Give Up

Back when I was working as the DevOps engineer for the YouVersion Bible app, I got an email from a recruiter. He was impressed with my background, and he wanted to know if I was interested in a job working for an “adult entertainment company.” This is a euphemism for a porn site. The numbers he threw out for salary were completely insane. I would have easily quadrupled my salary if I pursued it.

How do you say no to a 400% pay increase? And, in technology circles, working in porn is actually really admired because the scale of these operations (unfortunately) dwarfs almost everything else on the internet outside of Google, Facebook and Netflix.

I’m not even sure I replied to the email, but if I did, I would have said something to the effect of, “No, thanks” and not much else.

At the time I got that email, I was really worried about money. It was a major source of stress. I had worked myself into a frenzy and, in hindsight, unnecessarily. But I was still there and no doubt the enemy brought this temptation to me fully expecting that it would cause something to happen in my heart. But, to be honest, while I briefly fantasized what I would do with all that money, I said no and it wasn’t even difficult. That was never even a temptation. I never even considered pursuing it, or hearing them out about the job. I just turned them down, and until I sat down to write this, I truly hadn’t even thought about it a single time since then. (it’s been about 4 years)

A lot of people may look at that situation and go, “Well the reason you turned it down is because the testimony of a guy working on the Bible app to working in porn is just something you couldn’t live with.” And yes, that’s certainly true but that’s not why I turned it down.

A student at camp asked me something along similar lines. He told me he’s going into high school and he looks around and all of these people are telling him how much happier he will be if he had sex, money, drugs, popularity and so on. How do you give up those things when the entire world is telling you that’s what happiness is?

And I want to hone in on two words in that sentence: Give up.

Give up means sacrifice. It means loss. It means you’ve lost something you otherwise would have had. “AJ, how could you give up all that money?”

No, no, no. That’s not how I look at it at all. I got to bring the Bible to 50 million people every week. That was my job. I got to see lives transformed by the power of God’s word speaking into their hearts and their minds. And you’re telling me that I have to give all that up? To go work at a place that is exploiting men’s sexual frustration and getting them addicted to something utterly fake and will blow up the marriages, and families and kids of a generation of men?

No, no, no. I didn’t give up squat. Turning down that job was easy because I didn’t let society pressure me into thinking I gave something up.

I explained to my student that the whole world is going to tell you what you should think is important. Whether it’s sex, or money or happiness. The entire world has an opinion on how you live.

But you need to decide for yourself what you’re all about.

I told him I have three things I am all about, completely, unashamedly and wholeheartedly. If I’m lucky enough to live to 85, I want to sit on a rocking chair on my back porch and look back on my life and know that three things were true.

The first, I want to have the best relationship with God I’ve ever had in my life. I want a great relationship with God today, but I want it to grow. Every day. And if I faithfully continue to invest in it and grow it over time, there’s no reason to think that as good as my relationship with God is today, it won’t be so much better when I’m in my eighties.

Second, I want to invest my life in the lives of those around me. I believe the greatest thing God will do in my life will not be the things God does in my life. I believe the greatest thing God will do with me is to build the launch pad for the great things God will do in the lives of others.

Thirdly, I want to live long enough to see the people I invest in, invest in others. I want to see them building the launch pads for other people. I want to see spiritual grandkids that were invested in and changed by the people that I invest in.

That’s it. Everything else can come and go. I have a lot of goals and ideas and things I want to do over the next 50 years of my life, but when I’m 85, if I didn’t do these three things I would look back over my life with disappointment and regret.

Does working for a porn company help any of these three goals? I think it hurts all three. You want me to give up the three fundamental things I base my life on, and all you’re going to give me in return is money? You want me to live the rest of my life with regret and all I’ll have to show for it is a few more shiny toys? That’s it? Are you kidding me?

My prayer for that student and for you is that you would know the incomparable riches of the grace of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:7) – that you would have a rich and abundant relationship with Jesus even if you (today or one day) physically live in destitue squalor. That you would know in your inner being with conviction that a relationship with Jesus is so much better than anything else in life, even when it makes you an enemy of the world.

And that you would use that to help you give up things you love – like money, sex and popularity – for the sake of things you love way more, like a rich relationship with Jesus that will last to the end of your life and throughout eternity.

I hope one day you can come to a point when someone offers you a temptation that will lead you astray, you can look at it and go, “No way, look at all I would have to give up to do that, and all you’re going to offer me in return is this trinket? It’s not worth it.”