Sunday, May 3, 2009

ranking the importance of our jobs

I was having a conversation with my room-mates last night about work and how we see different jobs that we could have. It got me thinking about how we seem to rank our jobs in terms of importance. And I started wondering if we should be. Is it right that we see some jobs as more important than others? Or should we be seeing all jobs as at the same level?

Sure, I know that for some jobs there is a lot more training required. Some people have spent years in school learning and training for their job, while some jobs seems to require just a few hours or days of on-the-job training. But, does that really mean that the former is more important than the latter? I'm not so sure it really does.

[rabbit trail here]
At least not if we look at all our jobs as being our mission field - our place of ministry. We have this tendency to hold up pastors, missionaries, and those who work in other Christian organizations as being called to "full-time ministry." I think we do ourselves a great dis-service by doing so. Absolutely, pastors and missionaries are called to a high calling, but I really don't think they are the only ones called to full-time ministry.

Pastors and missionaries may earn their paycheque from ministry work, but I honestly believe that all followers of Christ are called to full-time ministry. The doctor, the accountant, the school teacher, the retail cashier, the electrician, the mechanic, the nurse, the fast food worker, the server, the cook, the student . . . and any other person doing any other job are called to full-time ministry. There is a reason why Jesus called us salt and light in Matthew 5 - because we are supposed to be that in our world! If we are to truly be salt and light, then we need to be out in the world, and we need to see the world that we interact with each day as our mission field.
[OK, back to what I was talking about at the beginning]

I wonder if sometimes we look at jobs that require more training or are more dangerous as being more important than other jobs. We talk constantly about moving up the ladder in our work life, and get concerned when it seems like we're moving down that ladder. But, does it really matter? Yes, we should always be striving to do our best in our job and that often helps us to move up that ladder; but I think we must be careful we don't get so caught up in moving up the ladder that we miss what God may actually be wanting us to do in our work.

I wonder if our pride gets in the way of going where God wants us. We feel like we're doing something important and we're helping people and making a difference where we're at, but God is calling us to work somewhere we don't feel is as important and so we resist. Our pride keeps us in the job we think is important by the world's standards, and we miss how God wants to use us and grow us in a job that we deem as less important.

[OK, to try to tie this all together]
I think maybe our attitude about our work, wherever we are, is what needs to change. Instead of looking at how important our job is - at how much training it required to get to where we are - maybe we need to look at our work from the viewpoint of serving. All that we do should be in service of Christ and of others. This isn't easy - it's counter-cultural to think this way. But, I think looking at our work in this way puts all jobs on a level playing field.

How am I serving God in my work?
How am I serving others in my work?

The answers to those questions may not be obvious at first glance, but I think we can all answer them, no matter what job we do.

Even looking back over some of the jobs I've had, I know it's not easy to answer. Quite honestly, at first glance seeing how I was serving God when I was working in fast food or in the cafeteria at college is hard. But, I know I was serving others through what I did, and as I served customers or fellow students with a smile (most of the time, definitely not always) and just tried to be a bright spot in my day, I was serving God as well. I was taking a few moments with my attitude to be salt and light and point people to Him in a job that I could have seen as nothing more than a way to make money to pay for school. At the time, I wasn't looking at those jobs in this way, but when I look back at them now I can see how it would have been helpful for me to think about those questions as I worked.

So, I think I've come to the conclusion that I don't see there as being a way of ranking the importance of our jobs. All followers of Christ are called to full-time ministry no matter where we earn our paycheque. And, in all our jobs, we are to be serving Christ and others, no matter what we are doing. I really do wonder how much our view of work and jobs would change if we started to think this way.

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