Years ago my wife and I decided to start a family. She left the regular workforce and began volunteering with Project Literacy to fill her time. One Sunday we visited a church and also visited a class for young married couples. I’ll never forget this particular woman who walked up to us, full of confidence and even swagger, reached out her hand to shake my wife’s hand, and introduced herself—to my wife. When my wife introduced herself the woman immediately asked, “What sort of work do you do?” “I’m a homemaker,” my wife eagerly said, with all the excitement of a young woman preparing for motherhood. The woman responded tersely: “Oh. I’m an attorney.” She then pursed her lips and immediately spun on her heel and left.
We place so much emphasis on job titles and careers. Blue collar vs. white collar. Skilled labor vs. unskilled labor. Those who wear ties often look down on those who wear steel-toed boots and those who wear steel-toed boots often look down on those who wear ties. When we hear what a person does to earn a living, we assume we know so much about that person, as if that person were summed up by his or her 9-5 or 3-11 or some twelve-hour shift. We often assume that a job that requires formal education is more important, or at least more impressive, than one that entails on-the-job education. (I’m quite convinced that a construction worker receives more hours of education en route to a builder’s license than some college degrees!)
How much greater would it be if we recognized how much we need doctors and construction workers, custodians and engineers, restaurant staff and medical researchers, factory workers and office administrators. Still greater, what if we recognized that every job is a holy calling, and every life is to be lived in ministry? Consider the apostle Paul:
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew
named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his
wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave
Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade
he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to
persuade Jews and Greeks.
Acts 18:1–4 ESV
A tentmaker reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to persuade Jews and non-Jews that Jesus is the Christ, the one who can save from sin and death. A tentmaker did this!
The simple truth is that a person’s job or career does not define him or her. A person’s job may well be how the bills get paid, yet each person has a calling that far exceeds a job title. Each one of us is called by God to represent Jesus Christ, to demonstrate through our lives—including how we do our jobs!—and to proclaim with our words the greatness of our God and Savior.
As we pray today, let’s pray for one another to represent Jesus well. Let’s pray for those who work, to do well in their assigned tasks, to work hard and with integrity. Let’s pray for those who are unemployed or underemployed, asking God to provide work for them. Pray for those who are looking for better work. Pray specifically that we will not define our value by our job titles, but that we will recognize the holy work our Lord has given us, for we are his people.
A man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of life getting his living.
-Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)