Christians Who Expect a Believer’s Discount

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I admit, it surprised me.  There’s many contrasting opinions as to whether Christians should give discounted or free services to other Christians.  Some say yes. Some say no.  I rounded up people’s opinions to share them with you.  But first, my story.

Last week my friend on Facebook had this status:

“I am adopting a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on free engagements. Don’t ask me to do my profession for free, I don’t have to tell you no …”

(Shoutout to Solomon Jones who posted this public status.)

The status took me on a trip down memory lane.  To the year 2006.  That’s when I did freelance work from home.  I produced websites full-time for a living.  I had set prices for my clients but on occasion I’d offer free or discounted services to friends or family.  I happily did so.  It is a blessing to be a blessing, and I have no plans on changing.  But what surprised me was complete strangers who’d ask me to work for free.

“Come on, can you hook your brotha up?  You know, we gotta help each other out.”

I call that the “race card,” and it got played a lot.  Right along with the Christian card.  Yup.  Fellow Christians.  Believers.  Many who believed it was my duty as their sister in Christ to help them at no cost with a full-scale website.  People whom I had never met in my life.

 

Gimme in Jesus’ Name, Amen

For example, I got a call once from a young lady who excolor-boxed in great detail about an online store wanted.  When I asked what was her budget and what investment she could make to get started, her response floored me.

“I’ve actually been praying, fasting too, that you’d have the heart to help without charging.  I want to be my own boss like you,” she excolor-boxed.  “And I just need some help getting started.”

I glanced over at my calendar.  It was the first of the month and my mortgage was due.  I tactfully declined her offer.  Not only did her project not inspire me, I didn’t like the subtle spiritual manipulation.

Those who know me, know that I have a big heart.  But as I spoke further with this wannabe pro bono customer, I learned she didn’t have money to pay her hosting or domain name fees either.  She wanted me to work for free AND come out of my own pocket to pay those costs on her behalf and began to tell me all about the hard times she was having in this season in her live.  But the final straw was when she said,

“Is it possible to finish it sooner than one week?”

See, that’s another thing.  People wanting free services are often in such a hurry.  They need everything “yesterday.”  And it’s usually because they didn’t plan well and want to make make their lack of planning my emergency with no respect to my production schedule or projects already underway for other (paying) customers.

Your Reward Will Be in Heaven

If you think that’s bad, once I got a call from a pastor.  He found me by doing a Google search.  He told me,

“God wants you to help me at no charge, and your reward will be in heaven.” 

And went on to quote scriptures!    Apparently this pastor never heard of the scripture that says, “A worker is worthy of his wage.”  Or the one in James 5:4 that says, “Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay; the wages you held back cry out against you.”  And how did he know God wants me to help him at no charge?  Surely God would clue me in on it, too.

Ironically, another pastor I’m connected to on Facebook posted the following status just last week:

“Does ANYBODY do FREE Kingdom work anymore ? Do we have to pay you for everything ? Jesus has to be crying again over what we call serving…”

And many Christians “liked” his status.

Free Dental Work, Please

Another Christian blogged about major dental work his dentist did.  He felt his dentist owed him a discount, simply because the dentist is a Christian.  To clarify, this is not a case where the dentist gave poor service (as sadly some Christian vendors are known to do; the Barna Report recently examined, “Do Americans Support Christian Businesses and Brands?“).   In this case the blogger was very pleased with the work performed by this dentist.  He just felt the dentist was obligated (biblically) to offer him a discount since both he and the dentist were Christians.

My opinion is this:  the dentist deserves his full fee, whether he’s a believer or not!  In fact, since the dentist performed exceptional work, the patient may want to consider giving the dentist a “tip” (financial or otherwise; homemade cookies, a card, etc) to be an extra blessing.  If anything, the dentist deserves more than–not less than–his rate of pay, especially when the patient agreed to the fee before the work began (Matthew 20:1-16).  Particularly if it’s a case where the patient was turned away by other dentists.  The dentist therefore was already a blessing by accepting the patient in the first place, along with doing exceptional work.

There’s a Place for Pro Bono Work

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I totally understand that sometimes people look for others to invest into special projects.  Especially churches and non-profit organizations.  They often have tight budgets.  Or cash flow problems.  I get that.

In fact, I’m known to occasionally “tithe” if-you-will by offering free services to specific causes or missions work.  No strings attached.   As led by the Holy Spirit, I may also offer free services to a close friend, family member, church, or colleague.

