Upside Down and Happy

It’s Labor Day weekend, so let’s take a break from politics–we’ve covered football and beer, so I’ll deal with labor.

The best advice ever given me was by my former high school English teacher when I was 18. I hated the college my parents sent me to and decided to come home. I knew I’d need a job (or face homelessness–my mother believed in “tough love”) so I called a local computer store that had not yet opened. They weren’t hiring, so I sought advice.

“Go there and help for nothing. Ask for nothing. Do your best.” I’m paraphrasing but that was the essence of it. “If you do a good job they’ll eventually pay you or tell you to go home.” I did exactly that. I helped build shelves, set up displays and get the store ready for two weeks, and eventually the owners gave me a $10 bill (this was the 80’s). Then they hired me. I worked there through most of college, earning double the minimum wage.

These days, most young people aren’t happy unless they have a gold-plated job ready for them, where they don’t have to work too hard, build shelves (that was not my forté) or do anything distasteful. I learned about the value of enjoying work and earning trust. I learned about the value of money.

Money is not the end of anything, it’s “currency” meaning it’s a current coming in and going out of your life. You are born with none and you take none with you, and what you do with your money is more an indication of the inclination of your heart than what you do as a job or how charming you are.

You knew I was going Biblical, right?

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38, words of Jesus)

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21, words of Jesus)

Giving to get is the world’s way. Giving because you will look good helps nobody but you. Giving because God has a better reward for you in heaven, and because it helps others, is God’s way. And it’s a happy way.

Most people, fantasizing about being rich, winning the lottery, or having bet on Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination in May 2015 when he was 150 to 1, think of all the things they’re going to buy for themselves. But buying stuff for yourself has a cost.

Buying the big house means maintaining the big house. Buying the nice car means keeping it nice and keeping it running (even a Tesla requires expensive tires). Having things means always having more.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12)

Paul wrote those words and he lived them. I have never been in need, in the sense of destitute. But I have had plenty. When I had plenty, I gave more and lived on less than I could have. And now that I don’t have plenty, I live well.

You see, I haven’t drawn an actual paycheck since September 30, 2015. I have lived on capital draws from investors, and other uncertain funding sources, but God has always provided. Always. I don’t give like I did before, but my lifestyle hasn’t much changed. I–we, my family–are happy.

My goal is not to make a lot of money and live well. My goal is to live well and give away 90 percent, and live on 10 percent. Not when I die, or to some foundation like Bill Gates, but now, all my life. Because money is not a possession, it’s currency. As you give, you get. If you defer your giving, you defer what you could have now. Peace, joy, contentment.

The more you have, the more you have to lose. That might be Buddhist philosophy but it doesn’t make it false. Start radically giving. Start making your labor about love, not money. I’m just paying forward some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

It’s never too early to start, and it’s never too late to try. Happy Labor Day weekend.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

View all posts