An Embarrassing Confession

I opened up this year’s blog with confessing to the failures I made in 2013 along with some of the successes.

This post is in line with that one — it’s just moving back in time a ways. Just like when I talked about a first-class screw up I made many years ago when believing stories I heard without first checking them out with the specific people being talked about.

So here goes . . .

When I became a Christian in my teens, I somehow got it into my head that Christians were never to sell anything or charge for anything. Especially for products and services, no matter what they were.

I don’t know where I got this idea from, but it doesn’t matter who influenced me. It was stupid at worst and naive at best.

If a Christian is in business, selling a service or a product, they have every right to charge for it. However, the price should equal the value. And they should provide excellent quality.

(By the way, my point about clergy salaries in Pagan Christianity and Remagining Church is a completely different subject. I don’t believe that a local minister of the gospel should charge God’s people for pastoral ministry. But that’s another discussion that I’ve tackled elsewhere in detail. So let’s not get off on that here.)

Even though I personally don’t profit personally from my books, I have no problem with Christian authors who do.

Writing a book is a monumentally difficult task; it doesn’t matter what the topic is, it’s very hard work. And it always costs money to produce the books in whatever form. They don’t just appear free of charge.

Even though I’ve given away thousands of my books for free over the years, someone ends up paying for the costs whenever I’ve done this (in my case, it was me most of the time).

The same with a music CD put out by a musician or any other piece of art.

Some bloggers I know charge for a subscription to their blogs. While I don’t do this and have no intentions on doing it (you can relax now), I have no problem with it.

Writing blog posts consistently is extremely difficult work.

Point: If someone uses their time and their energy to share their expertise … especially if it’s going to profit others … not only is okay to charge people for this service, but I think they should.

Americans who want a hand-out for everything at other people’s expenses aren’t being realistic nor reasonable. In fact, one could argue they are trafficking in stealing.

And whether you like it or not, most people put no value on free stuff. They put value on things they must pay for. And the higher the price usually means (to the average mind), the higher the value.

Anyways, because of my warped philosophy about money when I was in my teens, I would rarely attend a concert, a conference, or a seminar held by a Christian if there was a charge for it.

Yet I would spend thousands of dollars on my college education without wincing.

When I was in my early 20s, I realized the folly of this kind of thinking and it changed my whole outlook on spending money.

Subsequently, I saw paying for seminars, conferences, workshops as a way of supporting those who put these events no, not just a way to learn from them.

And I was happy to pay them for their expertise.

I know a Christian man who sells a podcast course. The price? $2,000. I have no problem with this because he’s sharing his hard-won expertise with others.

I have another Christian friend who holds conferences for entrepreneurs. He also charges $2,000. Steep? Perhaps. But if he’s helping people to make 10x that amount in their businesses, it’s well worth it, no?

Not only that, but that’s far less expensive than a college education which very often doesn’t land people jobs.

This outlook also spread to my conduct in paying for meals. I became a big tipper when I went to a restaurant and I still am. (Right or wrong, Christians have a reputation of being poor tippers.)

Why am I telling you this?

Because even to this good day, I keep meeting “Christians” who will gladly spend thousands of dollars on football tickets, golf paraphernalia, fishing stuff, trade school courses, college courses, etc. but will squall, bellyache, wine, complain, and even attack if a Christian if she or he is selling a product or a service that will help them in life.

These people demand a hand-out.

It happened just this week when I publicly recommended Rick Warren’s new book The Daniel Diet.

Someone — a professing Christian — tweeted a vindictive charge against Rick, saying that it’s wrong for Rick to be selling a book, that he’s out to make money, etc. etc. etc.

This person’s probably isn’t in touch with the fact that he just sinned by making these statements. 1) he judged another man’s heart and imputed motives to it, and 2) he violated Matthew 7:12.

The truth is, Rick gives the money for his book sales to charity. I applaud this as I do the same myself.

