WORK & WEALTH

 

SCHOOL

How should we prioritize school and church?

                Be excellent at both. Neither is necessarily more important than the other, because both should be done with the utmost surrender and worship to God. Not every school event is more important than church, and not every church activity is more important than school. Their value and necessity is determined by how they help you exercise your gifts, properly steward your resources and opportunities, and grow you to be a better child of God.
                Pursing your studies to obtain a good career is a great ambition ONLY IF it is subordinate to the primary calling to be a disciple of Christ, worshiping through your job. If that career means sacrificing your commitment to the gospel, to God's people, to being trained in prayer and Scripture, then it is not worship--it's an idol.
                Actively serving in church is also a wonderful way to exercise your gifts, but not if doing so becomes an excuse to neglect the responsibility you have as a student to properly steward your mind. 
                Parents will often say "you are called to be a student." I don't think that's actually true--that's kind of a poor understanding of calling. Your calling doesn't change--your student status does. You're called to be a Christian. You're called to use your gifts. Because you have the opportunity to do so at church and at school, your job is to make the most of both instead of just choosing one over the other. When the two conflict, you have to responsibly decide before God about which one He would have you choose--not motivated by worldly success, but by spiritual faithfulness. That doesn't always mean choosing a church activity over a school event when their dates conflict, but it does mean making every effort to stay grounded in fellowship, worship, evangelism, discipleship, and service at all times, and taking every opportunity to make yourself better at all of them.

 

How do I balance everything?  School is frustrating.

                If you're trying to balance everything in such a way that you do very well in each item, then the first step is to know the limit of how much you can take on without diminishing the quality of your work in any area. Don't think it's better to have a ton of AP classes. It's better to show you can do well with your workload. Good grades speak better than good classes. If you can have both, great, but if you can't, then go for the former. 
                Throwing church into that mix is, of course, going to get really challenging since the investment in ministry is also important, but it doesn't get calculated into your GPA. Your discipleship is of utmost importance, but that includes honoring your parents, being a good steward of your blessings, and knowing how to rest from your work to cherish the relationships you have and trust in God's provision. Most people are good at studying hard, which satisfies the first two interests listed above, but a lot of students have trouble resting and trusting God, knowing their hearts are more valuable than their grades. If they spend a day without doing schoolwork, they panic and feel like their lives are going to fall apart. If that sounds like you, it's time to start really figuring out how to be a disciple of Christ before you're a student of school. The fact that Jesus was most interested in twelve uneducated men to serve him makes a statement about how our grades are not as important to our calling and our future as we make them out to be. But this is never an excuse to do less than our best.

 

I find myself constantly looking forward to going to church, but it's getting to the point where at school all i think about is church, and I can't get myself motivated in schoolwork and am starting to hate my school life. What should I do?

                Honestly, I feel the same way.  Church is where I connect to the people I love and who love me back. Doing anything else is not nearly as satisfying.  I constantly have to think back to why I go to church though. I either go for me or I go for God. There's definitely something in it for me, but God needs to be my motive. That's not only true for church. It should be true for everything.  How you handle your priority with school should also reflect how well you take care of the blessing God has given you with education. If you're thankful, you'll take good care of it. If you're ungrateful, you won't care. Your attitude will reflect where you see school in relation to God--either it's from Him or it has nothing to do with Him.
                I often have to pray to fix my perspective on these kinds of things. That's probably why the Bible always tells us to pray with thanksgiving, and I bet if you do that, it'll begin to change the way you see things. I'm not saying you'll love school, but you'll have a better attitude going into it.

 

What do I do if I don't get the grades I try hard for?

