Does Your Job Really Matter?

As a pastor I talk to a lot of people who are unhappy with what they do. In fact, just last night I was talking with a friend at the gym about how they wish they had a job that really mattered. She said, “I just wish I felt like I was making some kind of difference. With all the important issues in this world I feel like I’m spinning my wheels for something that doesn’t really count in the long scheme of things.”

I get that. I think most of us have a drive to want to make a difference. We want our one and only lives to count for something great. And since we spend so much time at work we would like for the difference we make to coincide with what we do for a living.

However, most of us don’t work for a church or a non-profit or anything else that we really believe is impacting our community, much less the world.

I just read a great article from Scot McKnight (I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of this guy) online at Relevant Magazine entitled Finding God’s Will For Your Career. Here’s just a portion of the article where he talks about seeing your vocation, whatever your vocation might be, through the Kingdom Dream.

Your vocation, which in so many ways is unique to you, can genuinely matter if you keep your eyes on the Kingdom of God as your guiding North Star. Teaching matters when you treat your students as humans whom you love and whom you are helping. Coaching soccer matters when you connect kids to the Kingdom. Growing vegetables becomes Kingdom work when we enjoy God’s green world as a gift from Him. Collecting taxes becomes Kingdom work when you treat each person as someone who is made in the image (the Eikon in Greek) of God and as a citizen instead of as a suspect. Jobs become vocations and begin to matter when we connect what we do to God’s Kingdom vision for this world. Sure, there’s scout work involved—like learning English grammar well enough to write clean sentences and reading great writers who can show you how good prose works. Like hours with small children when we are challenged to make some mind-numbing routines into habits of the heart and Kingdom.

It is easy to see missional work in the slums of India as something that matters. Perhaps the desire to do something that matters is why so many of us get involved in missional work like that. But most of us don’t have a vocation like that, and that means most of us do lots of scout work as a matter of routine. We have to believe that the mundane matters to God, and the way to make the mundane matter is to baptize what we do in the Kingdom vision of Jesus.

Are you honestly able to make a connect between what you do for a living and God’s Kingdom?

51 Responses to “Does Your Job Really Matter?”

  1. I find it very difficult to connect my job to living for God’s Kingdom day in and day out. Some days it is easier to see, while a lot of days it seems so Heavenly worthless. I think it has a lot to do with staying in the Word, praying for opportunities and seizing them when they arrive. Sadly, I miss many of the opportunities…

    Another great read on this subject, especially for college and high school students is Kevin DeYoung’s book “Just Do Something”.

  2. Adam says:

    Sometimes it is hard to find a connection, but I have to accept that God has put me in the position I am in and make the most of that position to expand the Kingdom.
    I hope that I show the love if Christ daily. God uses all occupations to spread the Gospel. Everyone cannot be pastors, but we can show Christ to those around us at our workplaces that might not otherwise see the love of God.
    Just some thoughts. Great article!

  3. Jeff says:

    Yea, Scot McKnight is a good guy to listen to.

    I think the fact that most of us want to make a positive difference in the world is a God-given, God-inspired response to what we have learned, experienced and seen in him. We want our lives to count and promote the Kingdom values that were inaugurated by Jesus; values such as transformation, healing, hope and life.

    What we need to remember, however, is that we are to be this kind of person wherever we are and in whatever we do. We can make a positive impact where we are. Allowing God’s Spirit to work in and through you by displaying love, kindness, patience, etc, in our vocations means that we are light, right there. I think if more of us viewed our jobs through a Kingdom lens we would effect transformation in each life we encountered.

    Research the Puritan doctrine of vocation as well. Very powerful stuff there (Christian History magazine dedicated an issue to them a few years ago. Worth looking into more).

