Working for Wages and God

I was at the kitchen counter with my wife one day this week, going through old paperwork. I have an organized system of important documents, receipts and keepsakes. I try to reorganize our file cabinets every January to remove clutter and discard what is not needed. All of which is an attempt to steward all that God has given my family. On this particular round of cleaning I came across an old pay stub of mine from a casino I worked at nearly a decade ago.

As I reviewed the numbers I started to recall the stories of these giant paychecks I used to receive when I was a poker dealer. I shared some of those stories with Megan before I handed over the stub for her own review, even though she had probably heard them before.

I have always been fortunate when it comes to my wage. My first job at Chick-Fil-A paid me a little more than minimum wage.  I started working full time hours for the first time my senior year of high school at a Dairy Queen within walking distance of the my high school. I was able to work more hours because my school offered an early release program for employed students. My wage was nearly $20 an hour when I left Dairy Queen to start what would become a long season of dealing cards at casinos throughout the St. Louis area. That is a great wage today in 2019, but I was blessed to be making that wage in 2004.

When I started working at the casino, all of the poker dealers shared the combined tips of all the games. Wages varies between $17-$25 an hour.  A few years in, a rule changed in the state of Missouri allowing for poker dealers to keep their own personal tips.  I was highly regarded as a poker dealer by players and my peers. Many of my co-workers at the casinos called me, “the second-best poker dealer in town.” The first was always happened to be the person who I was talking to!  When I started keeping my own tips, or tokes, I dramatically increased the amount of money I was making.

I saw a yearly increase of wages, one year I was even close to making six figures. All as a poker dealer. But, in addition to being a poker dealer, I was also a degenerate gambler.  There were times my large paychecks wouldn’t last but a few hours after I received them.  Making so much money, in addition to gambling on credit, was how I was able to lose more than $500,000 in ten years during my addiction.

My wife had heard me tell these stories before. However, seeing the check in person, put a bit of reality back into my heart and substance to her thoughts. She didn’t know me when I lived that life. She knows my background, but she has said that stories to her seem like urban legends or like I’m talking about someone else.  I’m not that person anymore. Christ has completely transformed my life. While God has blessed my memory to not dwell or easily remember those bad times in my life. I know the stories, they don’t alway seem real, but this pay stub was a reminder that they were.

Due to a poker boom on television, the poker tables were usually filled while I worked there. Back then, poker dealers made great money, they also didn’t have to work hard for it. We had a list you could sign to leave work early. Most days, every dealers name would be on it. The E.O. list was a beckon call for every dealer with money in their pocket and a desire to spend it.  I was definitely one of those.   

On this particular stub I worked fifty hours, but my wage was $35 an hour. This stub was nearly ten years old.  I don’t make that kind of money anymore. I also work a lot harder than I did back then. Yet, my work now is satisfying to my soul. I am fulfilling my purpose.  A great wage may satisfy my wallet, but it cannot satisfy my soul  When I looked at the stub, I was reminded of all the bad decisions I made trying to figure out a purpose for myself instead of consulting God on His purpose and plans for my life.

I know many of you who might think that a significant wage would bring you joy and satisfaction. I had those wages, and yet, I was depressed, lonely and at times suicidal. I wouldn’t trade the blessings of family, friends and purpose I have been given by God for a better wage.

Large wages won’t save your life or fulfill your purpose. Christ does. I’m thankful for what I have and not upset for what I don’t. I’d much rather sit at a kitchen table with my wife talking about my bad decisions I once made than sit by myself at a table piled high with money getting ready to make new ones.


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