Jesus said, “He that saves his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel's will find it unto life everlasting*.”
Some today go the “career route,” and others are going into “ministry.” Some, like me, tend to get confused over the distinction.
In theory, “ministry” is about finding effective ways to give our lives away. When Jesus said “whosoever will be great among you will be your minister the word we have in the most original to mean helper, assistant, servant, slave. We have “Ministers” today in politics: trade minister, foreign minister, prime minister. I heard someone in Canada warning his friends of a speed trap by saying, “The Ministry is setting up across the street." (Speaking of the "Ministry of Transportation," the traffic police) Maybe such a language problem has come about over the years from people turning “ministry” into a career.
So what is a career? Simply what people do for themselves. To put it in raw, rude and radical terms, a career is what I do to feed my own unworthy face, or a ladder by which I expect to gain a better position for myself in this dying world. In a prison in Alabama the inmates all sit out in front of their cells in the evening with boxes of cedar lath, craft knives, and glue, making model ships, log cabins, and motorcycles. Hobby crafts, they call it. A man might spend twenty years in a chair on the edge of his dorm's “exercise yard” making hobby craft items, some of which he may even sell through some channel to pay for cigarettes and magazines.W hen his time is up, is he now prepared to step out into the free world, now 20 years newer and faster than when he left it? How is this not like the careers, and even hobbies, we pursue? One person becomes the leading expert on the gas make-up of bovine flatulence while another manages to memorise the career statistics for every pro athlete since 1928. Still another may find a cure for malaria or dengue fever. The first has done little, effectively, but collect data of questionable use and a stack of grant monies in the process; The second has acquired a trick to make him popular with gamblers; and the third has spared possibly millions from a painful, debilitating, death. But even the hero who (please, God!) defeats malaria or dengue has only added time to still-short lives, and has gained a respectable reward for that accomplishment. So what is it that actually has eternal value?
Real ministry is so much more, because it is so much less. Less of me, and more of Jesus. Less of my seeking the best compensation for my “talent” as a preacher (or, if I were one, a doctor, teacher, etc.), and more of my laying down my life, my pride, my reputation and “career options” for the sake of the Gospel. Less of what I can accomplish by my own presence in this world, and more of what His presence accomplishes through me. How much of "me" am I willing to trust into His hands, and how much do I think I really do know better?
So what about making one's ministry a career? One is committing oneself to the Eternal, the other is devoting oneself to the Temporal. One demands full reliance on God, the other emphasises self-reliance, even to a fault. Could this be a factor to why the Western Church has become so ineffectual? Could this be what Jesus was talking about, all along? Are we ready to rely on Him, or do we still like to think that we're
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [Lk 12: 22-25, ESV]