    Coffee #3 coming up :)

  4. Jeff says:

    Here is the link to the Christian History article I mentioned in an earlier post on the Puritan Doctrine of Vocation.

    http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/2006/issue89/7.32.html

  5. Susie A. says:

    Hey Pete! Great post….
    A few thoughts… Yes, we do need to re-think how we see work. It can be just work…something that we “get through” each day or it can be a means for a greater purpose in our life. We talk about how our actions should portray the love of Christ. This should be true even in our workplace (and yes, I know it’s sometimes easier said than done). It will look different for everyone based on their profession. And it may mean getting creative in how it’s done–do you need to mentor someone that you work with, is it showing compassion in the cut-throat corporate world, is it treating the customers in the retail setting with more respect, is it just showing contentment and gratefulness for the job you have, is it showing respect and honor for upper management….

    And if the answer is still none of these…then maybe it is time to re-evaluate what you do and look for something more meaningful. How can you use the skills you were given for a “kingdom purpose”? How does that look for you? Maybe it’s not in the day-to-day job you have…but in volunteering with your skills for the church or a non-profit.

    Lastly, a statement that was told to me several years back was “stop working for a living and start working for a giving”…

    Anyway…great topic and great post!

    S.

  6. Dustin says:

    I think those feelings are lost by a lot of people (myself included) because its easy to forget that whatever we do, we do for the glory of God. I remember watching a video of Francis Chan’s talk from this past Catalyst Conference here in ATL, and he posed this question, “When you put your life in this Book (Bible), what is weird?”. I find the need to ask myself from time to time… is what I’m doing in line with what Jesus lived out? Is my career glorifying to God?

    Great post!

  7. Sara says:

    Absolutely, I say from my high pedestal. The rigors though of working day in and day out with college students can cause me to lose sight of the Kingdom work God is doing through me.

  8. I just think we have to remember that the Kingdom is about “people”. Wherever there are people, there is an opportunity to minister to those people. As believers we should be able to see that we don’t work “here” by accident. Whether your industry serves food, manufactures tin cans, feeds the poor, or produces music – ever person we come into contact with is a Kingdom prospect. Everything else is just details. I sell houses for an income and I operate a charitable organization too. Both I am passionate about. Both offering me Kingdom opportunities on a daily basis. :-)

  9. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Street Preacher, nathan french, Dave Nash, Claire, Lindsey Nobles and others. Lindsey Nobles said: A great reminder from @pwilson (and @scotmcknight) "Does Your Job Really Matter?" http://ow.ly/3LftX [...]

  10. Jenn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As you know I was a teacher who lost my job and have since been doing office/accounting jobs while searching for a new teaching position. Last Thursday I interviewed for the perfect teaching job and today im interviewing at a medical billing practice. I’ve struggled and prayed for a job that had purpose….so this was a major conviction. Thank you!

  11. sarah says:

    I often have to ask myself that. The answer I get depends on the day. It’s really difficult.

  12. Michael says:

    I’ve had a weird career path. McDonald’s Mgr through college. Car Salesman. Finance Manager. Jack of all Trades for an Oil Company. While being in bi-vocational ministry. The toughest job I had in making the connection was McDonalds.

  13. Jessi says:

    I definitely struggle with seeing the connect between my job and God’s kingdom. My husband is a worship leader/pastor so its easy to see that he’s making a difference, but my day job is totally different. When I feel as though I’m not changing the world for God’s kingdom, I think back on Louie Giglio’s sermon Passion, Purpose and Designer Jeans. Everything we do should be for the glory and honor of God. I think it has a lot to do with attitude.

  14. I am a bivocational pastor (a pastor with a full-time “secular” job) and this used to be a big problem within my heart until I began looking at my job as McKnight suggests. That longing for something else is better now–I can see that what I do matters.

  15. Kenny Silva says:

    This is a fantastic post and I really appreciated that article. I believe that, as Christians, we’re called to live lives of ministry – vocational or not. If we search hard enough, we can find purpose in our everyday lives. Whether we’re placed in an office or led to overseas missions, we have the opportunity, privilege, and responsibility to carry that function out to God’s glory. There’s always a way to do that; we just have to search until we find it.