Several things that I would consider:
                1) Change your study habits. That could mean either study more or study differently. I learned to read out loud. It makes a difference. I also make it a point to discuss what I'm learning with someone else in the class. That makes it take twice as long, but I learn it five times better, so that's a way better payoff.
                2) Don't allow grades to determine your worth. If you tried hard and didn't receive a good grade, that doesn't mean you're less of a human being. It just means you didn't remember some of the skills or facts that you studied. Either that or the test had emphasized things you didn't expect.
                3) Go over the test with the teacher or a friend to learn what you did wrong. This is where you really discover whether or not you have a passion for learning or if you only care about a grade. When I see an answer marked wrong on my test, it drives me crazy because I don't like to be wrong. I find out where I messed up. In that process, it becomes very humbling to remember how human I am, and it also sets the answer straight in my mind, which eventually helps me not to make the same mistake again. Keep doing this and you'll also become good at preventing mistakes too.
                4) Seriously, drink tons of water the day before and the day of every test. And ALWAYS make sure you sleep 8 hours the night before the test. You're going to have to discipline yourself to make this work, but that's what it's going to take to know that you're going into the test with your brain working well.
 
                5) Learn to talk about it. If your grade sucks, you have the choice to either be ashamed and not tell anyone (this is like the default Asian response), or you can shake your head and say, "I didn't do my best" and show whoever asks you. This will keep you humble, not proud. It scares me how many people are ashamed to discuss what scores they get on tests because they feel like that's really a measure of their value and worth. If I played in a video game tournament and got 8th place, I wouldn't hide that from people, because I know it's not that big of a deal. Grades aren't that big of a deal either--they don't indicate how good of a person you are. It takes a lot of humility to do this, but that's what it means to be vulnerable. Being able to share with your friends openly about this stuff is an indicator that your friendship isn't threatened by or dependent on your status and achievements. When asked what you got, don't say something lame like, "a NOT good grade." If you got a C, say you got a C. Talk about how it made you feel and stuff. And then let your friends be there for you.

 

What is your opinion on high school dances?

                I think there are ways to do them right, and ways to do them wrong. The event itself is usually a rather morally neutral one. Approaching it with alcohol, lewdness, impurity, or irresponsibility as part of your plans is how you could mess it up. But grab a bunch of friends and have dinner and go dancing without trying to provoke one another into unwise situations or feelings and that's the kind of dance that I'd want my kid to go to.

 

What is your advice for students that are getting ready to go to college?

I would recommend taking care of the following things:
                1) CAMPUS MINISTRY. Join a Christian club, in addition to a good church, of course. I'm heavily biased on this because this is the way I was saved, but I also see so much value in having a community of believers that you can trust and meet with everyday. If your church can provide that, then problem solved, but if you're away from your church community during the week and only come home on weekends, then make sure to secure yourself with believers when at school.
                2) KNOW YOUR LIMITS. If you know something is a temptation for you (like alcohol), tell everyone around you that you don't want to be near it, and let them know it's a serious struggle you don't want to lose. That'll help you overcome those fights in your life, and it also allows other people to be the help and blessing they're supposed to be in your life. Of course, do the same for them.
                3) MAKE FRIENDS. The first instinct to hit when at a new school will be to look for a romantic companion to fill the sudden loneliness of the heart. This is a deception. Make a lot of friends. I mean regular friends--not boyfriends or girlfriends. Your social atmosphere is formed in the first two years of college, and if you detour yourself from establishing a good group of friends, you don't get that back. And once you graduate, you're really only left with the friends you've made in college and the ones you make at work (which hopefully won't change often). Focus on making friends and being a friend. Once you've got a good direction for your life, and understand yourself and have come to terms with your insecurities, then you can start considering a future with a companion.

 

Do I need to pray about which college major to pursue and wait for God to confirm, or do I have the freedom to choose since God uses everything for His purpose?  Will God see any major as a fit choice for me if I enjoy it and worship/glorify Him with it?

