Is It Me, or is It My Job? Discernment About Work.

IMG_0322“Is it me, or is it my job?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? I imagine so.   Disillusionment and dissatisfaction seem to be pretty common among workers in all industries and at all levels in the corporate hierarchy. I’ve had my share of both over the years. You probably have too. Now I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. Really. So, is it me, or is it my job? How do I figure it out?

Fortunately I’ve got some help. One of my friends (also a church elder and a guy with whom I’ve shared some of my job questions) is leading a Sunday school class about integrating faith and work. We’re using the book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Pastor Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf as a text, and I can highly recommend it.

Like all of Tim Keller’s books it is well-reasoned and easy to read. Divided into three sections, the authors first outline God’s intention for work and stress its goodness as part of his creation. Working is an intentional aspect of our humanness; it comes as part of being made in the Divine image. God works and we also work. In our human work we are stewards of God’s creation, and we ourselves are similarly creating. We are not limited to creating material things; human society, culture and civilization are the results of our activity.

But all is not well in our world, and the second part of the book addresses the corruption of work, our views of it, and of our motives that have resulted from the fall. Turn’s out that it’s natural for us to be frustrated, disillusioned, dissatisfied and depressed working in a fallen world where we and others may be motivated by greed, power, and covetousness, and where truth and justice do not always prevail. Bummer.

The good news is “the good news.” The gospel message does prevail – and over all things. Jesus has come and has overcome the world. We are redeemed and have a new kind of freedom in Christ despite the fallenness in which we live. Importantly, this applies to your work life in general and also to your particular job. Too often we compartmentalize the gospel leaving aspects of our lives untouched, and the final section of the book helps us understand and apply finished work of Jesus in our work life. How should we work? How can we find satisfaction? What kind of work should we do? The gospel helps guide us to answers.

This book has helped me significantly as I think through my own situation. Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf don’t have specific answers for me or for you, but they have outlined a framework for discernment and discipleship. Their call is for Christians to integrate faith with work, or as I would put it to incorporate work into their discipleship or followership of Jesus. (I see that as like what I am doing on this blog suggesting we integrate faith with health/lifestyle via our discipleship process. Maybe I can write a book with Tim Keller some day. Say a prayer about that.  🙂 )

Two of my favorite sayings of Jesus are found in the Gospel of John:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.    John 10:10

I think many Christians, perhaps most, aren’t feeling the freedom and abundance in connection with their jobs. (Once again, I admit to this from time to time) If that’s you, try this book. And after you’ve read it, here are some questions to help you with discernment about the issues you’re facing. Perhaps you can discuss them with a trusted friend.

There is no condemnation in Christ for hating your job, but wouldn’t you really rather be free?

____________________________

50 Questions for Discernment About Work (download PDF)

(in no particular order)

  • Do I see work as a “necessary evil” or as part of God’s plan for humanity and me?
  • Do I understand the necessity of work to the human spirit, that humans need to work to be spiritually well?
  • Do I see work as inherently creative and reflecting an image of God’s creative nature in me?
  • Do I see the dignity in all work, including this job?
  • Do I have the sense that I am serving God at work?
  • Am I serving God at work?
  • What does it mean to serve God at work?
  • How could I serve God at this job?
  • Am lazy, unwilling or afraid to work hard?
  • Am I afraid of failure?
  • Am I burned out or just tired?
  • Do I need to rest?
  • Do I need to build more rest into my life?
  • How is this job affecting my family?
  • Is this job helping or hindering my ability to be a good parent/spouse?
  • Is my work benefitting others, society and even civilization, or is it harmful to them?
  • Are there any ethical or criminal issues at my work?
  • How am I treated at my job? Am I physically or emotionally abused at work, or am I treated well?
  • Can I see how to work for God in my present job?
  • Am I working for God of for myself?
  • Have I made work, or its outcomes – money, power, status, etc. – into idols?
  • Do I understand parenting, homemaking, caring for others and other unpaid activities as work?
  • Have I made an identity through my work role or accomplishments?
  • Do I look to work or its results to give my life meaning and value?
  • Am I harboring resentments against my boss or my firm?
  • Am I grateful for the work I have and the income I receive from it?
  • Am I grateful for my accomplishments and my talents?
  • What am I grateful for in this situation?
  • What do I do with the natural feelings of frustration and anger that come with my work?
  • Do I nurse them and hold grudges or do I forgive and trust God?
  • Can I work without seeing results?   Why or why not?
  • Am I trusting God for the outcomes of my labors?
  • Am I good at this work?
  • Have I tried to be good at it?
  • Have I sought the necessary education and training, and have I practiced what I’ve learned?
  • Does this work use my gifts?   All of them?
  • Do I even know what my gifts are?  How would I find out?
  • How could I use my gifts better in this role?
  • What other roles would allow me to make better use of my gifts?
  • Am I called to do this work?
  • Am I called to do some other kind of work?
  • Is God trying to show me/tell me something?
  • Am I asking God to reveal his will for me? Am I listening?
  • Can I see how God might be using me to accomplish his goals in my present situation?
  • Can I see how God might be preparing me for a future role through my present situation?
  • Have I sought feedback from others about the issues and my views?

download this list as a PDF