The other day I chatted with a young woman who was excited about her first “real” job, that of a counselor working with troubled and potentially suicidal clients.
“It’s good to be doing something that means something, you know?” she said to me. “Kind of like your daughter, who just became a firefighter. She’s doing something of value and worth to the community and humanity in general.”
“I understand what you’re saying,” I replied. “But all people, regardless of their job description, and whether or not they even have a job, have the potential to do something of value and worth to the community and humanity in general. Their day’s activity may not be associated with what we consider ‘meaningful’ work, but just by virtue of interacting, kindly and compassionately, with other people, we all have the ability to impact others.
“Otherwise, we have scores of people on the planet in danger of thinking that they don’t matter, because they’re not working the ‘right’ job.”
“Oh, yes, of course, of course,” she replied. “That’s very clear.”
We as humans have a lamentable tendency of valuing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, assigning worth, prestige, pay scale, and commendation to some quarters and not to others, sometimes for reasons that are understandable, but just as often, other times for reasons that are not. And while there is exceptional merit, indeed, in being the first one in, and the last one out, in an emergency, even the merit of a firefighter is based upon more than our image of what he or she does while the time clock is running: it’s who they are, deep down and physically unseen, that makes the lasting, lifelong impact — upon their community, upon their family, upon their friends, upon strangers that they meet in the grocery store.
And it’s in who we are, deep down and physically unseen, that all of us have the potential of doing incredible good, astonishing bad, or something in between.
“The good man brings good things out of his good store of treasure, and the evil man brings evil things out of his evil store of treasure,” Jesus tells a group of Pharisees in Matthew 12:35. Many Christians, steeped in the teaching that we are mere worms deserving the wrath of God until, and even after, we lisp through the Four Spiritual Laws (authored by, not Christ, but Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ), have difficulty accepting that we can be, and do good.
And yet oddly, we look at certain people and certain professions and accord an instantaneously worshipful stance toward what they do: missionaries are a special class of people, pastors are extra blessed, anyone in uniform deserves added respect, wealthy businessmen must be that way, surely, because they are blessed and honored by God.
But you? me? Anyone who just muddles through the day doing something unexcitingly ordinary?
We’re nothing, our jobs are meaningless, and our lives an extension of the fact.
But this is not what Jesus teaches.
It’s not a matter of assigning a number to this work or that, ranking one above another, or one person’s life below another. Those of us who call ourselves Christians are not called, and have never been called, to treat others in accordance with their perceived station in life — indeed, James 2:2-4 expresses disapprobation toward favoring a rich man and denigrating a poor one, an attitude accepted within globalized, Americanized, societal “culture.”
When we find ourselves addressing our work, or others’ work, on the same continuum of standards, we belie Christ’s words, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7).
My friend, if you are a human being, you matter. You have been given, by the creator of all people, interests, skills, the ability to reason, and the capacity to love, listen, care, understand, show compassion, refrain from judging, and just be there when some other human being is hurting.
When we do this, regardless of what we do to earn money to pay for food on the table, we perform great, meaningful, lasting acts.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. It is time that we, as Christians, stop thinking like peer-pressured school children and take our place in the household of our Father. We are His sons and daughters, and we have work to do.
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Why Your Life on This Planet Means Something
I do believe it is only GOD alone who can really evaluate our lives…others hardly ever get that right I think…our little mundane days if done for HIM surely matter just as much as those more in view…good post, Carolyn.
You put things succinctly and well, Elizabeth, and you are right — we look to God for our love, acceptance, guidance, and truth, and thereby we find it because He shows us. But too often we take the wrong way — we look to others and ask, “What do you think God thinks about me and my life?” and of course we get confused, because others, just like we ourselves, don’t have the answer.
I’ve been thinking about what Jesus says to the Jews listening to Him in John: “I am from above; you are from below. I am not of this world, you are of this world.” My paraphrase, but it gets it across. It does no good to ask others, who are of below, to guide us, when the One who is from above lives in us, and is saying, “I will guide you –just let me.”
Thank you for writing this! I feel like I just work and pay bills sometimes. This piece is very inspirational!
You are welcome, April. It is a sad thing, but in our culture — which is steeped in celebrity worship, including within our “Christian” circles — good, beautiful, ordinary, hardworking people are overlooked and made to feel that we are worthless. Just send the check in to the SuperChristian, and he’ll go about saving the world in all our names. After all, none of us can fill a football stadium with humans worshiping us.
But God doesn’t think this way — He really, really doesn’t. In His eyes, we are all His children, and as any good parent would, He loves each and every one of His children equally but uniquely, because we are all special creations from His hand. You don’t just work and pay bills, but perhaps you feel that way because the corporate culture in which we work (and attempt to worship — modern churches look, act, feel, and operate like businesses) reduces us to nothing more than efficient workers, little human machines whose purpose in life is to generate profits for stock holders. Resist this, my friend.
Rest in the overwhelming love of your Father in heaven, and trust that He wants to work with you, every day, as you meet people, love people, talk to people, and interact with others. Only you can reach certain people in your life, because only you have the unique relationship with them that you do.
Very good and timely article for me right now. I just decided to go back to exclusively being a stay-at-home mom (have been doing an at-home job for a few hours a day for about seven years) and have been feeling like I will not really be “contributing” like I should. I realized a few days ago that there is no greater job (at least for me) than to be a wife and mother. As a homemaker/mom, we contribute to the bettering of society in ways we cannot really measure. No matter what “job” we may do, the only requirement should be that we are in His will. If we can do that, we are performing a meaningful job.
I agree, Jewell. As I read your comment, I thought — “WHO is telling us that we only ‘contribute’ when we enter the work force?” When you think about it, the uber rich don’t ‘contribute’ that way, and there’s a strong appearance that when they’re not pulling in $50,000 for a speaking engagement, they’re playing. If it’s so incredibly important to be a member of the workforce, then why don’t they enter it and work alongside the rest of us?
In this day, when fewer and fewer jobs allow us to make responsible decisions and take an active part in what we do, it’s hard to find meaning in our daily tasks, and indeed, we are not meant to define ourselves by a job title, whether or not it’s an impressive one. We are, first and foremost, children of God, and He works with us constantly to bring us to mind of that fact. He wants grown-up children in His household, loving Him and using the gifts He has given us to show His love to others. And as you observe, He shows us the best way to use those gifts, whether or not society (which is what, really? the voice of mass media?) approves.
The beauty of working at home, as you are doing, is that you have much say in what you do each day, and the person who manages your time, is you. Your contribution is an incredibly valuable one, and when a child needs advice, counsel, or example, who better to give it than the person who knows and loves that child best? May you, and your family, be richly blessed in love, warmth, and laughter as you live, each day, loving God and sharing that love with others.