Work and Money
Are today's college students ready to face the responsibilities of adulthood? Pastor Jonathan "JP" Pokluda, author of "Welcome to Adulting," says "No." Pokluda wasn't either and recalls the many job changes he made as a young man dreaming of becoming a millionaire. Coming to Christ, however, changed his perspective and his goals.
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Are today’s college students ready to face the responsibilities of adulthood? Pastor Jonathan “JP” Pokluda says “No.” Pokluda wasn’t either. Coming to Christ, however, changed his perspective and his goals.
Work and Money
Bob: Pastor JP Pokluda says until people start thinking rightly/thinking biblically about money and work and family life and balance—how all of that fits together—they really haven’t grown up. He knows a little bit about this from his own experience.
JP: I think I was chasing the wrong things. I wanted to be a millionaire before I was 30 because that meant freedom. When I found freedom in Christ in the middle of that journey—ended up giving my life to Jesus—understanding God had created me for a purpose—Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ to do good works which He’s prepared in advance for us to do.” As I began to walk through those works, then I saw my work differently: “Hey; it’s not about me trying to make as much money as possible but about me doing a good job as an act of worship.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 11th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. A part of growing up and becoming an adult is learning how to think with wisdom about work, and life, and money, and how all of that fits together. We’ll talk more about that today with JP Pokluda. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I remember the last couple of years our kids were in college. During their junior and senior years, we would start having these conversations. I would just say, “You know, it’s coming don’t you?” They would say, “What’s coming?” I would say, “Cell phone bills are coming to your address pretty soon, and car insurance bills are coming to your address.”
Dave: I told you what I did at my sons’ weddings.
Ann: Yes; this was kind of embarrassing.
Dave: Yes; I’m the dad, but I’m also the pastor. There is my son, and there is my new daughter-in-law. At every wedding, somewhere in the middle, I would go, “Oh, by the way”—I’d pull out a car insurance bill and say—“Here you go, son.
Bob: “It’s all yours.”
Dave: “Look at this thing,” Like, “$700?!” “Yes, that’s every six months, dude. Enjoy! [Laughter] Welcome to adulting.”
JP: That’s right.
Bob: That’s the subject we’re talking about this week. We’ve got JP Pokluda joining us today. JP, welcome back.
JP: Hey; thanks for having me, guys.
Bob: JP is the pastor at Harris Creek Church in Waco, Texas, and has just written a book called Welcome to Adulting: Navigating Faith, Friendship, Finances, and the Future. When we talk about adulting—and that’s the subject of this book—you’re talking about really stepping into adult responsibilities; and that includes keeping a job, paying the bills, and being responsible for what it means to navigate life.
Are the average kids—who are coming out of college, or out of the military, or whatever they’ve done post-high school—are they ready to step in and have jobs that can support them and that they can make life work from?
JP: I won’t answer that, you know, from my opinion. I would say the studies are saying, “No”; the supervisors are saying, “No.”
I met with a guy this week; he was just like: “Hey; would you—I would love to talk about, you know, the future and what I’m going to do and just get your advice.” I sat down; and I said: “Hey; so what are your skills? What do you feel like you run a five-minute mile in?”—meaning: “What are you better at than most people?”
He said, “I’m really good at managing others and just kind of like telling people what to do; and I think/so I would love to look at something in management.” [Laughter] I just was like, “Yes, you and every other—
Dave: Yes. [Laughter]
JP: —“Generation Z/Millennial, for sure.”
I think all of us feel that way. We forsake the reality of the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “pushing through the grind”/the becoming an expert after it gets difficult.
I think, right now, we do something until it’s hard; and when it’s hard, it must be wrong. So we try something else until it’s difficult/and then we do that until it’s difficult, and then we try something else. We jump around; and we never really, you know, become an expert in anything.
Dave: You had quite a journey in the adulting in the workplace. I mean, as I read your book, you had all these different jobs before you were a follower of Christ. When you’re a follower of Christ, it’s like your whole perspective on work and career—you have a whole/several chapters on it—changed. Talk about that: what’s working like a boss mean?
