“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan
Back in April, a hippie millionaire in Seattle tried to replicate a parable from Jesus by raising the minimum wage of all his employees to $70,000 a year.
Dan Price was just the young CEO of Gravity Payments but now he’s become a celebrity and a symbol for the fight against income inequality. And maybe that’s why he did it.
But in Matthew 20, Jesus spoke of an estate manager who paid all his workers the same wages independently of how long they had worked for the day. When the guys who worked the longest complained about it, the manager said,
“I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?“
Then Jesus finished the parable with the famous, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Jesus was not declaring a new economic model. He was proclaiming his ways of grace; that both early adopters and last-minute arrivals would be equally welcomed in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And a testament of God’s love and desire for everyone to have a chance.
No partiality. No favoritism. No one ahead.
But then Dan Price turned this spiritual example into a business decision.
This past spring, the 30-year old Christian spent weeks working the numbers and dueling with insomnia before announcing to his 120-member staff that he would phase in a minimum wage of $70,000 and immediately cut his own salary from $1.1 million to $70,000 to fund it.
According to Inc Magazine, “The reaction was tsunamic, with 500 million interactions on social media and NBC’s video becoming the most shared in network history. Gravity was flooded with stories from ecstatic workers elsewhere who suddenly got raises from converted bosses. Price was cheered at the Aspen Ideas Festival and got an offer from The Apprentice reality-show impresario Mark Burnett to be the new Donald Trump on a show called Billion Dollar Startup. Gravity was inundated with résumés — 4,500 in the first week alone.”
Only Dan knows if Dan’s intentions were pure. He has been praised as an innovator, an opportunist and accused of pushing socialism.
Me? I see a guy with lots of money who discovered that there is more to life than having lots of money. And rather than question his politics we could celebrate his willingness.
Dan still considers himself a pure capitalist. His company is still working to a make profit. And six months after the decision, huge profits have come.
When discussing his childhood, the New York Times wrote, “Every day he and his four brothers and one sister rose as early as 5 a.m. to recite a proverb, a psalm, a Gospel chapter and an excerpt from the Old and New Testaments. Home-schooled until he was 12 and taught to accept the Bible as the literal truth, Mr. Price also listened to the Rush Limbaugh show for three hours a day — never imagining he would one day be the subject of a rant by the host. Then it was time to help his mother with organic gardening, composting and recycling.”
According to Dan himself, His parents instilled a sense of purpose. “We had a family mission to glorify God,” he said. The household was run as a “family business” with jobs and responsibilities carefully set out in charts and diagrams. “All my siblings hated it, but I thought it was cool,” Mr. Price said with a laugh.
Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA,” he said. “It’s just something that’s part of me.”
One generation sees him as a hero (and an example to follow). Another generation sees him as a dumb business leader with illusions of grandeur. He seems like a CEO who wants to improve the lives of his employees.
And it’s coming at a high price. His brother is suing him for the loses to his personal fortune. He lost two of his most trusted employees. He has had to sell his home and give up his retirement fund.
Yet after six months, and a few downgrades to his millionaire lifestyle, Dan Price is having the time of his life.
I for one am praying for the success of his endeavor, his business and his team.
So here’s a question for you? If you were a business owner and made a million dollars a year, would you lower your salary to raise everyone else’s?
And here’s a question for me? Should we turn our church offices into homeless shelters?
Seriously, what changes can we make today as individuals, and as church communities, that would transform the lives of those in need?
And when can WE start?
A few weeks ago I share the story of a church who gave a pizza delivery lady a tip of more than a thousand dollars. The story went viral. We celebrated that church’s generosity. We cried watching the video (I know I did). The woman was incredibly touched and grateful to God.
Yet these stories remind me of a much harder invitation:
“You lack one thing. Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
The problem with this story is that it was not a parable. It was an actual conversation between a wealthy man and the Messiah of the poor.
The Bible tells us specifically that Jesus looked at the rich young ruler… and loved him. And it was because he loved him that he asked him into the journey of giving it all for others.
When can WE start?
I am not as successful as Dan. I am not as generous as Jesus. But honestly, spending almost every penny that comes into our account to pay our adoption fees feel like heaven. I sense God’s pleasure in it. And I want to share the joy.
There is nothing wrong with being rich and making money and buying nice things.
Nothing at all.
But Jesus is offering us something better.
As David Platt wrote, “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Must-Read!)
Think about it, there is at least one person that has less than you. There is one co-worker who could use help paying for their lunch. There are homeless people in your city that could use a few meals and a few hugs. There are children in Africa who are in desperate need of a family and a home.
This is the Dan Price Opportunity: To reduce our clutter. To increase our giving. To be doers of the Word. And to show what true generosity looks like to the world.
Or as Jesus said, Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
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