what would Jesus earn?

I want to share with you one of the biggest issues I struggle with:


Many years ago I made a vow of poverty. You can read more about the story here. I developed this value that money and spirituality don’t and shouldn’t mix. I chose to believe that money dilutes the purity of the message. Spending over 25 years in the ministry, which often relishes a poverty mentality, only fortified this belief. Actually, the belief or opinion was hammered so deeply that it has become a matter of conscience for me. I actually feel unethical if I earn any money in spiritual service.

I don’t believe this anymore. With my mind, anyway. I know it is a stupid belief. But any belief, when supported by conscience, has tremendous power. I know because I am a victim of this power. It has become a very loud and persuasive voice from deep within me. And it’s all my fault.

So I get a comment like this last night (I’m sure the writer won’t mind since he did post it publicly on my blog) in reference to my latest Sophia drawing “Trapped” (pictured here):

Why are you selling these? If it’s a free revelation, and you want to freely share, why charge money? I don’t mean any harm, I just don’t know how such freedom finds a price?

This is such a familiar voice. And when it combines with my inner voice it makes a choir that is incredibly powerful and condemning. To change my mind is one thing. To transform my conscience to a more rational and higher level is even more difficult. Sometimes it seems impossible.

Many of you know what I’m talking about.

Buy Sophia “Trapped” here.

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  • David, I was looking through your site just yesterday, and thought “Man, when does this guy get the time to do so much (great quality) cartoons and art? Your work is amazing, and, as an artist, I understand the time, & heart energy, that you must be putting into all you do. The fact you offer all your work to view freely on your website is an amazing gift to everyone already.

    I wish everyone would buy a piece of your art and help you make a living from it. There’s nothing wrong will wanting to do something you love for a living. You art is certainly worth paying for if someone wants it on their wall or coffee table.

    Your work is of enormous value to society and modern culture. Keep it up bro, and may God work a way in your life to make a financial living as an artists too!

  • Anne

    What mick said.

  • My friend, you ARE giving freely. You are sharing your thoughts, your advice, and your art on Facebook!

    I just recently discovered you here and I am blessed by everything you post. If I choose to reap more benefits of your God-given gifts any time I wish, I will purchase your book and gladly pay you for it.

    Not all of us are called to be like Mother Teresa. Not all of us are fortunate enough, smart enough or brave enough to turn our calling into a source of income, either.


  • I’ve struggled with this issue, as well.
    When I’ve been a childbirth coach, I’ve had a difficult time charging much money. At some point I realized that if I didn’t receive payment, I would not be able to continue in the profession.

    I guess you can say almost everything we do is some form of ministry . . .
    When one is a paid pastor, I think it does make it easy to get motivations twisted and confused.

    At the same time, a person needs some sort of income to provide for self and family.

    If you do not receive an income from your art work, you will be less able to create more art (less time and energy to put toward it). If you are not able to find some source of monetary support through your current efforts to minister to others . . . you will have to do less ministering and find some other sort of job that pays money.

    Tough question.

  • David,

    You crawled right into my head and wrote this post from inside, didn’t you? My dad used to say that the prayers of churches for their clergy went like this, “Lord, you keep ’em humble, we’ll keep ’em poor”. Poverty was the next thing to godliness–in ministry and neo-hippy-dom both. But not so much if it was involuntary–then it was just a character flaw.

    I have yet to charge anyone for my healing work for this same reason. “It is not anything *I* do, healing comes from within the client” or “from God” depending on your theology. So who am I but merely a channel. Does the water pay the river bank?

    But we still have to eat and pay the mortgage and clothe the children. God’s not raining down manna in my backyard.

  • JoSjo

    But still, you DO share your relevations (or whatever) for free by posting them here on your blog. I would personally like to have one or two of them framed and signed, and to sell the originals is a fair deal for both you and the buyer. If I don’t wan’t to pay, I own a printer. I haven’t bought your book yet but maybe I will some day. I have been both blessed and provoced by your cartoons many times.

    As for the poverty/prosperity/money/payment discussion, I have nothing to add. Just the standard stuff that money can be both a blessing and a curse, what’s important is where your heart is. Is it ok for a pastor to buy a Playstation 3 for his first salary, you think? 🙂

  • Christine

    The revelation was freely shared – you posted it here and your site is open to all without cost. I hope that never changes.

    Your art costs money – you are an artist. Beyond earning something for yourself, even your supplies cost money and need to be funded.

