I’ve been getting restless lately. Every day that I show up to work, do my job, and then come home to read or write or really anything that I’d rather do, I get a little more eager for something more meaningful. Don’t get me wrong; I have a pretty fun job. It’s oftentimes stressful and busy, but it’s fun. What I find to be the one problem, though, is that it isn’t what I want to do in life.
Ever since the spring term of freshman year, I’ve wanted to write. “But… you’ve been writing. You’re writing right now,” you might say. And yeah, you’d be right; I am writing right now. But I know that when I’m done with this blog and it’s posted for all of my eight million readers to read (okay, maybe it’s only eight), I won’t get paid for it. And even if I did, I know it wouldn’t be enough to live off of.
Have you ever come across those people who often say, “I’m doing what I love and getting paid for it”? I envy them. I very much wish I could quit the day job, open my laptop, write until my fingernails explode, and relax later that night knowing I had a paycheck coming from the day’s work. I’d be at my desk all day in a sweater and khakis, sipping three or four cups of home-brewed coffee, and listening to the “Smooth Jazz” station on Pandora. Yeah… that’d be cool.
Unfortunately, my life isn’t like that – at least, not right now. Like most employed people, I’ve got to show up to work, clock in, do a bunch of menial tasks that no kid ever aspires to do, and come home in the afternoon/early evening. It’s a blessing and a curse; it pays the bills, but kind of saps the soul.
What I’ve been wondering lately, though, is what if I’ve got this whole working-to-make-a-living thing all wrong? What if, instead, I was supposed to work regardless of pay? What if life is supposed to be one giant unpaid internship where you work a bunch of hours just to say you did a lot of busy work? What if, as the Scriptures suggest, we’re all supposed to be indentured servants for something much bigger than our “real life” jobs?
I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “Time is money” at some point in their life. It’s hard to grow up in America without hearing it from someone even if you’ve never had a job. It’s kind of confusing in the Christian perspective, though. Jesus teaches that money and possessions are temporal things at best and God is described as living before time began. If it’s God’s kingdom we’re to spend eternity in, then it stands to reason that neither time nor money will have any affect on our eternal souls.
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” Jesus says, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:20). Whatever it is that we’re earning (if we’re even “earning” it), it’s going to outlast this world. And as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with anything material, but rather something internal and eternal.
I raise this whole issue because in America, we’re too focused on making money. Yes, I have a lot of student loan debt and no, I’m not really working a job that will pay that off any time soon. But that does not define my life. When God looks at me, He doesn’t see a large number in red font with a dollar sign at the front; He sees a bit of Himself coming to life. He knows it is far from complete, but He knows that it’s growing. And He knows that no matter how much student loan debt I may wrack up, it won’t remove Himself from me.
Why then do we work? Because it’s not for money, a President, a social status, or even a spouse that we work; we work for God and everyone else thereafter. We work because God has called each of us to a particular, unique task that only our particular, unique selves are capable of handling. It’s not as though His whole plan falls apart if we decide not to do it. He’s certainly capable of doing everything on His own. But, as the entire Bible – which encapsulates a very clear picture of a very involved God – points out, He eagerly wants us to want to be a part of His whole operation. It’s like He’s building one giant jigsaw puzzle and He wants us to help piece things together.
What then should be our attitude toward that job we work 40, 50, or even 70 hours a week? After watching Gladiator for the 142nd time, I caught a line from Maximus’ armor-bearer; “Most times I do what I want to. Other times, I do what I have to.” Just because I work nearly 40 hours every week doesn’t mean I should let my job control my life and direct my passions. Instead, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m working, I have the opportunity to serve God by serving my coworkers and then come home to pursue my passions of reading and writing. The way I see it, I should be working at least 120 hours every week even though I only get paid for 40(ish).
Putting things this way makes it seem rather dreadful – working 120 hours a week and only getting paid for one-third the time?! But if we step back and look at things from God’s perspective, we’ve already been paid in full. We’ve been given a salary called “life” with a bonus called “sanctification.” What we’re doing now is simply whatever God places on our hearts to do. We only have to muster the courage to commit to doing it.
It changes the way I go about my day to day life. Take tonight for instance: Though I have to be at work at 8 am tomorrow, I’m going to be staying up late tonight to read and write some more – because those are my true passions. Like Paul being a leather-worker, my job is a mere way of making an income. It isn’t my life-long vocation. Serving God, however, is.