JP: I think, with a perspective of faith—understanding that God created you to be in right relationship with Him—an aspect of that is work. We see work before the Fall. I mean, Adam and Eve worked before they brought sin into the world; so work is good. It’s not bad; it just became—after sin in Genesis 3—it became difficult. He [God] says, “Hey; you’re going to work the ground, and it’s going to fight against you.”
What that tells me, then, is, when my work is difficult, it doesn’t mean I’m doing the wrong thing. It means that I live in a fallen world, and I need to keep being an ambassador of Jesus wherever I’m at. The gospel has always moved forward on work. Titus, Chapter 2, verse 10—he says, “We work to make the teachings of Jesus, our Savior, attractive.” I think this is something that is lost.
Everyone is trying to figure out what they are passionate about. That’s the big question today: “Well, what am I passionate about? What did God make me to do?” This is something that our great, great grandparents never really asked; you know?
Ann: That’s true; yes.
JP: They just worked the fields because they needed to eat, and they never took Myers-Briggs, or Enneagram, or StrengthsFinder, or DiSC, or Birkman, or whatever to figure out, “Okay; did God make me to work the fields?” They said: “No; I’ve got to eat, so I’m going to work the fields; and I’m going to pray for rain. Hopefully, there’s a harvest.”
Today, we have more tools than we have ever had; and we are asking this question: “Okay; what am I passionate about?” The problem with that is, when that’s not there, a lot of times, we can be left despairing. We’ll try something, and we realize that we are not passionate about it anymore.
That’s my story: I went to school for art because I loved art; but I learned, through that process, that I didn’t like doing other people’s art. I didn’t like doing art for money; I just liked art.
Ann: Well, JP, what did it look like in your life? How did God transform this for you, because you were bouncing from job to job?
JP: I think I was chasing the wrong things. I wanted to be a millionaire before I was 30. I wanted to get as much money as I possibly could because that meant freedom for me. When I found freedom in Christ in the middle of that journey—ended up giving my life to Jesus—understanding that God had created me for a purpose—Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ to do good works which He’s prepared in advance for us to do.”
As I began to walk through those works, then I saw my work differently: “It’s not about me trying to make as much money as possible, but about me doing a good job as an act of worship: about me building relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel, about me transforming an area as an ambassador of a kingdom that is not seen yet.” When I got that/when that purpose fell into place, everything about how I worked changed.
I think that work is important in what it allows us to do. It’s important in that it allows us to represent God. It’s important in that it allows to advance the gospel. It’s important in that it allows us to be generous with others—that it allows us to provide for our family. It is a big rock, and it needs to be there. We all have to—I would say an important aspect of being a follower of Jesus Christ is to have a good work ethic.
What I see in this generation that is coming up is this chasing their passions—to go back to that. The problem with us following our passions is the one thing that’s true of our passions is they’ve always changed. They’ve led us in and out of relationships; they’ve led us in and out of majors; they’ve led us in and out of colleges/in and out of schools—in and out of all kinds of different aspects of relationships in our life, especially the corporate ones. We get into a job until, you know, we no longer feel passionate about it; then we jump to something else; then we jump to something else; then we jump to something else.
Speaking of art, you know, one time, I started a painting. It was going to be a man in a boat. I remember it was going to be a man in a boat, and it was kind of a blue and white painting. As I was doing the man in the boat, I thought: “You know what? I think it really needs to be a lake and a tree.” I drew the lake, and a tree, and the field. I was like, “You know, I think this is going to be more Van Gogh: Starry Night kind of thing.” [Laughter] When I was all “done,”—I’ll say when I was like, “Okay; I’m tired of this painting,”—it was really just a sloppy mess. I mean, it was just a mixture of colors; you couldn’t make out anything. I had started over too many times.
Likewise, I think for the average 20-something—when you start something and you stop, and you start something else and you stop, and you start something else—you get to this place, where you’re just like: “Man, my life just feels like a sloppy mess. I really need some direction.”
A lot of times, what has to happen—and with our work ethic—is it has to be bonded to commitment; you know? And not commitment to something bad—certainly, not commitment to something evil—but just to say: “Hey; I’m really going to press through the grind here. I’m going to lower my shoulder; when things get hard, I’m going to keep doing the best job that I can to honor those that I work for.”
