What’s it Worth?

What’s your time worth? If you were to put a value on your time, what would it be?

Well, many (most) of us trade our time for money in order to pay for the necessities of life.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average worker in the US trades an hour of their effort for just about $23. (I must admit I was surprised it was that high, but that includes highly paid people in the average too)

Many of us think about our time in terms of exchanging it for money, especially if money is tight.  However, we often forget the opportunity costs that come along for the ride when we work overtime or are so tired from work that we can’t do the other things we want to.

God has really been working on me with opportunity costs lately.  This summer I resigned one of my teaching positions because it was just taking too much time from my family, and the bottom line was that the cost of teaching was too great.  That’s not to say that I don’t like teaching’; far from it.  But the opportunity cost was too high.

Jesus keeps bringing this topic to mind, and as I did my devotions the past couple of weeks this came to me again:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, ESV)

 
A black bear that came for a drink. And proof that, had I had a bear tag, that I would have got him. :)What will it profit me if I exchange my soul for the world? What, in the end, is the lost opportunity from what I am pursuing.  I actually read these words while sitting in a hunting blind with my son, enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods of Northern Arizona.  Sure I was passing up some chances to be up there with him hunting elk, but it was worth it.
 
Jesus brought it to mind again yesterday as I was studying.  I have made a conscious effort to be home more recently, and yesterday I decided to work from home in the afternoon so that I could be around for the kids and help Laura too.  James got restless in the afternoon, and there I was translating Exodus 14 in my recliner.
 
I had an opportunity to love on my son, so I put the laptop aside and grabbed the football.  We probably only played for a half hour, but soon he will be grown up and gone, and my opportunities to sow some love into him will be gone.  And Exodus 14 was still there waiting for me when we got done!
 
I am trying to look more for not only what I can do, but what it costs me to do what I do and whether those opportunity costs are worth it.  And because of that, I am spending my time in some different ways, with plenty more to work on!
 
How about you? Do you think about opportunity costs? In your spiritual life, are you considering what you pass up to take part in what you do? Is Prison Break or Monday Night Football or Battlefield 3 taking up enough time that your opportunity to worship Christ is passed? How about in your relationships, your habits, your thought life?
 
Where is God leading you in making the most of the opportunities you have right now?

First and 10

If you know me at all, you know that I am a football fan. A few random observations and some trash talk before we get to the point of this post:

  1. If you are a Chicago Bears fan, are you wondering if somehow Lovie Smith pulled a switcheroo on you and brought “evil Kyle Orton” back and put him in a #6 jersey yesterday? I mean, good grief…4 picks? Really? This is what $47.86 Million buys in the NFL?
  2. On that note, Orton did not look great against the Bungles. However, the guy finds a way to win. It may be crazy, but as of the start of this year Orton has a significantly better career winning percentage than Jay Cutler, the guy the Bears got in trade for Orton. Cutler has been to the Pro Bowl and been lauded as Chicago’s best quarterback in decades, but who decided it was wise to trade a guy with a 22-12 career record for a guy with a 17-20 record?
  3. Brett Favre needs a new mantra: “Call the play…hike the ball…hand to #28…” Is it just me, or did that run look like Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson? Adrian Peterson is a monster.
  4. Do you wonder if Michael Vick got a teensy bit excited when Donovan McNabb went down with the cracked ribs? I know that they are friends at all, but did you think just for a second that Vick might have signed with the Eagles at least partially because of McNabb’s injury history? I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
  5. Drew Brees can certainly light it up…but let’s remember for a minute that he was playing against Detroit. (go watch this piece on The Onion for a good laugh about the lowly Lions) I will hold out until he can win a big playoff game before anointing him the best QB in the NFC though.

My real challenge this week came when the Cardinals hosted the 49ers. I have this thing with being an NFL fan and also moving a whole bunch while I was in the Navy. I decided that in the interest of civic pride I would root for the home team of whatever place I lived. So when we lived in Florida, I rooted for the fledgling Jacksonville Jaguars. (they started play the year we moved to Florida) When we were in New York I yelled J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! When we were in Oregon there was no team, so I got a pass. When in San Diego I rooted for the Chargers. And now we live in Phoenix, making me a Cardinals fan.