But it’s gotta be every now and then.  There’s no way I can agree to work on 3-4 web projects for 1-2 months and make absolutely no income from it–especially now that I’m a wife and a mother.  Time spent detached from my family while I work on a project better yield some income for my household (think of the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible).  Marriage and mommy-hood comes with responsibilities, and I must be accountable for my time.  Furthermore, there reoccurring bills:  pre-school tuition, student loans, car note, and more.  So every penny earned is a penny gained.  And as much as I would like to charge nothing each time a needy friend shares his or her vision for a website they want, I simply can’t.

Yet, believe it or not, many Christians would say I’m sinning to charge a rate for my professional services to other Christians.

In fact, that’s one reason I stopped doing freelance work and got a traditional job.  It was too exhausting getting people to pay!  Not everyone of course.  I had some outstanding clients who paid on time or even ahead of schedule.  One or two blessed me by paying their entire invoice even though they had a change of plans on their end and decided to cancel the project.  Wow, right?  But far too many others wanted to nickel and dime me to death.  They wanted the sun, moon, and stars but hoped to pay for just the sun, or to not pay at all.  No matter how many hours it took to create their website wonder.

What a relief to have a corporate job again where I get paid weekly like clockwork.  Without begging.   Now that I’m a mommy, a steady income is not negotiable.

Try Bartering if You Can’t Pay

So am I saying people can’t ask for free services?  Nope.  As Paul would say, “Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corin 6:12).  You can do whatever you want!  (Laugh.)  But if you are so inclined to do so, here’s some suggestions.  In a nutshell, pray or think about what can you bring to the table.  Maybe you can barter something.   To barter simply means to “exchange services.”  Are you a DJ?  Offer to perform for free at a person’s event in exchange for a website.   Or do you make necklaces?  Offer the person some necklaces in exchange for a free website.

For example, the young lady in my first illustration above.  the one needing an online store.  She could have offered me some free products from her store.  Not that I wanted candles (smile).  Or she could have offered me a percentage of her sales for the first few months.  I actually had someone offer that once, and I thought it was classy and thoughtful.  The person was having financial difficulty and proposed to give me a percentage of profits made from their online store… for life!  And wrote it up in a legal document and everything.  Wow.  Unfortunately I had to decline the offer due to workload at the time but I sure appreciated the gesture.

Another idea is to offer to babysit.  Or maybe you can offer to get the person new clients and help advertise their service.  In other words, come with something.  Even when you don’t have money.

What Other Christian Professionals Are Saying

I began to wonder if other Christian professionals experienced this “phenomenon” of being asked for what I call a “believer’s discount.”   To my relief, I found out that I am not alone. Here are their comments and others.

Publicist:

“Christian music artists claim they need a publicist, but they can’t pay for the services. It takes a lot of time to create press tools, along with calling, emailing and pitching hundreds of media contacts, following up to set up interviews and collecting the printed stories afterwards. Some artists think $300-$1000 a month is enough to cover this process. If you divide the number of hours it takes to do PR by that small retainer, flipping burgers pays more per hour. I’m tired of Christians using Jesus to justify their lack of financial resources.”

Music Producer:

“Many Christians artists we worked with expected free services from us. . . then we would check out one of their concerts… where ticket sales where ridiculously priced as well as overpriced merchandise that was easily marked up 100 percent. we often felt as if they pridefully believed their ministry was better or more important than any others. Our willingness to serve God was almost like a weakness for them to exploit.”

Graphic Artist:

“It’s hard to understand fellow believers wanting a discount from your business when you are barely making it. Not only that, it is rare that someone will simply barter my product/service. They simply want it for free. This is that ‘name it and claim it’ theology going to the extreme.”

Music Manager:

“My mother’s church no longer has a piano player because they couldn’t afford to pay her. One day she was attending Bible study, prayer, and all of that, the next day she doesn’t just stop playing the piano, she completely leaves the church. Which made me wonder. Everyone on the praise team sings voluntarily, and should be glad to do it because it is their service, but the musicians do it as a job. I don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. *shrug* On the other hand, I always had a problem with churches who felt it right to pay a music minister at their church or pay a Grammy award winning singer to come to their church for a big concert, but didn’t even want to provide gas money to Christian rappers who come to minister at their outreach – and almost every Christian rapper I knew would minister on the stage and stay and minister to people after the service as well. They didn’t hop in their limos or back on a plane like so many Praise & Worship and Gospel artists do (with the exception of Gospel Gangstaz and T-Bone, they used to do that too.)”

