Work more than the hour you're paid for.

It was good that I was at church again today, because the sermon (week 4 here) was excellent and timely and the closing statements about knocked me out of my chair.

The topic continued a series the church had been going through. This week was on dreams and goals, but it wasn't the usual "5 Steps To Acheiving Your Dreams" kind of thing that has become such a platitude. The pastor brought it repeatedly back to the Bible, pointing out that dreams only require imagination, but goals require work. Dreams can inspire you but goals will transform you. You can get the notes sheet and see the scripture reference, but do listen to the sermon if you're able.

At the end, after discussing the value and importance of writing things down and continuing to write as you work it out with God until He gives you clairty, he talked about how he prepared for preaching.

He puts a lot of work into it. He works on Saturdays. He talks about how each sermon might start at about 20 or so pages, then down to ten on the next day, and how the whole week he's working through the thoughts and scriptures he's written down so when he comes to preach on Sunday, he doesn't actually use his notes (which are about five pages by that point), because he's put in so much time studying and writing and rewriting that by the time he gives the sermon, he's written to clarity.

"Write to get clarity, don't write to read," he said. Put in the time, repeatedly, with God, and get to clarity with Him. There was more, but then he told a story that made years of my frustrated life make sense. 

He told of a particular NFL player, one of the highest paid in the league. He only receives about 16 paychecks a year; he is paid for about an hour's play or so. He is not paid for all of the practice he puts in, the strength training he puts in, or anything else he does to be the best player he can be. He is only paid for what he does during the game.

"All the hours produce the hour. He gets paid for that one hour," the pastor said.

Be still my heart.

Did you catch it?

Nearly my entire life one of my biggest frustrations is the sense that things aren't fair when it comes to people who work very hard and people who don't work very hard, and the income they receive. I have read the parable of the workers in the vineyard repeatedly, read the Psalms where the righteous don't always prosper, tried to not assign false interpretations or definitions of what seems fair or not...all of it. I have tried to understand that the work ethic of my region might be excessive and expecting people to work like that isn't fair. I don't know -- I have wrestled with it for all of my life.

And yet I am mostly still quite frustrated.

Repeatedly through life I have experiences where either I, or others I care about, are working their tails off and watch others who work far less have either equal or greater pay/benefits. Even worse, sometimes those folks complain about their pay, their difficult hours, how they need more vacation -- those folks have memorized every passage of the Bible where God talks about the importance of rest, and they seem to quote it nonstop. The solution to everything seems to be rest.

"Well, Elijah was exhausted that's why he was--"

"I know."

"The Bible says we need to rest--"

"I know!"


"--worked six full days and rested one, as opposed to working part of five days and resting two? Is that what you were going to say?"

Some folks seem to think most of life should be rest.

It's a real struggle for me. You can call me a lot of things, but insinuating that I'm lazy is about the only one that'll get under my skin. I want to do the best work I can while I can, to the best of my ability.

Work is relative, of course. I'm not able to drive railroad spikes all the livelong day. Work, to me, is about all of the things a person can do that aren't pure leisure. Tooling down the highway in a convertible for no reason other than a fun day is great; that's pure leisure. You need that sometimes. Reading a book on the history of the Bible or some other useful topic is enjoyable, but can also be part of prepatory work depending on what your job is or what God is asking you to do. Stay with me -- we'll get to that in a moment.

I am not troubled to do more work than what I am paid for. I love to be helpful, to solve problems, to contribute. I'm not troubled to do work without being paid, that is, until suddenly I'm around people who make a point of noting that they've put in their full time for the week, or it's their day off, or because they worked longer another day they can't work long today. It is then that I become engulfed in resentful and sinful feelings.

Why should I have to put in more hours if that guy isn't going to hardly show up and he's still going to get full pay? Why should I volunteer and help if I'm not going to get paid for it if that guy won't do anything without putting it on his time card? Why should I go above and beyond when I'm "off the clock" and on my free time if they won't? How should I feel when I see people who demand money for every lick of their time, even just showing up, if it happens to be related to their job in any remote fashion? Should I charge every time I do anything remotely related to my work? Should I make sure I pay nothing out of pocket for anything that could be remotely related to my work?

