John Piper, in Don’t Waste Your Life:
We need to be able to say to the suffering and perishing people, “I tried everything in the world.”
Many people think it’s because of profit. Capitalism enables people to maximize their profits, and that’s why it’s motivating.
I think this is wrong. I think the real reason capitalism is motivating is because it is based on freedom. The essence of capitalism is not “make us much money as you can” but rather “do what you choose to do. If it’s in the marketplace, you will have to do it profitably, but as long as you can do what you chose profitably, do whatever most fires you up.”
The profit motive is not bad. But it is not to be our primary motive, and it is not what is ultimately motivating to any human being who is rightly functioning.
If the government doesn’t allow profits, or inordinately seizes them, it is demotivating–not first because people are out for money above all things, but because the genuine fruits of their labors are being withheld from them.
But it does not follow from this that the chief motive in capitalism is or has to be money. Seizing people’s profits is demotivating; but what is ultimately motivating on the positive side is the opportunity to do what interests you, and do it in the best way you possibly can.
And, for the Christian, to do this to the glory of God.
My wife and I were talking about gardening the other day. We had driven by some nice flowers that the city we were in had planted and was watering, and my wife commented on how planting those flowers (and others throughout the city) meant they also had to have people to take care of them. Someone needed to water them, obviously, but also do many other things–plant them initially, keep them weeded (an ongoing thing, apparently), fertilize them if desired, and so forth.
I thought that was interesting, because I’ve always taken those nice flower displays for granted. Turns out my wife had a job in college taking care of the flowers on our campus, so she knows all about it.
Which leads to the most interesting thing for me: It took a team of 7 people to keep the flowers planted, watered, weeded, fertilized, and in order on our campus. The university we went to had about 15,000 people, so the campus wasn’t super small, but it wasn’t incredibly large, either.
The reason this is interesting to me is because I’m just the type of person who would have been crazy enough to put “water flowers” in my repeating task list every other day and “fertilize flowers” every 6 weeks and think he could take care of the flowers all by himself. But in reality, it took a team of seven people.
I know that the standard notion is that most organizations have too many people. Or, that seems to be the standard notion at least among some consultants and executives. My thinking is the opposite of this, especially when it comes to ministries.
Caring for the flowers on a college campus, or for a city, is super important. If it takes seven people simply to do that, how much more should ministries make sure they have enough people devoted to their all-important task of teaching and spreading biblical truth?
Seven people for an internet team, for example, probably sounds like a lot for most ministries. But if my college that served 15,000 students had seven people taking care of its flowers, how much more important do you think it is for a ministry that serves 3 million people a month (or many more) to have a team of 7 expert, knowledgable people tend to its website and make it the best it can possibly be?
And so forth with every other area of ministry.
Enough with overworking people, or skimping on having the necessary people for the work of the ministry. If this is the most important work in the world, let’s act like it.
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more cloth you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).