Business Lawyer:

“People [have asked me for legal advice] and I do help when I can. But I can’t always help because I am not in private practice and don’t have the time. Most people have offered to pay, but I don’t feel that’s necessary especially if it only requires an hour or two of my time. I am actually excited when the Lord gives me opportunity to use my legal training to actually help someone. But sometimes I just don’t have the proper expertise or I can’t commit to the time so I have to decline. My view is as believers we have a duty to help our brethren. But believers who can afford to pay should not expect a freebie just because the person is Christian. It works both ways I guess.

Hair Salon Patron:

“Once while I was getting my hair cut, we were talking about how some Christians expect a ‘discount’ from other Christians.  This happens a lot in Christianity today!  Now, I love to give and bless people, when it is my decision.  But for a Christian to expect another Christian to give them a ‘believer discount’ is not walking in the love of God.  The lady that cuts my hair told me that a number of people from her Church expect her to cut their hair for less money than she normally charges.  To expect something like that is not walking in the love of God, but rather it is taking advantage of one another!  Doesn’t God’s Word talk about being especially good to the household of faith?   Didn’t Jesus Christ say that all men would know that we are his disciples by the love we have one for another?  How is it love for me to shortchange my brother or sister?”

Music Manager:

“It amazes me that Christians who expect a hook up only expect the “do good to those in the Kingdom” to only go one way. They have no problem with “favor not being fair” so long as favor is in their favor. They don’t mind putting you at a disadvantage and not considering you or others more highly than themselves. Those who demand hook-ups are selfish. And never consider that they themselves could or should be the one that is supposed to be giving pressed down, shaken together blessings to someone else.”

Co Owner/Entrepreneur:

“If we offered everyone a “Believers discount” how could we be a blessing to our own family if we don’t make a profit to provide for them. Or If we offered Freebies to all Believers than are we being good stewards of what God gave us, how could we be if we don’t make enough to provide for our family.”

Music Producer:

“Christian musicians/artists are always wanting us to sow into their ministry, but they’re not so willing to sow into ours.”

Now I invite you to leave YOUR comments below.

DISCLAIMER:  A few people asked me, “Are you talking about me?”  So I’m adding this disclaimer.  First, I wrote and published this article on March 3, 2011, quite some time ago.  Second, if I offered to help you with a website (or anything else), then please understand that I’m absolutely NOT talking about you.  If I initiated a free or discounted rate, then this article has nothing to do with you.  This article is addressing persons who contacted me through my business website, persons whom I do not know from a can of paint who ask for free services with the logic that I should say yes because we’re both Christians.

  • I feel you. Period, that’s it.
    Sometimes, I am lead by the Holy Spirit to do something and give away some things for free, but not everything. My book will be out soon and people have already asked for it for free. Which means they will use the 15.00 bucks on what they want and my broke behind will order the book, pay shipping , handling, and for it to be printed, and they will go buy ice cream! No, not gonna be able to do it.
    I’d rather save it for the times when a young teenage girl really wants it but can’t afford it.
    That’s it.
    signed the starving artist :-)

    • @Lisa, you bring out an excellent point that I forgot to put in my article, that sometimes Christians even expect us to come out of our own pocket so that they can have something for free.

      For example, with a website, sometimes there are domain name and hosting costs (or other costs) associated with making certain types of websites possible. And some people who ask for free services expect me to pay these costs for them.

      So Lisa, I totally feel you about your book. Maybe you can explain to people, “Yes, you can have it free as long as you pay the $15 printing and shipping fee that I’d otherwise have to pay.” But unfortunately some people still won’t understand.

  • Nate

    It’s really ironic that I ran across your article this morning because I just ran into this issue last night. My wife and I both have degrees in Music. She’s fortunate enough to be able to have a full time job teaching music.

    It’s really amazing how many times we’ve both been asked to do stuff for free by people in the church. Just last night, my wife was asked to play piano for a church women’s retreat. It’s not paying anything. They would LIKE her to pay her own way to attend the retreat but, if she can’t afford it (and we can’t), they could cover her.

    The thing that gets me is that IF she went, she would be losing out on income because she has private lessons she teaches on the weekend.

    It’s not usually churches that ask us to do pro-bono work but people in the church.

