At What Cost?

It’s human nature, or at least the American Way, to continue to acquire more.

We want to build taller buildings, make faster cars, and set new world records.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster was the name the weight-lifting guide we used in my high school power lifting class.

It’s in our nature to want more.

We want to build wealth, to go further and to accomplish more.

But the question that must be asked while striving and straining for all this is, “At What Cost?”

I have a friend who is a multi-millionaire and he has a corny joke he loves to tell me:

“Andy, you wanna know the secret to making a million dollars?”


“Well give me a million dollars and I’ll tell you.”

I groan.

His point is a simple one. It takes money to make money. He’s right.

Building, acquiring, and achieving has a cost.

For example, let’s take a look at the cost to build the Empire State Building. It was at one time the tallest building on the planet.

The overall cost for the land, building materials and construction costs was $40.94 million dollars. Keep in mind construction was started in 1929 during the Great Depression. Today the cost would be around $629 million dollars.

It took 7,000,000 man-hours to complete. During peak construction times 3,400 men were working on the building at the same time.

Five men lost their lives during the year plus it took to complete.

The Empire State Building is a symbol of American pride and hard work and it had a tremendous cost.

Anything of great significance has a significant cost.

It’s a harsh reality that requires some reflection.

Christian leaders and influencers have been in the news recently for alleged plagiarism.

Allow me to rephrase the question:

Was releasing another Best Seller really worth ripping off someone else’s intellectual property?

Sure you want to be a best-selling author, but at what cost?

It’s easy to throw rocks at famous people so allow me to put my own life and ministry under the microscope.

In my early days in youth ministry I was obsessed with posting big numbers at events and weekly services.

So much so that I burned out volunteers who couldn’t handle my pace.

I remember giving a youth student the, “hard sell” (AKA Guilt Trip) treatment to get her to camp.

The result? She burst into tears and I felt like a jerk.

In my early days I wanted to build an empire for myself and others were just a means to an end.

If I got the results I wanted the methods didn’t matter.

America the beautiful is land of the free and home of the brave yet our early economic success was built upon the backs of slaves.

People wanted more for their families, but at what cost?

I want to be a successful pastor and leader, but at what cost?

Do my wife and kids have to take a backseat to my ego and need to achieve?

Jesus said, “Imagine that you want to build a tower. Wouldn’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to be sure you have enough to finish what you start?” (Luke 14.28, The Voice)

Anything of great significance has a significant cost.

Pushing down others to promote yourself works in the short-term but has negative long-term implications.

Making others look bad so you’ll look good is shallow.

Here’s the point: Exploiting others for personal and professional gain is not Christ-like.

Jesus laid himself down for the benefit of ALL.

That’s the example we’re called to follow.

And it costs you something.

Time. Effort. Energy.

You may have to put your project on hold and help someone else instead.

Try it.

Whose day can you make better?

Who is one person you can help today?

Who can you build up with encouragement, support and love?

10 thoughts on “At What Cost?

  1. Your story of making a girl cry because of the pressure you put on her to go to camp… dang. I think us ministry people have done some version of this repeatedly as we go about building our own empires in the name of “making a difference” or “changing the world” or even “reaching people for Jesus.” It’s all tainted with guilt and manipulation. Why is it so easy to see when someone else does it, but when it’s me… it seems so, I don’t know, justified?

    Great post Andy Jones Live.

  2. Great Post AJL! Honest, real and a heart check for all of us. I’ve been guilty of putting pressure on people so we can grow, increase and be better.

    Question for us as leaders:
    We do want to grow, continue to serve God as He builds his church…but HOW do we communicate the importance of them partnering with guilt tripping them? It’s always felt like an uphill climb to “convince” more to join the cause. Maybe I don’t have enough WOO! 🙂

    Your thoughts?

    • Honestly it’s a fine line isn’t it? I think bringing the focus back to how much God loves each of us as his kids is key. He loves us in our current state, not some future version of ourselves. If this is consistently communicated then people won’t get the wrong idea about serving. People often think, “If I serve THEN he’ll be happy with me.” The truth is, He is happy with you. He loves you. And as a natural response you want others to know about this perfect love. As a result serving is natural and important to get the word out.

  3. So good. This does deserve more traffic. Loved the reminder, “Anything of great significance has a great cost.”

    As well, as my gym buddy, I’m glad that you’ve already read Bigger, Faster, Stronger. I would have recommended it but clearly I’ve never read it – there was no way in HS they would have let me into a power lifting class.

  4. Hey Andy! I loved your post! Very insightful. Great leadership principles and Biblical wisdom for us all to follow everyday 🙂 I’ll be sure to pass it on to my friends in AZ!

  5. The truth is, God will make sure the work is done, regardless of who’s helping him with the man-power. We can strive and manipulate, guilt, fake and market our best version of Jesus, but… Jesus is not some worldy product that we need to hype in ads, put up on billboards so that someone will walk into our ‘store’….. Am I Right?

    I know that Christianity has a history of using force to get it’s message across… (or maybe Christianity was used as a disguise under which imperialism could hide, so it would “appear” justified?) And because of that, I really believe that Christ hasn’t even begun to have his ‘Day’…. Christ hasn’t been represented clearly to the world, to our cities, churches, ministry teams… Christ’s power can’t be known when it’s based on human effort.. And also, I strongly doubt that Christ would infuse any power whatsoever, into a Christendom built on the abuse of innocents.. So that’s why I say Christ hasn’t had His day. I think he’s holding the real power back until we get our priorities in line… so I say, let’s forget about these strange tactics which we’ve accepted as normal. Let’s start from scratch and ask ourselves how we can stop selling Jesus Salvation as a product, and instead step back and let his power take our meager, simple words, small acts of service, and multiply them beyond what any man-power could ever force into existence. The God I know, doesn’t use force to attain an end.. The God I know is capable of rearranging any situation in the present, to set things in motion, and allow us to help bring about an unimaginable future…. That God, can weave things into existence so effortlessly, that none of us should really be concerned with what we can achieve with our man-power. Great post by the way Andy… very insightful. It’s a good way to start my day, thinking about these things.

    • Danielle I love reading your comments. They challenge me to think and grow. And often make me want to write more.

      Guilt trips are such an acceptable part of our Christian leadership. It’s tough to remove them. We’re imperfect people trying to help other imperfect people connect with perfection.

      The more humility we use when describing ourselves and our churches the better off we’ll be. Brag about what Jesus has done and will do, not what you’ve done.

      It’s tough though especially on those days when I’m feeling particularly self-righteous. Haha

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