                Have in your heart the goal to worship God with the best of your abilities. Ask God for that frequently in prayer. Then choose a major that helps you do that.  Like your parents, God isn't trying to micromanagement your decisions in life. That wouldn't honor Him nearly as much as you knowing what's important to Him and choosing a life that will display those values as you live it. 
                My son is almost 2 years old. I hope when he is 30, he won't be calling me, asking me what job to pursue. I hope he'll know my heart, know what would please and displease me. I hope he'll know how proud I am of him when he works hard, lives right, and treats me and his neighbor with great humility and respect. That's maturity, and that's what God wants from you too. You don't have to call him for what job to pursue. You need to know His heart, what pleases and displeases Him. Work hard, live right, and love God and your neighbor with everything you've got. That's how you glorify Him. That's why Jesus could use fishermen, tax collectors, and uneducated men (Acts 4:13) and have them completely change the world for His glory. Did he care about their major? No. He cared about their allegiance.

 

When applying to college, how should Christians deal with religiously affiliated schools? I really like some schools but I think that I may feel uncomfortable at some of them. Example: Notre Dame is like 70% catholic, etc.

                I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I went to a religiously-affiliated school for a religiously-affiliated education. I don't know what it's like to go to such a school for a degree that's unrelated. I don't know how much that influences the education or the lifestyle one way or another. But one thing you can be grounded on: if you won't be able to learn, serve, pray, fellowship, and worship properly under the true gospel, uncontaminated by other religious obligation (ie. going to Catholic mass or something like that), then avoid those schools. If you can freely grow in your faith despite the religious position of the school, then the school's position is just a label, not an obstacle, so I would be far less concerned about it.

 

 

MONEY

How should we factor money we received as a gift into offering?

                Regardless of where it comes from, what you receive is something to be thankful for and use wisely to worship God. Our offering doesn't express a percentage of our income. It expresses an acknowledgement and gratitude for the things God has blessed our lives with--no matter who signs the check, wraps the gift, or charitably gives to you. All of our stuff is really God's stuff anyway. It's less about "how much of my money will I give God" and more about "how much of God's money will I spend on myself?"

 

What is the right way to be rich?

                1 Timothy 6:17-19: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

                I think the easy way to remember it is: make as much money as you righteously can, then spend as much of it for others as possible.

 

What do I do when my family is facing financial troubles?  I’m beginning to worry about college tuition.

                As always, prepare for the worst and hope for the best--then pray for the faith to accept either.  If you have to take time off school to work and help support your family, then do that. There's nothing wrong in that, and nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, that usually makes a person grow up and mature a lot faster. You'll end up finding that hanging out with peers who are in college will seem a little...well, beneath you, in some ways. You'll have come to understand some serious, real-world, adult responsibilities like working long hours, filing taxes, commuting through traffic, dealing with bosses, etc. And you'll notice that your college-going friends don't truly understand what that stuff feels like, and it might even feel like they're just in high-school-part-2 from the way they see things.

                I tend to have a lot of respect for young working adults. Or, maybe it's more like I tend to think that a lot of college students that I know are just there because they haven't really figured themselves out yet. Some have picked majors or set goals and are in pursuit of their futures, but many are just delaying the deadline to which they have to face the life stage that's called "when I grow up."

                But if your college education is important to you and your parents, there's certainly no harm in getting a degree. If you can do it, do it. And don't be afraid to rely on financial aid either. Get loans and apply for scholarships and grants. Then learn to be very wise with your money, not wasting it on too many restaurants (instead of cooking), fancy dates (instead of meaningful time-spending), holiday gifts, or unnecessary gadgets.

                Through it all, pray for contentment. The apostle Paul reminds us that we can have the best of riches or we can be the poorest of beggars, but with the right Christ-mindset, we'll have a contentment that reflects our godliness. The way he says it is, "I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength." The paragraph is better than the single-sentence, so be sure to look up Philippians 4:9-13. Ignore the section headings and stuff. Copy/paste the words into a separate document or something where you won't be distracted by the chapter/verse numbers or footnotes or whatever else. Just read the words and hear what God is telling you to do when you feel like the world might shake your trust in Him. Hear Him and do what He says.