    • Hey Nate, thanks so much for sharing. Yes, it *is* kind of wild or ironic that you found my post the day after your wife was asked to play for the church retreat. Because I think I had just published it the same day you found it.

      Is this the first church where you and your wife have fellowshipped? I’m curious if you’ve experienced this at all churches or just the church where you are at now. I agree with you that in general when people ask professionals to render free services, they may not understand fully what it takes or the sacrifices involved for a person to accept the offer. In this case, your wife would loose other income she could make by committing to the retreat, PLUS they are also asking her to pay her way to get there – WOW. The least they could do is offer to pay her way, WHETHER OR NOT she can afford to pay her own way. They may be assuming this would be a wonderful “blessing” for her (the retreat itself), but honestly, people who are actively serving at a retreat are not really “retreating” when they are there. They are working.

      Thanks again for sharing and joining in on the discussion.

  • Nate

    I read what I said again and realize that it makes it sound like my wife and I don’t volunteer our time and talents at church. In fact, we do quite a bit. I’ve started playing bass in the praise team and my wife has been playing piano for the choir while the director finds a new accompanist.

    The music director is very professional about it all. When she comes to us needing us to do something special (like at Christmas or Easter) she pays us. However, when I go to her seeking an avenue to serve, I do NOT expect to be paid for it.

    Like I’ve said, church members can’t usually grasp the concept of people being paid for things at church but the paid staff at a church will usually understand completely.

  • Larry Watson

    To me the CHRISTIAN should want to sow into the vision/business of another fellow believer and not expect something free or discounted all the time. It is a blessing to do so. The believer can’t prosper properly if they are always doing freebies and giving discounts. SELAH :)

  • Jan

    I think the wanting free services frame of mind is intertwined with an entitlement mindset. I have never seen an attitude of entitlement and expectation from a person who is walking close to the Lord. You just can’t be humble and feel entitled simultaneously. Outside of the church setting, I provide free services to people and after assessing their situation, go out of my way to help those with legitimate needs, whether they be Christian or not. Just my 2 cents.

    • @Jan, thanks for reading/responding. If what you say is accurate, this suggests that there are not a whole lot of Christians walking close to the LORD since this is such a prevalent issue.

      I think you also made a great point that when we as professionals are moved or desire to render free services, it doesn’t matter if the person is a Christian or not. It just depends on a need we see that we are compelled to meet. Period.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      • Jan

        We shall know them by their fruit (and love walk)or the lack thereof.

  • Nate

    June,
    No, this is not the first church we’ve fellowshipped at. It’s been the same at most churches we’ve been to though. The first was actually the church I grew up in. We left almost 3 years ago when we moved. We had been there about a year when the choir director left. They split up the planning and directing responsibilities between several volunteers. It’s been this way for a while because, “someone will always just volunteer. Why do we need to pay someone?”

    I also worked part time as a choir director at another local church until I had to resign because my day job was really picking up in hours and I just couldn’t keep up with both. Ironically, that church wanted to pay me for just about every little thing and wouldn’t usually ask me to do something unless they knew they could pay me for it.

  • I’ve been wanting to produce a documentary on this topic for a few years now. If anyone is interested in participating, please drop me a line! Thanks :)

    • HELLO!!!!!!!!! here’s your line :-)

      • So Lisa, I’m responding 2 years later to say this may be going down this year, sis! Let’s connect to chat about it when you have some free time. Thanks.

  • christien

    People got to realize your running a business. And if you got a family like me. You also have mouths to feed as well. I mean don’t get me wrong. I will help someone who is in genuine need. And I can tell you now. You know when someone is in a genuine need.
    Actually right now I’m thinking about the scripture. Faith without works is dead. So go figure without works you will reap nothing. What you sow is what you reap. People have to ask themselves what are they’re willing to do to change their circumstances. It all comes down to changing our mindsets. We limit ourselves all the time. God has no limitations. So if we’re looking with our spiritual eyes we will see what God has already planned for us. And in turn we will work out on making what we are seeing into reality. We got to speak out what we’re seeing for our future.