    While the revelation happens through the art (and therefore the two are easily conflated), one is a physical object that requires materials and additional time to create and the other is the gift of your ministry, which flows through the spirit, which you provide free of charge, which is noble of you. (Not sure if “noble” is quite right, but it was the term in my head.)

    I think you have the money part of it right on this count.

  • I feel bitter that I didn’t do more to earn money. I was so not wise as a serpent and just a cooing innocent dove.

    So when I hear that something could be given for the good of the church, my retort is rubbish! the church can afford it!

  • Ethan

    Everyone needs money to survive, I can hardly see any reason to criticize you for that. But if I may be so blunt as to add my objection to the mix, I’ve had this sneaking suspicion that the Sophia cartoons are more about drawing an attractive naked lady, than representing a search for wisdom. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to draw naked women. Just maybe draw a naked man every now and then if it is really about wisdom rather than the female form 🙂

  • Wow, that crazy mindset just keeps on giving…

    I’d love to hear how the people that spout that drivel make their living and hear them justify why they should get paid.

    And basically, what everyone else here already said…

  • ethan: oh ya… you have a “sneaking suspicion” because there’s a nude woman… another christian condemning voice. what do you want me to do? give Sophia a sex-change mid-journey? geez man.

  • jeremy

    (besides, a wisdom-seeker as a woman makes plenty of sense seeing that is how wisdom is portrayed as a woman-character in multiple religious literature, including but not limited to the Old Testament…)

    and, she’s pretty hot.

  • Rhonda Sayers

    The comment that you referenced is such a dumb ass remark, I almost can’t believe that someone said it.
    What are you supposed to do, go to the store for art supplies and pay with your good looks? Or perhaps you could explain to the cashier how they shouldn’t charge you, because there are people out there that expect your work for free.
    In my opinion that comment gets a *STUPID REMARK AWARD*

    I hope that you sell so much of your art and books that you can support youself and your family without having to work at a secular job full time.

    I pray that your head and your heart find complete freedom from all the past vows and lies.

    Love and peace to you brother.

  • English has a problem in that the word ‘free’ can mean a few different things. Ponder the difference between free speech and free beer. Then consider which you’re offering.

    We get to see your art for nothing and you encourage us to share it with our friends. If we wish, we can purchase a print. Nobody’s freedom has been limited—indeed, your art seems to help people find freedom.

    Sophia knows about this. Her freedom has cost her everything she has.

  • Elderyl

    There is a belief that artists should not receive money for work done in and for the Church. I went to the Calvin Worship Symposium this past January and took several art workshops. We had a long discussion about the topic, led by two professional artists, who are also art professors and both do church liturgical art projects and installations. I noticed it recently at my own church. My spouse is a musician and is volunteering to lead the music for a new service. The pastor wants to eventually include a budget to pay for this position. My spouse isn’t worried about being paid for what brings joy (We do have other jobs) and I am not concerned about compensation for the art projects I lead, either. But it seems neglectful to so readily think of paying a musician and not even consider doing so for a visual artist. The pastor is a very thoughtful person and usually considers every possibility to a situation but the oversight of compensation for artists is an example of the cultural norm in the Church. It wasn’t always so, look back a few hundred years when the Church sponsored artists. We are created in the image of the Creator and by creating we are like God.

    David, Isn’t looking at the Sistine chapel a spiritual experience? Could Michelangelo have created it without being paid for his time during the four years it took him to complete it?

  • Ethan

    lol. no need for measures that drastic
    just give her a friend with a similar journey – maybe a search for context. that’s my thing these days: there are too many facts around, and not enough context to bring them together.

  • sunflower

    suggest if it’s a condemning thing, it aint God 🙂 My understanding is that if the scriptures say freely give because we have received that there needs to be give and take. Lovers of Jesus with $ in pocket are a powerful force of unconditional agape Love…better $ in the pocket of Love than in the pockets of greed and self serving…

  • “Why are you selling these? If it’s a free revelation, and you want to freely share, why charge money? I don’t mean any harm, I just don’t know how such freedom finds a price?”

    No revelation is FREE — come on. All revelation demands pain and living it demands even more pain. The poster is making it about money, not you.

    Up your price, David. I am happy to pay as you already know.

    Rod Smith

  • This is one of those areas where I have to sit and think that people are warped.

    I am a writer. I chose to self-publish because I like having more control and more choice in my writing. I have been to conferences where I sat in my booth and people expected me to give them a free book, then they went to the next booth over and BOUGHT books by millionaire authors. I guess because I am not FAMOUS and did not have a TV show or a mega-church my book was not worth buying.