Here is the problem, though. Deep down in my heart I am a 49ers fan born and bred. My parents and grandparents raised me a Niners fan. I grew up watching Joe Montana (or as we call him, Without A Doubt The Greatest Quarterback To Ever Play Football) throw the ball to Jerry Rice. I watched Ronnie Lott knock himself out hitting people.

Now, being a young boy idolizing WADTGQTEPF means I cannot be anything in reality but a 49er fan. So when the Niners came to town this weekend, I was on the horns of a dilemma. Sure I root for the Cardinals, but they were playing my Niners! I like Kurt Warner a lot; I think he is a great guy, an excellent ambassador for the game, and a wonderful example of a disciple of Christ. But he was playing my Niners!

I was asked at church who I would be rooting for in the game. There wasn’t even a question about who I would stand behind.

As much as I like the Cards, I love the Niners. So I watched the game with my son, rooting for Shaun Hill (wow…from WADTGQTEPF to Shaun Hill…how the mighty have fallen), Frank Gore, Patrick Willis and the rest of the Red and Gold. If the Cards suffered for losing to the Niners, then my loyalties were clear. GO NINERS!

What might have seemed like divided loyalties were in reality not divided at all. There was no intrigue when the game started. I am a Cards fan, but my heart was behind the Niners. Jesus talked about divided loyalties too, and how in reality we each face a choice as to which side we are on. In Matthew 6:24 He says,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

In reality, we cannot divide our loyalties between two competing “teams.” I can’t say “Oh, I want the Niners to win but Warner to have a great game.” Likewise, I can’t say “Oh, I want to please God with my life, but want it to be easy and prosperous.” I have to place myself firmly in one camp, because I cannot root for both to win. One must lose if the other wins. If I want God to be everything, then I cannot hope for me to be everything too. The teams are opposed to each other!

If we say that our priority is the kingdom of God and knowing Christ, do our lives look like He is our priority? Are we considering how to love our spouse the way God wants us to before we think about ourselves? Are our finances a reflection of His priorities? Since we cannot serve ourselves and God, who are we serving? Does it look like we work for our benefit, or like Paul says in Colossians 3:23 are we doing it like we work for the Lord?

To see God at work in miraculous ways in our life, we must be willing to give up our desire to have it both ways. We need to get behind “our team” and do so single-mindedly. When we try to hedge our bets, the only end is sorrow. When we dive in and serve the Lord with a whole heart, choosing Him over us and our desires, then (and only then) can we experience the joy of life as God intended. Since He wins in the end anyway, why would we root for the other team?

Redemption

On Thursday Michael Vick signed a 2-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The first year will pay him $1.6 million and the second, if the Eagles keep him, pays $5.2M. The Eagles already have an all-pro quarterback in Donovan McNabb, but the addition of Vick makes the Eagles a very, very potent offensive football team. If you’re a football fan, the thought of McNabb, Vick, and Brian Westbrook in the backfield all together is crazy to think about.

Signing a free agent during the pre-season would normally be no big deal. You’re perhaps reading this and wondering why I am even writing a post about football! This particular free agent acquisition is one of great interest, though, because of the moral and ethical dimension to the signing that has caused a lot of controversy.

For anyone who has had their head buried in the sand for the last two plus years, Vick just finished a 23-month sentence in federal prison for running a dog fighting operation. He was released a month or so ago, and after a good bit of intrigue in football circles landed in Philadelphia. There will be people protesting the presence of Vick at Eagles training camp, and he will hear from the crowd in every game he plays in the NFL.

The question is the moral and ethical side of the signing. Vick is absolutely an asset on the field, being a 3-time Pro Bowl selection. However, some feel that having him back in the league lets him off the hook and implies that what he did was okay. There are many who believe that the NFL is shameful for letting him once again be a role model for kids after what he did. Playing in the NFL is a privilege not a right, and no one should be given a chance to make that kind of money and have that kind of celebrity after behaving so heinously.