What a shame, especially, if it is a leader creating this example and instilling this frustration and resentment of situation. It's a surefire way to turn otherwise eager workers and volunteers, happy to do their bit, into bean counters who make sure they don't get stuck with too much and maybe ask to get paid. If you struggle to get people to volunteer, there are most certainly many reasons, but the first place you should look is your attitude towards your paid time and your unpaid time. Do you expect people to volunteer in their off hours if you won't do the same?

Remember this: All the hours produce the hour.

All the hours of practice, of study, of creating, of making, of preparation, of relationship building, of learning, of habit-building, of networking -- all of them produce the one solid hour of work that you are paid for. 

If you won't put in the hours for free, the hour you get paid for will be shoddy. In this sense, you are cheating when you demand that everything you do that is related remotely to your paid job you must be paid to do. 

When you buy an album, do you expect to buy the album, or to also pay specifically for years of music lessons? When you buy a painting from me, do I charge you what it cost me to go to college and learn to paint as I do? No...but I can charge you more if I put in the hours and the quality is better.

The paid hour is worth more if the unpaid hours are in place.

The paid hour has more value to those around you if the unpaid hours are in place.

The teacher is a better teacher. The artist is a better artist. The writer is a better writer. All because the hours produced the hour.

This is tricky because people often ask some skilled folks (e.g. artists, people good on computers, etc.) to do things for free, and so one thing I had to instill in myself and students I've taught is that your time has value and you should not work for free. So how does that work with this concept?

1. You should put in all the hours whether there is known potential for pay or not. This is about bettering your skills and exercising the gifts (growing the talents) God has given you. When your hour to be paid comes, being ill-equipped will make it pretty rough and probably short-lived. This is about creating good habits of work and time management. It's about continually learning, reading, and growing. It's about all of the things that make your paid hour the best it can be. And speaking of that...

2. You should put in all the hours to stay on top of your game. There is no time when you don't put in the hours, especially as a believer whom God has gifted and called. This is about excellence and being fully ready for whatever situation God may put you in. It's about knowing what is going on in your industry. It's about faithfulness to the end; you do not want to develop laziness, sloth, bad habits, poor time management, or take others for granted and assume they'll put in your hours for you. And speaking of that...

3. No one can put your hours in for you. No job title, high position, or attitude should ever make you think that you've arrived, you've paid your dues, or that you deserve to reduce the hours you put in. You will lose your job, your respect, your peace (replaced by stress), and sometimes even your gifting. You must be present doing your best all the time until your time on earth is done.

4. If the unpaid hours are too much, you need to change your life. If your calling or position in life has become such a burden to you that you can't imagine not being paid for all the hours, it's time for you to change, whether that is a change in attitude or change in the work you do. If God put the calling on your life, gave you the vision, you won't be able to do anything but put in the hours because your heart is in it. Granted, some people simply have jobs to pay the bills and support a family. I understand that. But if you have a calling, you'd better stay sharp.

You'll know you're in a place needing to change easily enough. Maybe people have started to think you're phoning it in at work, that you're barely able to make it to the plate much less swing the bat. Or perhaps you are trying to delegate all the work you can and work as little as possible. Maybe the drive and joy you used to feel for your calling are replaced by a sense that it's your job and how you pay your healthcare costs and that's it. Or, worst of all, you most easily find your mind going to the phrase "that's not my job" and spend energy on not working.

5. If you put in the hours, you will be deserving of pay for that hour. Only when you keep putting in the hours will you deserve the pay for that hour. The world is full of people putting in no more time than the paid hour, people whose work is anything but excellent.


You should definitely be paid for the hour, but you should not assume you should be paid for everything you do to make that your finest hour of work. The expectation is excellence for that hour. That NFL player is very well paid for his hour, because he put in all of those other hours to make it worth it.

I know that if I am part of a team that is enthused about the work and we are all of the same attitude, I have a large capacity for work no matter the pay. I love to put in the hours if I'm with others who are doing the same. The moment, however, I see the people around me refusing to do anything without receiving money, or complaining if it comes to that, is the moment weariness sets in and I struggle with resentment.

If you are a leader, you must put in your hours. You must model the behavior for those you lead.


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