  16. paula says:

    I struggled with this for years! But now I get it… working with companies and individuals on their “brand” and “image”, one would think that to be superficial.

    But my partner and I have discovered how Biblical principals can be tied into our consulting process (without “preaching”). We may not be sharing the gospel in blatant format to our clients, but by applying these principals that meld with what we do, we are able to offer encouragement, inspiration and discovery to many who are struggling in these areas of their career/company.

    Knowing that we provide a service allowing our clients to better communicate what they are trying to accomplish, allows fulfillment for them and us. And we can see that we are a shining light in an industry that does not always present itself as such.

  17. Marni says:

    My husband and I had a discussion circling this very topic just last week – namely about his job. But reflecting this on my life – I don’t work outside of the home. I am a stay-at-home-mom, an online Christian Counseling Undergrad Student, and a ministry leader at our Church. I also now have taken on blogging and writing.

    Before I went back to school last year, I was very frustrated with feeling that just being a SAHM was pointless for at least the next 16 years of my life. However, when I started back to school, it dawned on me – I have a huge influence on the rest of this world [for God] in how I raise up, discipline and educate our son. His life will impact the world one day – and that has a huge reflection on my life and how I exercise it in front of him daily, and help him through his situations in life. I have a pretty darn important “job” in his life – and in turn, I also have an important job in the ministry I now run at Church, which marries with the degree I am going for right now.

    The insight I have been given, by God, about where this degree will take me is actually to work within a Church or ministry – and somehow, it will work itself out that I will still be able to homeschool our son, and still be basically a “SAHM.” I am not certain how He will work this out, but I am simply going on faith He will give me and my husband the insight when the time is right in how to accomplish this.

    For together, being a SAHM, a homeschooler, a ministry leader/counselor, and a blogger/writer all go hand in hand – impacting others for a greater purpose beyond what I can even fathom; and that purpose is Christ and what He intends through my life (being poured into others).

    It took me a long while to get to this point…and I am very thankful to God to be here.

  18. Something I read this morning and it hit me right so I thought I would share it.

    What I do you cannot do;
    but what you do I cannot do.
    The needs are great,
    and none of us including me,
    ever do great things.
    But we can all do small things, with great love
    and together
    we can do something wonderful– Mother Theresa

  19. Tom Raines says:

    Great post Pete! This has forever been a challenge with me. The only way I can do a secular job is to do as others have mentioned here and see it as a personal mission field. However I really am struggling to see the significance at times working with people who seem to forsake all others for the job and the almighty dollar. However, I have yet to see how I can provide for my family in the manner they are accustomed without what I feel is compromise. I seek patience and God’s guidance and will continue to pray and work hard for my current employer until the Lord shows me a different plan.

    • Tom, this is a very telling sentence, “However, I have yet to see how I can provide for my family in the manner they are accustomed without what I feel is compromise.”

      I pray you dig into this one with your family as it sounds you feel burdened to provide for their wants, not necessarily their needs.

  20. Sharon O says:

    When I worked at a pharmacy as a customer service clerk I went to work every day prepared to listen to people, care for people and let them genuinely feel like they were important. It was not just a job… people had issues, some were very ill, some were lonely, some were homebound and I delivered their medications to them. It was a minisitry. I left when the office manager became ‘very non professional’ and my issues with integrity were challenged. I could no longer work there after 8 years. Now I am home writing a blog… again a bit of ministry. thanks for the reminder it is all about perspective.

  21. ttm says:

    Perhaps we need to adjust the way we think of work. We think of Kingdom work as what we “do” for God instead of what we are to others. Perhaps there is as much value in the being as there is in the doing. (Being available, being honest, being forgiven, being open to others, being gracious, being loving.)

    I used to think that I was a cog that had to keep moving myself to where the action was if I wanted to keep God happy. Now, I think of myself more like a stained glass window. I’ve been shattered and pieced back together in a way that depicts something. When there isn’t backlight, I’m just another picture. But when the brilliance of God shines through, people can’t help but notice the image. I just am what I am–I can’t shift myself around to find the Light. The Light has to find me. And that doesn’t happen 24-7 because the Light is dynamic.

