Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Back in June I joined the ranks of the under-employed. I say "under-employed" because there has always been some money coming in, and my wife is still working (which is a great blessing). In my case it wasn't that the Great Recession had hit me where it hurts. I resigned from the church I was serving for very sound reasons, and believe now more than ever that it was the godly thing to do.
Still, the whole effect has been to cause me to question my own usefulness. Receiving a paycheck every week in our culture is equivalent to assigning value to the individual. The more one makes, it seems, the more valuable they are to society. I realize that's a pretty broad statement, and one that some of you will probably disagree with, but judging from the things that our culture assigns value to (power, sex, beauty), we are compensating the most valuable people (politicians and corporation execs, models, actors) according to their value. And here I am, at what might seem the bottom of the value ladder... if you account my life in terms of economic gain.
That is not how Paul did accounting.
In his speech to the Ephesian elders he is quick to note the hard work he did (physical labor) to serve those who were receiving the Gospel: "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (vs 34-35). He also makes it plain that he wasn't looking for financial support from them, though I'm sure they did support him generously. But the whole speech is about economy and what is profitable!
Here then is what is profitable according to Paul: 1) teaching (you) in public and from house to house, 2) testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, 3) testifying to the gospel of the grace of God, 4) proclaiming the kingdom, 5) declaring to you the whole counsel of God, 6) admonishing everyone with tears, 7) commending everyone to God and to the word of his grace. These are the things that create true wealth when someone goes about doing them. The result of doing these things is to build an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
So I want to declare to you and to God and to the principalities and powers (whomever they may be) that these things shall be my vocation. Whether they were in the past or not, God is the judge. But my economy -- my value -- is to declare the grace of God. I will continue to work hard to make an earthly income that will prevent me from being a burden on anyone. But my employment must be to speak the good news of God from house to house.