I recently saw a “60 Minutes” interview with Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis. They were asked about the up and down saga of Jay’s departure, or better, departures from, “The Tonight Show.”
It started in 2004, when NBC tried to keep Conan O’Brien happy by promising that he would replace Leno in 2009. Leno was one of the last people to find out.
Leno remarked, "You're fired four years from right now." I mean, isn't that hilarious? …Get out in four years."
But those 2009 moves didn’t turn out hilarious for anyone. Leno went to prime time, Conan took over “The Tonight Show” and both of them saw their ratings plummet. NBC panicked, asked Leno to come back to the 11:30 time slot for a half hour show, with Conan doing his show after that. But O’Brien didn’t like the new arrangement, he quit and Leno looked like the bad guy.
Mavis Leno then added to the interview, “I'm sorry. This is a subject I'm very, very angry about to this day. It made me angry because there was this perception that for some reason Jay had decided to give up the show. It was like he gave the show to Conan and then he took it back. That was not what happened, OK? That was not what happened.”
Jay tried to calm his wife down, then he made these classic remarks about the two things he always tells people in show business:
1. “Show business pays you a lot of money.”
2. “Eventually you’re gonna get screwed.”
Leno added, “And when you get screwed, you will have this pile of money off to the side already.”
Then Leno concluded, “"I got screwed." "You got the pile of money?" "Yeah, I'm fine." I mean, that's the way it works. I mean, you know, that's--that's the way these things are. That's the way it happens.”
Leno’s comments remind me of those of us in ministry. Two things are true:
1. You are going to get screwed.
The Jay Leno version of the Bible would translate John 16:33 as, “In this work you will get screwed…”
The New Living Translation puts it this way: “In this world you will have trouble.”—John 16:33 (NLT)
We are going to get hurt, taken advantage of, messed with and messed up. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps. If they killed him, what do we expect they will do to us?
I suspect a lot of us enter into our ministry careers assuming we will never get bruised. After all, we are giving our lives to serve Jesus. We are focused on doing good, so how could anything bad happen to us?
But the Apostle Paul admitted, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”—2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)
And the Apostle Peter warned, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”—1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)
We are going to get screwed. Count on it. Don’t be surprised. It’s part of the business.
But that’s not all. There’s another truism for those of us in the ministry.
Unfortunately, we probably won’t be paid a lot of money. Chances are slim that you will be given a great big pile of money as a minister.
If you want to send me a big pile of money, feel free!
Let me pause to promote a discipline most of us ministers neglect: Saving.
My son, Scott, is a financial consultant. He works with a good number of pastors and observes that people in ministry are notorious for not saving enough. Saving is more a reflection of our choices than our income, so I’d encourage you to bump up the savings. You will need it when you get screwed!
And you will get screwed if you are a minister. But a second truth is also apparent:
2. The ministry provides great benefits.
Those of us who are serving God as a “career” have the best job ever. The long term perks are eternal.
Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
You may not get paid a pile of money, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a huge difference.
I stumbled upon two notes as I was cleaning off my desk this week.
One said, “JD, Thank you for bringing me back to God…You were there 21 years ago when I came looking for answers. You showed me that I could have a friend in Jesus, for that I will always be grateful.”
The other read, “JD, Thank you for the messages you deliver on Sundays. They make sense to me & have softened my heart. At one time it was hard & never to be opened. But that has all changed because of you. I still have a long way to go, but at least my journey has started.”
I need to clean off my desk more often! Notes like that are better than a pile of money.
The truth is we are going to get screwed. Injustice will happen. Events will occur that make us very, very angry. You are going to get screwed, but if you are in the ministry, your job is way more significant than Jay Leon’s, Jimmy Fallon’s, or Conan O’Brien’s.
We will get screwed, but it is totally worth it.