believe that to live a purpose driven life, they must find a career within ministry or something else related to religion and also humbling. Look at most small churches around you and you will find that their leadership is inefficient and ineffective. The only pastors I actually learn from lead large churches, not small ones. For this reason I usually prefer large churches, though it’s more difficult to obtain a sense of community.
To me, the main purpose of Christianity in our generation is its sense of community. Christianity teaches us to steer away from temptation, so Christians create a community that minimizes both temptation and sin. The result is: a deeply sheltered community disconnected from the world, a community that votes against gay marriage but has never grown close to a homosexual, a community that votes against abortion but has never experienced a decision to have one, a community that votes for war but has never seen a bullet kill another human being.
To become successful in the world, one must understand the world and be able to withstand all of its temptations and obstacles. To me, one who avoids temptation is a coward because one knows that he or she will fall if faced with temptation, but one who confronts temptation and overcomes is of strong character. What is the purpose of religion but for the Creator to choose those of strongest character?
One concept that many Christians, especially my mom, don’t understand is the concept of authority. Everyone talks, but how do we know which person we should listen to? An intelligent person would choose someone who has authority. For example, a doctor is an authority in medicine, a math professor is an authority in math, and Warren Buffett is an authority in business. If you want people to listen to what you say, you need some type of authority, and to become one you need some degree of worldly success, usually through education.
Without worldly success, it is difficult for a Christian to change the minds of anyone. No one listens when a homeless man speaks because he has forsaken his authority by being homeless. The problem with many small churches is that they are founded or led by a pastor without authority. I don’t like the Seventh Day Adventist church that much, but what I do like is that every pastor I’ve encountered has a pastoral degree and is sent from headquarters to the church. Be careful from whom you receive your information.
I hate fundraisers. I believe it is much more efficient if, instead of contributing one’s time to the fundraiser, one contributes to society by finding a job and donates their wages directly to the cause. Fundraising is only efficient when rich people are involved since they are inclined to donate for tax reasons. This is another reason I don’t believe pastors should ever receive a salary unless they are spectacular.
A man of God should never have to rely on other people for money and instead should make his own income. My mom for example works as a dentist and spends a lot of her extra time using her own money to a pastor. Due to her own steady income, she faces no difficulties and dependencies and as a Dentist with a pastoral degree, she has some sort of authority. Another issue with pastors receiving an income and position is the abuse of power such as in the Catholic Church, but that’s a whole other topic.
Christianity is about character growth, not about shaping one’s personality. It’s not about how we should think and act, but how we may change the world (though to do so requires some changes in the way we think and act). Usually when one is a young Christian he or she seeks leadership, but be wary of whom you want to become. Just because he is your leader does not mean the way he lives his life is best for you.
To grow in character and personality you must know who you are and become yourself, not some idealistic concept of the perfect Christian, and to do so requires conflict, which I find by exploring, fighting, and learning the sinful world and successfully overcoming it.
Walnut, California and its vicinity are considered relatively wealthy cities and have a low proportion of residents that are considered poor nationally. I don’t consider any of my friends poor, though some are extremely frugal, that’s usually because they don’t have a job. Thus, I generally consider anyone who lives in this area blessed. At our age, much of the time spent together as Christians are usually to help us grow as Christians. However, we must remember that there are those less fortunate than us and when we mature as Christians we must shift our priorities from ourselves and each other to those less fortunate, and the most effective way to help the needy is with money.