Do I tell him? And what do I tell him?

I am not good at this.

I wrote back, "My friend, I have to eat. I'll always be glad to share a meal with you. But bear in mind that I spent several hours on that drawing. I need to be paid for it. I'd like to suggest you get with the pastor and figure out what would be appropriate."

A few weeks later--yep, weeks, not days--an envelope arrived with five 20-dollar bills stuffed inside. Not a word with it.

It felt like a rebuff.

The very idea, that I expected to be paid for this.

One of the departments of our SBC publishing house that puts out Sunday School literature has taken what I consider an innovative step. They have a cartoon along with the Sunday School lesson for that particular age group. Since none of the others do that (to my knowledge), I applaud them.

When I received a call from them inviting me to submit cartoons to be considered, at first I was interested. They pay 200 dollars each, which, any religious cartoonist could tell you, is extremely good.

Here's the problem. They send you all the material about those Sunday School lessons for a full quarter, perhaps a year in advance. You read the stuff, study the main points, and then come up with cartoons. When you finish--remembering there are 13 Sundays in a quarter--you send to their office. They collect all the submissions from all the cartoonists and on a certain date, they open them and go through them and select the ones they want. They inform the artists who then draw finished versions and color them.

The first time they asked me, I begged off. I had a full-time job and felt this would be a great deal of labor for possibly a small or even no payoff.

A few weeks ago, they contacted me and asked me to reconsider, saying they've seen my work and like it. Okay, I said. I'm retired now, so I'll give it a try. I did. And because I was late entering the process, I had 2 weeks only to get everything in.

For the 13 lessons, I probably sent 15 to 20 cartoon ideas. To do that took perhaps that many hours of reading and thinking and sketching.

Yesterday, the department head notified me that they've chosen one of my cartoons. Now I'm to draw it and color it and scan and send it to them. I have 10 days to do that. I'm to send an invoice with all kinds of information on it, requesting my 200 dollars.

I'll do it. But I sent a return note to the supervisor to ask her to "include me out" the next time. The people in her office are super nice and I'm thrilled they are running a cartoon with the lesson, but this is not something I want to do twice. It's a poor use of my time for the small payoff.

After all, as my wife reminds me sometimes, it's not like I need something else to do. (Look at my preaching schedule on the home page of I'm blessed to be staying so busy).

How I wish I was one of these people who understood his motives better than I do. Wish I could see clearly through the fog of my own desires, ego, love for God, devotion to ministry, and pride. It's all so mixed up, it's hard to know where the "strait and narrow"path is sometimes.

Is this ego? Is it righteousness? Is it both?

That's my dilemma.

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at with permission.

Original publication date: September 17, 2009