    God has shone himself through homeless beggars, secular musicians, Muslim poets and atheists to reach my soul. I don’t know how diligently any of them were “working” for the Kingdom or if they even considered how their vocations affected others. They were just doing their thing, the Light showed up, and I was changed.

    In light of that, I have changed my definition of “Kingdom work.” :-)

  22. This is a tough one for me as become more and more missionally focused, and I work totally remotely and behind the scenes from the rest of my colleagues…designing water and sewage treatment plants. Far from glamorous. I try to remind myself that I’m developing relationships with people through my work and it has provided a few opportunities…I’m sure I have missed a lot more. The people in my field are why I’ve stayed in it so long. But I look at the lives of Christian leaders, writers, musicians and missionaries and sometimes I question my vocation.

  23. Steve Williams says:

    As a pastor who spent 30+ years in the corporate world, I struggled with this issue while I was a “bi-vocational” pastor. As I began studying and asking God for insight, He made some things abundantly clear.

    The first thing I learned was that there is, in reality, no “sacred” and “secular” aspects to our lives. It is ALL sacred, even the things we consider mundane. There was no part of my life in which God did not want to be actively involved. Much patience is learned in mundane matters. When Christ said, “Abide in me” he was not speaking of only the times we are actively involved in some ministry or church activity.

    The second thing I learned was that work, in and of itself, is a blessing from God. Work was not a result of the fall. God BLESSED Adam with work. God is a worker (hundreds of biblical references) and we, as bearers of His image, are workers. I began to understand that to view work strictly as a platform for evangelism was missing the point and led to much frustration. God uses transformed people to reach those needing transformation.

    This in turn led to a third point. For me, God used my work to reveal much about my heart and how seldom I truly displayed the character of Christ. Think of all the trials, pressures, abuse, problems, relationship issues, temptations, etc. that we endure in the workplace. What a wonderful place for God’s Spirit to work in me to form the character of Christ (and I still have a long way to go!). What we learn in the ministry of the word (teaching, preaching, worship, small groups, etc.) are only as beneficial as we live out these truths in our daily lives; as a stay-at-home-mom, a plumber, salesperson, factory worker, engineer or any other vocation.

    “Servants, obey your earthly masters…as you would Christ.” “as to the Lord” “You are serving the Lord Christ.” “in everything…adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” [See Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; Titus 2:9,10; 2 Peter 2:18-21]

    I pray for an army of ordained plumbers; anointed accountants; Spirit-filled moms; holy carpenters; consecrated cashiers; transformed electricians. It may be that the Lord is ready to move in the “mundane” parts and places of our lives if we would catch a vision of God actively involved while changing the oil or a diaper; painting a house or finger-painting with a 2-year old; teaching a Sunday School class or teaching your grandchild to flyfish.

    Forgive the length. It’s a matter I’ve spent years working on – and the Lord working on me!

  24. Mike in Milwaukee says:

    Well, you’d think it would be easy for me — as I work for one of America’s leading pro-life organizations — but my wonderful wife still has to regularly remind me that I’m doing God’s work by working to save babies and save women from the tragedy and regret of abortion.

    The trick, I think, is remembering what Scot McKnight suggested: having the Kingdom of God as your guiding North Star.

  25. Jason says:

    Honestly? No. I’ve tried to many times over the last few years and the more I try the more I feel a disconnect.

  26. A few years ago my wife took a course called “The Theology of Work.” It really helped change my thoughts about life and work.

    A great book on this is God in the Marketplace: 45 Questions Fortune 500 Executives Ask About Faith, Life, and Business<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=shoothebree-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0805446885&quot; by Henry Blackaby

  27. Mary says:

    I can honestly say yes to your question as to what I do for a living. I work for two Pastors who run a thrift store and food bank ministry. Ive led clients and co-workers to Christ. And I am involved in our local community running food drives and gaining new clients willing to help with funding. Ive been given the title public relations director for the store. Its a blessing to serve God in my local community and the benefits are out of this world!