Really?

There is no question that Vick participated in some horrible abuse of animals, and that the dogs in question were helpless victims deserving of protection and not exploitation. In Genesis 1 and 2 Adam is given the responsibility to care for creation, not abuse it, so this sort of thing should be viewed as intolerable. There is no excuse for what he did, and Vick has done nothing but admit his guilt.

But let’s put this in perspective. Another NFL player just killed a man while driving drunk. Dante Stallworth served 24 DAYS in jail (he pled guilty to DUI manslaughter) and will be suspended for the 2009 season. So for killing a person (and please, no arguments that it was not purposeful; drinking and driving is purposeful) a 24 day sentence and a year without pay is appropriate, while killing dogs is a heinous crime worthy of a 2-year sentence and then banishment for life? I don’t get it. Stallworth is already a kajillionaire; he will be just fine without the paycheck. His Bentley is wrecked (yeah, he was driving his Bentley), but it will get fixed. He settled out of court with the family, so everything is behind him and he gets to watch this season on his HDTV and be in excellent shape next year.

There is another dimension to this as well; it is a theological issue. Vick has done his time, none of it in “Club Fed.” (He spent time in Leavenworth…) He has been released from prison and forced to pay restitution in large amounts. The federal government determined an appropriate punishment, and he has paid that punishment. The path for him to pay his debts is through the skills he can market in the NFL.

He has apologized and seemed genuinely remorseful for his behavior; maybe sitting and thinking of all that his actions cost him has given him perspective. Sure, it could all be a careful facade maintained by a good PR firm, but it seems that he is genuine. Though we cannot tell for sure, there is always the chance at redemption. We must never get so jaded that we aren’t willing to give someone a second chance.

I think that this attitude seeps into our lives as Christians far too often. We don’t want to offer forgiveness. We want to hold it against someone when they sin and make them really prove that they are sorry by relegating them to second-class status. Christians who fall prey to sexual temptation and all that goes with it, to greed, to lust, to envy, to a host of public sins are seldom offered forgiveness. What would happen if a deacon’s wife in your church stood up and confessed an abortion in her past? Would the church rally to her, or shun her? What if a leader confessed a serious gambling problem or a pornography addiction? Would we seek forgiveness, healing, and restoration or justice?

We talk about the grace of God and forgiveness, but if we hold onto it so tightly with others can we really say that we understand it truly?

In 1 John 1:9 we are told that when we confess our sin God will forgive it. In Galatians 2:11-13 we read of Peter sinning and leading others astray; this same man, after restoration, wrote two books in the New Testament and was one of the most important figures in Christianity. In Acts 15:37-39 John Mark abandoned Paul, yet in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul requests Mark’s presence. Paul forgave him at some point and gave him another chance to serve with him.

In Exodus 2:12 Moses murders a man. Yet in Exodus 3 that murderer is the man (after a long time away from home) God uses to free His people. In 2 Samuel 11 David commits the sins of adultery, plotting, lying, and murder. Yet God still, after David’s repentance (read Psalm 51 and see also 2 Samuel 12:13), restored him and used him in a great way.

I can see the same in my own life. I had no redeeming qualities that would make God want to use me. I had nothing but sin and depravity (Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) to offer God. And yet, with all of my sin, Jesus Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) He owed me nothing, and had every reason to hold my sin against me. And yet because of His great love He redeemed me.

I look at my redemption before God, and I pray that Michael Vick has found the same. I pray as well that we would find it in ourselves to offer the grace of God that we have been given to the people in our lives who sin, even in big ways. With repentance comes restoration and redemption, no matter how we view the sin committed.

So this season, I will be rooting for Michael Vick. I hope he is able to recapture some of the magic that he brought to the NFL. More than that, I hope he uses this second chance to right the wrongs and tell the world that with repentance, restoration can occur. Show us all, Mike, that we can overcome our past and turn our lives around.