There is so much in the Scriptures—Colossians 3; I referenced Titus 2 earlier;
1 Corinthians 13—there is so much in the Scripture about—Romans 13—there is so much about honoring those in authority over us. I think that’s been lost on a generation that we forget that: we want to go in as the boss; we want to go in as the owner of the company/as the manager; and not really just say, “Okay; thank you so much for compensating me to do that.”
That’s the other thing we forget—is we want work to be like a hobby. You don’t get paid to do hobbies; you know? They know that what you are doing is difficult; that’s why they give you a paycheck in exchange for doing it, because it’s hard. These are some important lessons.
Ann: I think those are good lessons to teach our kids, too, when they are little. I mean, I would harp on Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily for the Lord rather than for men.” I mean, kids are complaining about chores/about doing jobs; but I think to say: “This honors God,” and “When you see it through to the end”—even though they are grumbling and complaining, they do have this sense of satisfaction—“‘I have completed something.’” But it is hard to stay on that because kids, especially teenagers, are grumbling. They are like: “This is stupid,” “This is dumb”; but I think it’s important to persevere through that.
Dave: Well, it would be interesting to know, from you, JP, if you’re telling me, “Don’t follow my passions; don’t follow my heart.” I know you’re not exactly saying that; but there is a sense, when I’m 20/25, I’ve been told my whole life: “Follow your passion,”—
Dave: —“Do what you’re made to do.” Yet, you’re saying, “That can actually lead to some bad places.” What would you say to follow then? “What do I go after? How do I go after it?”
JP: I want to be explicit. I think it’s bad advice—and not completely altogether bad advice—because God/He made us emotional beings. When we delight in Him, He often gives us our passions; but what I see in Proverbs 4:23—it says, above all else, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Everything you do flows from it.”
I would say, “Don’t follow your heart, but inform your heart.” Your heart is like a bloodhound. It’s going to chase what you feed it. If you feed it materialism, if you feed it the love of money, if you feed it particular things, it’s going to chase that.
I would say: “Hey; stop. Before you follow your heart, inform your heart.” That starts, first, with trusting in Jesus Christ and then beginning to feed it a healthy diet of God’s Word and His desires. When you trust in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit. I would say, “He’s good to follow.” When you have God’s Word, I would say, “That’s good to follow.” When you begin to live in that/when you live in the Scriptures and you surround yourself with God’s people, then you start to understand God’s desires; you start to see God’s will.
In Romans 12:1-2, it says: “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.” I think our renewing our mind around: “Okay; prayer, the discipline of spending time in God’s Word, spending time with God’s people”—at that point, we’re starting to get something to follow.
I liken it to like a GPS; right?—the navigation system. We follow a GPS; and you would never follow a GPS, though, before you put in the address/before you tell it where you want to go. A friend of mine—he’s over strategy for a billion-dollar hedge fund—he says, “Strategy is as simple as knowing where you want to be, knowing where you are at, and formulating a plan to get there.” With that GPS: first, I want to gather my group; I want to pray; then I want to seek the Scriptures. That’s a good GPS—group, prayer, Scriptures. With that in place, then I can know where I’m going to go.
Bob: You said/you asked the question: “What’s your five-minute mile?” to know: “What am I good at? How has God wired me? What do I bring that other people can’t bring?”—and then—“How can I use that for the glory of God? How can I use that to advance His kingdom?” That may be that you are a doctor at a hospital; that may be that you are an accountant at a bookkeeping firm; that may be that you are teacher in a public school; because advancing the kingdom is not something that we do only in a church context.
JP: That’s right.
Bob: It’s something we do every place God takes us; right?
JP: Even more out of a church context. I mean, that’s the thing—I would just say for every follower of Jesus out there: “Do not think in terms of: ‘Well, there are people in ministry, and there [are] people in the secular world.’ Every Christian is in ministry. Your two greatest are your home and your work environment/your professional environment. Those are incredible opportunities to display Christ.”
