Last night I attended class #11 (out of 13) for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It’s been a good course although the drive into Anchorage on Tuesday nights has gotten old…particularly those weeks where I drive into town on Wednesday. Well, last night was all about finding the right job for who you are, with all of your interests, passions, and abilities. And there was one illustration that made me stop and think. The illustration went something like this:
There was a psychological study done near the site of a college campus to see how much value persons place on money for the work they do. So the researchers put up fliers on the campus, advertising a job digging ditches at $7 an hour. The next day, a good number of “starving college kids” showed up to put in a day’s worth of hard labor. They were shown some ground and told to dig a ditch. None of them, as one might guess, were particularly fond of ditch digging. But, $7 an hour was more money than they could get in many places at the time. So the started digging.
During the lunch break their bosses (really the researchers conducting the study) came to them and told them to fill up the ditch–to take all the dirt and rocks they had just removed and put them back in the ditch. When asked why this was the case, the researchers just told them that $7 an hour was good pay and they should just do as directed. Filling up the ditch took the rest of the afternoon.
When the ditch was filled and it was time to break for the day, their bosses came and told them that, if they came back the next day they would be paid double, $14 an hour, an extraordinary amount.
The next day only 40% of the workers showed up. And, on that second day, the same scenario played out. The workers dug a ditch, filled in a ditch, and were told that the following day they would be paid an additional $7 an hour, bringing their hourly wage up to $21 for unskilled labor. The following day, another 60% of the workers decided to “ditch” the job–with only 15% of the original workers there on day three of the experiment.
The researchers concluded that money, in and of itself, was not a strong enough motivator to keep persons coming to a job that seemed to have no purpose, no meaning, and was not part of a bigger picture. Perhaps if they were digging a ditch to put in a cable line or to serve as a drainage ditch that would have made some sense to them and they would have come back to work. But the promise of good pay wasn’t “good enough” for college kids, hungry for money, when they couldn’t see the point of what it was they were doing. They refused to show up.
Now, Dave Ramsey told this metaphor in a class related to finding the right job for yourself. His point was that money can never be your primary motivator. A job that is not fulfilling will continue to be so no matter how good the pay is for you. It’s not worth it. You need to find a job that gives you some purpose, that satisfies you, that aligns with your passions, that connects with who you are as a person, and gives you some meaning in life. Otherwise, like the college students, you won’t want to show up for work.
But the entire time the DVD was playing and Dave was talking, I was thinking about the church. No matter how good the “pay is” — eternal life, fellowship, fabulous music, standing in community, knowledge, etc. — church needs to be a place where we are able to see the larger picture. We need to see that it has purpose, that it aligns with our passions, that connects with who we are as a person, and gives meaning in life. That is a challenge for every pastor. However, it is the challenge for congregations as well. They need to live their lives as if to show the world that their faith matter for how they live in the world. They need to live as if their community of faith provides them the “something bigger” in life that they need to be connected with.
Perhaps this is what Jesus means when he talks about the “abundant life” he offers us in John 10:
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
I feel a sermon coming on…. Do I hear an “Amen.”