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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