Bob: Yes; I think, as we’re thinking about young people moving into adulting, when you move from a place—where your main driver is, “What is going to be pleasing to me today?”—and instead ask the question: “What can I contribute to the world?” “What can I contribute to people around me?” “How can I have an impact in the lives of people around me?”—that’s a bigger priority than whether I end the day, going, “Oh, that was a nice day.” No; “Was it a productive day? Was it a day where you contributed something to the world around you?”
I want to ask you about money before we run out of time here. I read an article in the New York Times—this was back last year—they had profiled five families from across the country; and here was the thesis: “A middle class income today is what you can barely get by on.”
They had people in one city; they were making $70,000—parents, two kids—and they were outlining their budget on $70,000; they could barely get by. I look, “Why can they barely get by with $70,000?” Well, $1,200 a month is going to student loans; and then there was $700 a month going to pay off credit card bills. All of a sudden, I could see, “Well, they are barely getting by because they made a bunch of choices that, instead of paying it forward, they are now paying it backward for the life they used to live.”
How do we help—and I’m not trying to minimize the financial challenges that are very real for 20-somethings in our world today, because they are facing some headwinds—how do we help them get to a place, in managing money, where they go, “I can do this; I can navigate life in this area”?
JP: Well, you started talking about debt. Now, you know the Scripture says that a borrower is slave to the lender. I think you’re seeing that family live in that reality.
I saw another study that—it’s interesting you referenced $70,000—because I saw another study that just said that money can’t buy happiness past $70,000—that there is, marginally, you may be able to experience some greater joy up to that number—but that somebody who makes $70,000 has the same level of contentment as somebody who makes $700 million. That intrigued me that I read that recently.
I think, one, teaching young people that: “Hey; this is not going to be the source of your happiness. It is a source of generosity.” At a very young age, teaching them to give generously, not just in the context of even a tithe.
Weston is my seven-year-old. We left this party the other day, and he got some sunglasses. As we were walking out, a guy was parking cars; and it was really bright. He handed him his sunglasses—he goes: “Here you go. You can have these.” We just celebrated that, as a family/said: “Wes, I love the way you hold things loosely. Do you know why God gave you those sunglasses today?—because they were a gift to you. He gave them so that you could give them to him.”
I said: “That’s going to be the most fun you have had today—was giving away that pair of sunglasses. It was more fun to give them than, even, to receive them,” which we say is trite and cliché; but I think we have to teach them that that’s reality.
Then, what you reference, is to live under your means; you know?—to spend less than you make. You can do that: it’s hard; it’s challenging. I don’t want to make light of someone else’s problems; it’s very difficult when there is not a lot/when you’re not making much; but you’ve just got to keep thinking, “Okay; how can I live below my means?” It may mean, you know, not eating out. It may mean some monotony in your routine. It may mean not having a $50 gym membership or whatever; but as much as you are able—and I would have other people in your life, speak into this—live below your means.
My first job was in retail. I remember when they called me and they said, “Hey; we would like for you to come on.” I said, “Great.” “And we’re going to pay you $23,000 a year.” My best friend was there, and I got off that phone. We hugged, and I wept. [Laughter] I asked him, “Matt, where am I going to put all this money?” I learned quickly that that wasn’t the case, that I could spend that rather quickly. [Laughter] Yes; but I did—I had to live below my means, which means I didn’t get to live where I wanted to; I didn’t get to drive what I wanted to; I didn’t get to dress how I wanted to; I didn’t get to buy what I wanted to. I had to live beneath that.
Bob: Life was still okay; wasn’t it?
JP: I mean, the sun still came up the next day; and everything was fine. You know what it did, more than anything? It probably kept me out of some trouble. I think, as you do that and you learn those soft skills early, it’s going to set you up for a better life.
Dave: I think it’s so key as, we think about being parents—
Dave: —with young kids or even older kids. I’m looking at your chapter title: “Money: It’s Not All about the Benjamins.” What are we saying to our kids by how we live? Is it about the Benjamins, or is there a contentment they see in mom and dad and even a generosity?
I can remember when my oldest, who is 33 now, was in high school. I sat him down; and I said, “CJ, I want you to see the check I write every month to the church.”