Anyways, I repented of thinking that Christians should never sell anything. And I’m embarrassed to say that I once held to it, even if I was a teen.

So I hope, in turn, that some who may have been mistaught to think this way will adjust their attitudes and correct their perspectives.

Perhaps the best person I can recommend who will help Christians to view money properly is my friend Ray Edwards.

Start reading his stuff and listening to his podcast and you’ll gain a more mature, sound, and biblical view of spending money.

One that I believe will end up blessing you and others.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good points and well-made, Frank. I appreciate your kind words. In my experience, it’s hardly ever about the money itself. It’s almost always about the position of one’s heart in relation to the Lord.

  2. Jason Guinasso says

    I believe acts of charity should be considered on a case by case basis. Whether one charges for their services or goods or gives those goods and services away should really be dictated by the leading of the Spirit, not by guilt, a misguided sense or duty or to enable a person’s entitlement mentality. There are times I give my legal services away and other times when I charge. I make it a point to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance on what I should do given the facts and circumstances presented to me. I love what I do, so I don’t worry too much about whether I am being taken advantage of or not. I just want to do what is pleasing to my Lord in both word and deed.

  3. says

    I’d have to add that some of us, when we cross the bridge of charging money, don’t value our services high enough and actually charge too little. Accurately valuing what we bring to the marketplace is tough at times, but must be done to be professional and provide for our families.

  4. Jeremy Story says

    Amen Frank. It all comes from a dualistic world view from which we must rid ourselves. Some of your early books really helped me on this. This view of money (or selling) comes from the root of spiritualizing certain activities. (i.e. you can sell books all day long until you claim it is a Christian book and then it should be free)

  5. Allison says

    They should indeed charge for their expertise, and the products and services they have developed; but everything in moderation. It must be done fairly. Some get caught up with money, until it overwhelms them and turns them into materialistic, money grubbing wolves who prey on the poor. Many of the men in the Bible who God loves dearly were wealthy, but He reminded them to share what they had and not to let the wealth overwhelm them, and make them haughty. That is why Christ made the statement of the ‘camel through the eye of the needle’.

  6. says

    My husband and I founded/operated a nonprofit Exotic parrot refuge (rescue-sanctuary) for 25 years. We did this for NO pay from the corporation. The IRS did insist on compensation to us in other ways which we agreed to. We used this work to serve others, witness to the lost and encourage the brethren. We took many hits from so-called Christians who stole from us: seed from our rescued birds’ mouths, expensive toys donated for our birds use, and even worse. Most volunteers came for one primary reason, to get a FREE parrot. Thinking it was free to us, we should just give it away free, not taking into account the time, costs for food, vet care, building and maintenance. Most volunteers quit if they got a bird, while other volunteers quit if they did get a bird. All those who got birds were worthy and experienced to give these birds wonderful homes, but their priority was not to volunteer, but to get the bird. We spent all these years with NO salaries, liquidating all our personal assets to fund this project when we didn’t get in enough donations. Why? Because we felt in our hearts that God wanted His creatures taken care of and He wanted us to give HIM out to all who came here. Now we are living on SS and it is so very hard. Donations are slim to nil, yet we pray daily for funds. We knew that we’d be in this financial situation at this point in our lives but it is still harder than you could possibly know. Wouldn’t change a thing, as the Gospel went out and birds got homes where they weren’t abused, starved or left stranded in an empty apartment or house. And we don’t know the fruit that is growing in the hearts of the people we met. That is God’s business, not ours. He will judge in the end. In summation, people, even Christians are greedy, expect something for nothing and get offended when they don’t get it. They act like God’s spoiled children…..we deserve it. When in reality IF we all got what we really deserved, we’d all be headed for Hell. Instead from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, to the contrary, we have an eternal home with him.

  7. says

    I’ve run into the same thing as a Christian coach, people want free or a minimum investment when things turn spiritual. If I was tutoring math, I could charge what I wanted.

