Image above: Provided by Catalyst Leadership Conference
Eugene Cho is the founding and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and founder of One Day’s Wages, a non-profit organization focused on global poverty. At the Catalyst leadership conference a few months ago, I spoke with Eugene about generosity—how small actions can make a large difference for God’s glory and what his family learned by donating one year’s wages.
Sometimes the world’s problems can seem so daunting that people are overwhelmed to the point of inaction. Can our small efforts truly make a difference?
Eugene: In our culture we have an obsession with results. We have an obsession with the ROI, return on investments. I’m not saying that it doesn’t play a part of the conversation. There’s a difference when that becomes the totality of our discipleship.
Ultimately God calls us to be faithful. That’s the call. That’s the invitation. Not the call to be successful. Not the call to be glamorous. But to be faithful.
It is a challenge for us in a culture where we’re obsessed with broadcasting: broadcasting our generosity, broadcasting our mercy, broadcasting our compassion. How are we living these things out without the filter of social media? We can be obsessed with platform. I know that might be easy for myself to say that. But it’s a challenge—it really is a challenge for us to be present in the here and now. Again I think there’s that word again about being faithful, whether we’re known or unknown, whether we’re recognized or unrecognized.
"Ultimately God calls us to be faithful. That’s the call. That’s the invitation."—@EugeneCho
We believe in a God who uses all things—including small things. Clearly we have examples of this in the Bible. I love the story of the boy who gives up his lunch, his bread and his fish. If you specifically study the Greek word for the bread here, it’s krithinos. A lot of people won’t catch this but krithinos was specifically bread for poor people. It wasn’t the Cinnabon. It wasn’t from fancy places. We can glean from this fact that the boy was from a lower social economic background who chooses to give the fullness of who he is—and he was faithful in it. God uses that to feed the multitudes.
In his case, the boy saw that miracle. We don’t always get to see it.
A person got on a ship many, many years ago in the late 1800s and went to the peninsula called Korea and preached the gospel to my great-grandfather—who, as a result, was so captivated by the gospel that he went home and our whole household came to faith. That person is never going to see the fruit of that labor. I don’t know who that person is, but I’m here because of such faithfulness.
All that we can do at the end of the day is to be faithful. There may be times we get to see the fruit of that labor and times we don’t. But I trust in the faithfulness of God, who is working in ways that are seen and unseen, orchestrating all things for His good and glory.
What motivated your family to give back to the Lord the amount of one year’s worth of your wages?
Eugene: There’s a two-part component to that story. First, it was a personal challenge that the Holy Spirit laid on my wife and I. We say this not to sound boastful; we’ve had our share of criticism from different folks. But after some prayer, after experiencing and seeing injustice and brokenness in different places, we spent some time praying about it.
I thought I’d preach a sermon about it, write a blog post about it. But the Holy Spirit convicted both of us uniquely but in unison, convicted us to give up a year’s wages. That was really hard. I know it’s not kosher or proper for a pastor to say this, but I like my money. I work hard and my kids are teenagers who keep eating. They don’t stop! And my oldest is in college and there’s this thing called tuition! It took our family, three years of saving, simplifying, and selling off things we didn’t need. And we did it because we thought God was calling us to change the world to be faithful.
As He often does, we learned very quickly this wasn’t just because God wanted us to do something for others. There was something God wanted to do in us about stewardship, about surrender, about trust. Oftentimes we ask God to move mountains. We neglect the possibility that maybe we’re that mountain God wants to move. That was the lesson for us.
"There was something God wanted to do in us about stewardship, about surrender, about trust."—@EugeneCho
Secondly, in giving up a year’s wages, during that time God gave us this vision of an organization called One Day’s Wages. In a culture where we’re constantly being told, “You don’t have enough; you need more,” we wanted to somehow remind people we’re all philanthropists in some way. I love the root of philanthropy that basically speaks to being a lover of humanity. We’re called to be a lover of people. Jesus sums it up in his great commandment: Love God and love people.
We can be paralyzed by the enormities of the challenges of this world. But I love the idea that we’re not doing it alone. In 7 years we’ve had 14,000 people from 50 countries give. We’ve raised over $5 million collectively, and we’re investing it 100% into carefully vetted projects.
I think it speaks to the power of community. I can’t put it all upon myself. If I do that, it’s very tempting to fall into this heroic, savior, messianic complex that sometimes Christians and leaders can get into. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and speaking to others because we’re all trying to be faithful. There are times when our visions may specifically align and times they might not. But ultimately I do believe God’s at work.
One Day’s Wages is what I consider to be a beautiful example of what people—even in our small giving—can do collectively for a common vision.