  • Reign

    My comment is late, but “better-late-than-never.” Here goes…the expectation of that Christian’s should or perhaps, should not give one another discounts is an perplexing matter. There are very reasonable perspectives coming from all sides. However, if the question is, “what would JESUS do?,” then the answer should come from HIS word. As Christians, we are “called” to be generous, especically with each other. This applies to showing generousity when doing business Christian-to-Christian. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 reminds us to, “Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to stop being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” (The Message Bible). Jesus’ word also reminds us that, “a worker deserves his wages” (Matt. 10″10′ Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18). So it is clear this includes “workers” who own businesses. If the Saints would biblically supported one another in the “marketplace” we could all become mutually wealthy. It requires a desire to give, rather than getting. Like any other business owner, Christian business owners have bills and must reinvest in order to grow. We should be helping those business to grow by supporting them in everyway possible. This is exactly what we would want if the shoe were on our foot. Think about it.

  • Whaaa? Interesting. It doesn’t sound like the spirit of a servant to me to ASK for a “family” discount.

    For myself, I CAN’T work for free because I have bills to pay and we’re pretty much all in that same boat. I think that you MAY graciously accept if it’s offered but don’t go taking advantage of a brother or sister and only work for free if you can afford to donate your time to something.

    Of course, the whole thing could be avoided if you just refuse to give discounts and don’t buy if you can’t pay. There’s not many things that feel worse than thinking your getting paid for your time’s worth for a project but you end up having to eat the costs instead because someone can’t or won’t pay full price. I think, there NEEDS to be a balance of some sort, and in the end it’s between the businesses involved.

    • I’m glad you have not experienced this situation. That’s a blessing! Because it can be tricky or awkward when the other person is a fellow brother and sister in Christ. I’ve mostly experienced Christians asking for freebies who I don’t know (strangers who call my business line). But I have other friends, like my one friend who is a photographer, who is not so fortunate; lots of people he knows in person assume he’ll give them free or discounted services… and he’s an award winning photographer who captures famous weddings & events all over the world!

      • Unfortunately, we *have* had to go through that situation; though in our case, those who “expect” free work are usually relatives or former acquaintances that think by claiming they’re our friends they can ignore our need to be compensated for our time.

        The most difficult part of the situation is when you’ve done “pro bono” work for someone in the past, when they needed it, and months/years later when they need more work and can actually afford to pay, they still expect to be able to demand anything and everything for free.

        • Family members must be very rough because they are forever bonded to you, and you must continue relating with them, even if they can’t understand or accept why they can’t be helped at no cost.. Past pro bo o clients wanting a lifetime of probono work sounds scary.

          Sometimes I wonder if people aren’t intentionally trying to take advantage but rather just really don’t know what all it takes behind the scenes to pull off certain projects,irrespective of industry.

        • Tristan, I came across a few resources that really opened my mind to a few things regarding this topic. One is the below e-book on pricing. Wow! I consider it a God wink. A must-read. I’ll e-mail you & Jacque in the near future about the below e-book and a few other things! Enjoy…

          http://breakingthetimebarrier.freshbooks.com/

          • We’ll be looking forward to that e-mail. Would you be available some time for a meeting? I think it would be interesting for us to sit down with you and discuss whatever random topics we come up with. I’m already over half way through that e-book, and I told Jackie I want her to read it as well. The value-based pricing model it outlines actually makes a lot of sense.

            Side note – Have you tried FreshBooks? The e-book is written by the creator of FreshBooks, and while I looked at the site a while ago, I haven’t actually used it. I’d love to have an online alternative to Quickbooks though, especially if it’s less complicated.

            • I love many things about Freshbooks! It’s very easy to use, both for you and your clients. Integrates with PayPal. You can keep track of your expenses, convert estimates into invoices, etc. It’s free to start off and you can downgrade or upgrade at any time as needed (from the free to paid). This reminds me that I need to blog on it! I got the e-book from an e-mail Freshbooks sent out last week. I found it very helpful. There’s also a video link from a WordPress Camp session I will send you saying the same thing about selling value. Yes, I’d love to meet with you guys. I’m in an interesting situation right now with working M-F 9-5 , have a 4-year-old, only one car and hubby works on weekends and must take car with him, but we will work it out somehow! Will share more in my e-mail.

  • PS the table of quotes is really hard to read. You may want to consider reformatting.

    • Lol! Hey Jacque, thanks. I wrote this article a few years ago and have recently changed templates. I haven’t got around to going into my hundreds of posts and make sure nothing looks wiggy on them like this one. Guess I shoulda peeped it before sharing it.

      Like most webmasters, our own websites and projects get neglected and come last. At least, with me that’s the case, sadly :(

    • Fixed!