Faith Works 8-30-14
May all your labors be blessed
"Do what you love, the money will follow."
This quote, and others like it, are fairly popular in advice and counsel to both young and old. "Follow your passion," "don't stay stuck in a job you hate."
Is that in any way reasonable to say to someone?
Or more to the point, should we be saying that to people in general?
There's no doubt that there are people who need encouragement to take a reasonable risk that's right in front of them, and be willing to accept a short term lessening of income or deal with a little more uncertainty to make their occupation a skill or gift or talent that brings the worker joy and the world blessing.
I've done that, and will again, as a pastor, as a friend.
As a motto to be silk screened onto a large poster for general consumption, I'm not so sure.
"Do what you love, the money will follow."
Well, first, it doesn't. Not all the time. And maybe not even often. It CAN likely occur more than our fears and self-doubts and desire for security allow us to realize, but if every graduating high school student, let alone college graduate, simply focused on "what they love" as a vocation, does anyone think this will work out well for more than a fortunate few?
And I ask these questions with a great deal of personal hesitation. I am blessed to do work that I love at least 87% of the time. Everyone has elements of their job they don't love (Santa Claus probably has problems with staff morale; the Pope has to do all that traveling), but I can say that I am in work that I love, and at the same time I made choices that could have turned out quite differently. A dispassionate observer might tell me "it could have been different better, it could have been different worser," yet I would just reply that I am blessed to be where I am and do what I do to help pay the mortgage and keep Subway sandwiches in my son if not always home cooked food.
I am one of the fortunate ones. I am doing what I love, and make enough to live well and help others generously to boot. So I'm a poster child for "Do what you love, the money will follow," eh?
Only if you ignore many of my peers who can't say the same, on one end of that equation or the other. And of course not everyone can be a parson.
Nor can everyone be artists or teachers in small, selective schools or be stars in mixed martial arts. What people love will vary from person to person: even so, can every last person do what they love, or is someone going to have to drive the garbage truck or shovel the horse manure? You can love the latter on occasion, but if it's three times a day 365 days a year, it might not be so lovely.
Tim Keller, the preacher and teacher at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan whose many books have gained him a wide audience in American Christendom, wrote "Every Good Endeavor" last year. The subtitle on this work is "Connecting Your Work to God's Work."
A friend recommended it to me, and I started out with a slight skepticism to where I thought it was going, and then Dr. Keller grabbed me with a long recap of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle," a greatly underappreciated novella of his which Peter Jackson should under no circumstances make a movie from.
I'll leave the story to your own discovery, but the point of the tale is that our work has more than just one dimension to it, whether we paint pictures, or sweep streets.
I am happy to recommend this book on Labor Day weekend, a traditional time to honor the dignity and importance of work and workers, no matter what the occupation or income.
And if anyone is interested in discussing it, I plan to be up on the second floor of Brews in Granville on Sunday a bit after 5:00 pm. Bringing people together to discuss how God and everyday life come together is part of my job description, and one of the parts of it I love most. Drop by if you want to be part of a discussion on this subject and this book.
But if you hate your current job, you might have something to say we need to hear as well!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he loves his work. Tell him about miserable jobs that had some unexpected benefits for you at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.