    Ministry is free, yes. Books, artwork, records/CDs however, are merchandise, and they are NOT free. People in the church are so cheap, unless they have stars in their eyes then they buy anything. Its one of the other huge problems that exist in the American church. The laborer is worthy of his hire. Heard that somewhere once…

  • Michael Peele

    You’re selling these because you need to eat. Nuff said.

  • Jane Smith

    A most interesting post. A solitary contemplative who blogs writes, very sensibly, that following St Francis would probably lead to disaster for most of us. Bills have to be paid, no matter how simply and austerely one lives. Selling artwork is a perfectly honest way to make a living. What happened to discernment? Actually, what happened to commonsense?

    That said, one of the reasons why I left the Anglican Church, and will not join either the RC or the EO, is because I reject the notion of a paid priesthood.

    Let me hasten to add that if a group of people get together and freely decide that they want to support a fulltime minister, and they appoint such a minister, that’s different.

  • Crystal

    David: Don’t pay any attention to the odd person who says something about you selling your artwork. Most of the readers of your blog completely support you in the selling of it ( heck, you even give prints away on your freebie Fridays) and anyway, what are they moaning about. They already have it there before them. They could copy it if they wanted to and sell it as their own – that happens all the time with song writing and artwork and fashions etc; anybody can steal if they have a mind to. You are being extremely generous by posting it every day. The art they would be buying off you would be the original, or a decent print of the original. Cast this stupid stuff out of your mind. It’s not worthy of your thoughts. (I’m the original Crystal, by the way, not that new one that’s popped up recently.)

  • Nancy T.

    What Christine and Cameron said.

    I think that Ethan’s original post was poorly said, but I do see where he is coming from with his later post… just in terms of what a ‘naked man’ might mean. I suppose in part because I was just at a conference where the business line is heavily populated with men, who are great, but I really enjoyed seeing a competent and capable woman give a really great presentation. We all like to ‘see ourself’ reflected back to us at times.

    Of course, Sophia is who she is, and there is no need to make her male, or to have a naked male show up. However…. I had an interesting idea, that I thought of as a sort of ‘art exercise’… even if it isn’t acted on by Dave or Ethan, anyone else out there can try it themselves….

    … Sophia, comes across a naked man. What is the setting? Context? Who is the man? What does he represent?

    Sorry if its a bit too Jungian, but I like playing about with archetypes, and it just seemed neat to think of it as a sort of ‘active imagination’ exercise, not to change Sophia, but to visualize a how/what/why encounter with a naked male.

    Just a thought.

  • To just give things away for free all the time means that what you have to offer has no value or that you believe your work has no value. If what you have to offer has no value to you, why would it be of value to anyone else?
    Nobody should regularly work for free, and if you have something to give, make it something of value.

  • Ian

    David, good to see the honest and frank responses above – I note that the majority are sensitive to your need to provide for yourself using your creative talents, time and resources. Each time you post a cartoon, painting, sketch, etc you allow us all to enjoy the image. I wouldn’t worry about the occasional negative post – you cannot please everyone.

    I think comments, like Ethan’s, are more a reflection of his maturity level than what is portrayed in the image. You obviously take pains not to present Sophia in an erotic manner – I wouldn’t let this restrict your creative endeavours. Also, I think it crass to suggest changes to someone else’s creation. The work stands on its own. For those who want a different outcome then there is always pen & pencil, charcoal & paint and other media to explore their own creativity.

  • Crystal

    David is embracing the female side of his personality so that’s why Sophia is the gender she is. The fact that she has stripped off, or been stripped, of all her clothes, is part of her expression of freedom. She is not hiding behind clothing that would disguise her true identity or trip her up. And,she doesn’t need a man! – Unless David decides she does. It’s his journey, no-one else’s. Why does everything have to be sexualized? God, I hate that.

    Just sticking up for you, David.

  • that’s why i’m praying for prophetic Lotto numbers! Solve the problem, – If God wants me to have a lot…. he can give me the numbers. (ok, that’s an idea for a cartoon dear 😉

  • ps. mauh ;-o

  • tried it 😉

  • Hey- i STILL say if God wants to down load 6 or 7 numbers- i’m game! x

  • As a woman who has spent her whole life in search of Wisdom and raging against the machine called “Patriarchy,” the woman, Sophia, in your art speaks to me. It would change EVERYTHING were she to have a companion, because, even if sometimes we find a like mind, it’s never for the whole fight/the whole path/the whole struggle to throw off the constraints that wish to oppress, that tell you never to trust your very own self…thank you for speaking for the Sophia’s in the world. :^)

  • thanks Debra. I appreciate your openness.