Dave: Back then, it was a check—now, it’s digital—but it was actually a written check. He about died! He was like, “That’s like…” I’m like: “Yes; that’s about the same as our mortgage. It’s actually a little more than our mortgage.” He’s like, “Why would you do that?!” because he knew exactly—
Bob: “I could have a car!”
Bob: “I could have a car if you didn’t do this.”
Dave: Air Jordans—you name it. But it was/but I want—again, it wasn’t like, “Hey; I’m bragging,”—it was just like, “These are the kinds of decisions you, make because it isn’t all about the Benjamins.”
JP: It feels like the older generation is so disappointed in the younger generation. I spent a lot of time kind of mediating these conversations between the older generation and Millennials or Gen Z. I would just say: “But you taught them that.
JP: “They are not going to learn from what you say: ‘Oh, money’s not important.’ They’re going to learn from what you do—that is the teacher. If you’re saying, “Hey; church is important; faith is important,”—and they don’t see you invest in that—then that’s—they’re smarter than you think.
JP: “The situation that they are in, and what they’ve learned, they learned from you—you! You’ve got to remember that—they are always watching; they are always learning.” Now, they are sitting in that.
Ann: There were countless times I would be at the grocery store, and I just felt God leading me/the Spirit leading me to pay for someone’s groceries.
Dave: Yes; she would come home and tell me that. I’m like: “Whoa, whoa, wait. What?!”
Ann: Yes; our boys would be with [me]; and they’d be like, “Oh, Mom, wait until you tell dad!” [Laughter]
Bob: But they learned a lesson; didn’t they?
Ann: They did, I think—hopefully.
Dave: There would be women in the grocery line, in tears, because Ann walked up behind them and said, “I’ve got it,” and having no idea they had a real need—
Dave: —and God provided an angel in Ann.
JP: Here is my advice. Let your kids watch you be financially irresponsible—and what I mean by that—that’s a soundbite; don’t clip that—what I mean by that is: “Let them see you be generous in a way that doesn’t make sense.”
JP: That’s when they are going to see your faith. When they see you help somebody as a priority—that you love your neighbor as you love yourself, that you care for those around you, that you identify needs and you meet those needs—that is going to teach them what your real priorities are.
Dave: One time, when money was tight, Ann did that. I was in the car, waiting for her. Finally, I’m like, “Where in the world?!” I come in; I realize she paid for some lady in front of her. I literally said to her: “How much?—how much did you pay?!” because I was not happy. I don’t know—$100/$150. I went nuts! “Are you kidding me?! That woman just raked you. She saw you coming.” I came in, and I had that attitude in the kitchen. The boys were looking at me. I’m seeing myself in the mirror; I’m like, “This is a terrible model.”
But it was all—like I was afraid: “Why would you do that when moneys tight?” I literally, in the next five minutes, opened the mail. There is a check there for a speaking gig I did that I did for free; they decided they wanted to pay me—months ago. I get this check; it’s a couple grand. The boys looked at me/just looking, just like, “There it is again.”
Ann: And I said, “See, God always provides.” [Laughter]
JP: God’s just watching your back, Ann.
Ann: I know.
Bob: I think what we model is vital; but I also think, for a mom and dad to sit with a teenager or somebody in college and say: “Let’s, together, go through this book, Welcome to Adulting,” and “Let’s just have conversations about each of these chapters. We’ll get together once a week. I’ll buy dinner,” “…I’ll buy coffee,” “I’ll…”—bribe them with something, whatever it takes to bribe them with. Then just go through a chapter a week and say: “What did you think about that? Did you have any questions about that?” Or tell your stories of where you blew it so that they can learn from you.
We’ve got copies of JP’s book, Welcome to Adulting: Navigating Faith, Friendship, Finances, and the Future. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the book by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, the title of JP’s book is Welcome to Adulting: Navigating Faith, Friendship, Finances, and the Future.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about relationships, and engagement, and marriage, and how that connects to adulting—moving from childhood into adulthood. JP Pokluda is going to join us, again, tomorrow. We hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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