    • says

      We do not charge for what the Spirit gives us, that is free. The expertise that we have in worldly things, we charge for.

      A Christian coach or any other service, offers more than the world for the same price because of who the person is offering the service.

  8. Angel Pla says

    People are people! Everyone must realize that just the time alone it takes too organize data so that it can be shared is time (ergo money) consuming. I have seen too often, particularly “christians” expend lots of money on worldly stuff but not willing to spend on materials (media) that will help them move closer to be Christ like. It’s shameful. My advice is to save the money and get the materials you need. Economy is not great, but we are to support one another. After all, what monetary value can you place on Salvation?

  9. Dona Leah says

    I used to own a family entertainment company and I don’t think anybody had to deal with this expectation to work for free as we did. I had to explain to people that we went to “school” like everybody else except that in order to stay current and competitive we had to continue to go take classes at least once a year. Our supplies were outrageously expensive. Our costumes had to be custom made and most people would be horrified to discover the cost. And most people don’t realize that there’s a gigantic difference between the old lady next door slapping together a costume from Good Will and a highly trained professional performer. To top it off people would simply see us show up at an event and would have no concept of the number of hours that went into preparing and planning for that event (at least when a trained professional is on the job). And without fail it was always churches and religious organization who thought we should come to their fund raisers, events where THEY were making money, and work for free. But we, like everybody else had to feed and clothe our families on the money we made. Although it’s true that the best of us loved what we did and loved the children we entertained, it was still skilled professional work. After all, how many people do you know who can twist anything you can name out of a balloon in less than a minute and keep an endless line of hot sweaty people laughing at the same time! The same Christians don’t expect to have their teeth or their gas tanks filled for free just because they are religious.

  10. says

    Jack, you make a great point. I can’t imagine if I went back in time, saw Jesus working hard as a carpenter to very possibly help support his mother and siblings, and I went to our Lord as was miffed if I didn’t get his services for free! My goodness gracious. Even more so, WE are the body of Christ! If I do do that DEMAND of another for free services, I personally believe I do do that to Christ personally. Not where I want to choose to go. I am beyond grateful for many local brothers and sisters here who themselves insist on charging lesser prices amongst body members, or just lending with their skills out of love. It is a humbling gift to receive! But for one to insist on it…yikes!

  11. Nancy says

    Just don’t get into selling offensive stuff like “Testamints” and other stupid “Christian” products and I’m happy to buy from you what I need. Common sense and balance … not planning to get rich on sharing the gospel but putting bread and butter on the table is a good idea.

  12. Aaron says

    The issue of being Christian and selling goods or providing services for fees is not wrong . But lets not deny that there is a wrong twist with clergy concerning celebrity and fame, which is a form of power. Money at its root.

  13. Sallie says

    My husband is a talented graphic and web designer and I’m a writer/curriculum developer. This attitude that everything should be free is rampant. I recently read another blogger/curriculum developer who said when she surveyed her readers the number one comment/complaint was that all of the materials on her site weren’t free. I mean she had the audacity to charge for her time, experience, materials, etc. when she sold her curriculum.

    My husband and I both have over twenty-five years of professional experience in our fields and people want us to do their projects for knock down prices or nothing. It’s crazy.

    I would like them to ask their pizza delivery, dry cleaner, day care, gas station, market, etc. for free products and services. They would of course never dream of doing that. But somehow if it is creative or on the internet it should be free.

  14. says

    Christians are a funny lot,I once asked a person did Jesus sell his furniture or what ever he made. Have we forgotten that He was a carpenter. My question has been. What kind of carpenter was He? Did he charge a fair price or did He just wink when He left the house and whisper to the person that this one is on Me I am GOD and I made it anyway.

    Of course not, I believe He was a good business man. I imagine when He was on the job he cared about what time He arrived and how He made a delivery etc.

    We have no idea really how long he worked that trade.

