Quote from the movie, “Men in Black”– where “K” explains what it means to become a member of the the ‘MIB”
Edwards: What’s the catch?
K: The catch? The catch is you will sever every human contact. Nobody will ever know you exist anywhere. Ever. I’ll give you to sunrise to think it over.
Edwards : Hey! Is it worth it?
K: Oh yeah, it’s worth it… … if you’re strong enough!
In the movie, the statement of K is questioned by the narrative where it starts to become clear that “K” is less than fully satisfied with his life as a member of MIB. He gave up the love of his life to gain knowledge of “What is out there.” But slowly he began to question this decision, and by the end, seeks to leave MIB to take the path not (initially) taken.
Does that truly undermine his statement, or simply point out that he is not strong enough?
Many missionaries have asked the same question.
—Is it worth it? Does the question depend on one’s strength (resilience, sense of calling, faith)?
—Can “strong missionaries” struggle with this answer?
—Is it wrong to even ask questions such as whether it is worth it to be a missionary?
The issue is not really so much about strength or faith. Rather it is about Opportunity Cost.
When you take one path, you miss the opportunities that other paths hold are lost and never come back.
Years ago, I quit my job, we sold our house and traveled to another country. I could have stayed on my old path as an engineer. Perhaps we would have a large house and a beautiful car. I don’t know because we did not take that path. Maybe our children would do better… or worse. I don’t know… but things would be different.
I Corinthians 15:12-19 I feel speaks of this sort of Opportunity Cost. Paul notes that if there is no resurrection from the dead that all Christians are have only this life and are lost in their sins, and the dead are simply dead. This seems reasonable enough. But then he adds, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” The previous verses would suggest that Christians are equally miserable. But in verse 19, Christians are “more to be pitied’ (eleeinoteroi) than all other men. This suggests that Christians would actually be in a worse state than all others because they have invested in something that did not pay off, unlike the rest.
Luke 14:25-33 records Jesus talking of the cost of being one of His disciples. He makes it clear that it is important to ‘count the cost.’ Reading the Bible, I believe it is quite clear that God is telling us that IT IS WORTH IT to follow Him. But that does not imply that God does not want us to go through the effort of running the numbers.
The “Rich Young Fool” decided that the cost of following Jesus was too much. However, this was not a unique occurrence. Judas Iscariot changed his mind. So did Elijah quite… for awhile. So did John Mark. Many of the Kings of Judah (Saul, David, Solomon, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Josiah, for example) started out good but struggled in holding to the true path.
It is very human— meaning very normal for us, being human— to question whether being a missionary is worth it. It is healthy, and the impulse should not be stifled. Any missionary that struggles with this should be listened to, non-judgmentally, and sensitively.
It is worth it… but it sure doesn’t always feel like it.