    I think it is sad that we expect such a difference when we put the “Christian Label” on things. Example. A plumber puts the fish sign in the yellow pages. Are we to assume that he is the best plumber because he is a christian? Not always the case. Then if there is a problem and you are a Christian as well it creates this kind of grace that makes it hard to get what you paid for. I could go on but you get the point.

    In the big picture I have asked what people what was meant by be ” fruitful and multiply” Did the Lord have in mind Adam and Eve only Building Church Buildings? Did the Lord see car lots, and gas stations…..

    Of course I believe that all those in more were in His minds eye. My belief is that He wanted the Kingdom principles to influence each and every business and for every business to be fruitful

    I have had business people in our church tell me that when approached by fellow members. They were asked to get their services for free because they went to the same church. WOW!

    Maybe it should go the other direction. If we are a Christian we should want to pay more.

  15. Shelly says

    King Solomon became very rich off of the wisdom God granted him. People came from all over bring gifts to hear him speak.
    Paul paid his own way, cause he was a tent maker

    • says

      Yes, Paul charged for his “tent-making” services. And he preached the gospel free of charge so he wouldn’t be a burden on God’s people. But he certainly charged for his expertise in working with leather, repairing and creating leather products.

  16. says

    I think the conflict some people have is when it appears a Christian minister or author is selling the gospel through their work. I agree that anyone who creates a valuable product or service should be free to charge money for that product or service. But it gets tricky when the product or service being sold is essentially the message of Christ.

    I understand that printing and publishing books cost money, and someone has to pay for that. Nothing is free. Even Paul said that those who preach the gospel should be able to make their living off the gospel. Even still, I cringe a little when I say that.

    Long story short, I hear what you’re saying. But I don’t think the concerns some people may have when it *appears* what is being sold is not just a product or service but the gospel itself should be disregarded as stupid or naive. They need to be shown the difference, which is what you’re trying to do and I appreciate that.

    • says

      Joshua: the people I’m talking about put EVERYTHING under the banner of ‘gospel’. This is misguided on two counts:

      1) most of what Christians sell in the way of products (even books) and services (workshops, etc.) is not “the gospel.” (Again, clergy salaries is not part of this discussion. That’s a different thing altogether and I’ve addressed it in two books at length.)

      2) Paul said it was fine to receive financial support for …. preaching the gospel regionally in 1 Cor. 9 (apostolic work). He just waived that “right.” But Peter didn’t as well as some of the Twelve.

      So that argument fails on both counts.

      The point is, it’s fine for Christians to charge for services and products and it’s very wrong for Christians to want a hand out and demand such.

      If they want something free for others, they should back that up by paying for the costs, work, value, and expenses. That’s called sponsorship. And it’s a noble thing.

  17. says

    Great post, Frank! It gets to be dangerous territory, to me, when we think we should tell someone what to do (give your stuff away for free.) Then, just as you point out, on the other side of the coin, we can go spend really big money elsewhere. They are our brothers and sisters. They are the ones I’d really like to bless the most for doing a good job!

    • says

      Interestingly, every person who demanded that another believer give their work away for free was UNWILLING to pay for the costs of those products.

      In such cases, the person making these demands was just being religious. Pious rhetoric without action behind it.

      If I am going to demand that Rick Warren give away his books or anything else, I had better back up my demand with $$$ to pay for the costs of printing and shippping. Just sayin’.

      I hope this post changes the minds of many. I wish I had something like this to read when I was in my teens.

  18. Barbara says

    My husband works in HVAC and will help out people with furnace or AC problems. It takes his time (away from family), expertise and plain old hard work to do this. Yet, he was “expected” to do this for other Christians (or friends/family of those) for no charge. Finally, he saw the light and charges a minimal fee (or will barter). I confess, though, when my husband and I were struggling financially and emotionally we took time to invest in a Christian counselor. I was put off (more likely offended) by his $125/hr fee. We both gained spiritual freedom in areas of our lives from that experience, though. But I wondered about those who would shy away from getting help b/c of the fee.

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