  28. Jesus only had 12 full time staff, everyone else in scripture were regular Joe’s like us and he didn’t ask them to quit what they were doing and do something different after he had an encounter with them, only the 12 plus a few messengers here and there.

  29. Riete says:

    Actually, yes I do, most of the time. I’m a teacher at a school for children with learning disabilities and behavior disorders. Most days I really feel I can make a difference in their lives by showing them God’s love. There are also days I would gladly move them to an uninhabited island and sail away ;)

    But I do see my job as a calling. I’ve known from a very early age I wanted to teach and when I was offered this job a little over thirty years ago I immediately accepted. Over the years I’ve learned a lot, seen a lot and despaired a lot, but I never doubted my calling.

    I feel very blessed to be allowed to teach these kids and tell them about Jesus (we are a Christian school but most kids are not Christian).
    I can’t see myself ever doing something else …

  30. I’m 2 days into being mostly unemployed. My previous full-time job at the bank, while mundane, I suppose the connection to people and their lives is what made it doing something for God’s Kingdom. I enjoyed that part–but I always felt like it wasn’t enough to outweigh everything else about the job that I loathed.

    My part-time job in radio, I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it as doing anything for God’s Kingdom. But after reading this post, when I think about it, I do feel like I ultimately help people. Commercials I make, create revenue for clients, benefiting their employees who receive paychecks to take care of their families.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Pete! :-)

  31. Jason Vana says:

    I don’t always see the connection when I’m in the midst of the job, but after I’ve gone on to another job, or have been working at a job for years, I begin to see the purpose and plan God had in it. My first job after college taught me marketing, graphic design, writing ad copy, broke me out of a fear of rejection (as it was a sales job), and taught me how to better communicate – all things that I have used in my ministry to college students. I even had a role in seeing many of those coworkers come to Christ. Did I like the job? No. But it definitely was kingdom work.

  32. Jim Gray says:

    I’ve had a miserable month. But I love what I do. I had a nightmare last night that was a mashup of 4 of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had:
    -Risk Management
    -Security Operations
    -Enterprise Rent-A-Car Manager
    -Wholesale Supply
    I woke up and thought:
    “Today, I have a whole huge list of stuff to do and calls…But I get to work in my pajamas.”

  33. Sometimes it’s not so much the work you’re doing that is Kingdom-focused, but the fact that YOU are the one there doing it. As such, you are an ambassador, representing the Kingdom right where you are, whether it’s at a mercy ministry or at Dippin’ Dots.

    I heard Timothy Keller speak about this topic in relation to contextualized churches, and the importance of churches helping their people integrate their faith into their work. He said that most churches really don’t give people in “secular” vocations much affirmation and guidance for how they should navigate and integrate their faith in their vocation. He said the church often has a tendency to disciple people by bringing them more and more out of their jobs, into their church and if they are passionate and dynamic enough, they will leave their jobs and go into “ministry”.

    His church in NYC started an Entrepreneurship Forum where they intentionally engage the professional community and create a platform for business plan development that displays gospel-centric principles. They then have an annual competition where the winners get startup money which is essentially “church planting” money for those who aren’t church ministers, but ministers in their vocation. In essence, the goal is not to recruit to the church for the Kingdom, but rather to raise up, equip and send out into the secular workforce those who will see their vocation as having Kingdom value.

    He said more, but that’s the essence of it. It was really inspiring. The video is here: http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11512. He talks about it from 6:00-8:30.

    Great post!

  34. [...] was intrigued by Pete Wilson’s recent post, “Does Your Job Really Matter?” It certainly isn’t a new question. But it is one that rings to the very core of who we are as [...]

  35. Jason Fry says:

    Hey Pete,

    Great Post! Sal Sberna is my pastor here in Houston. http://youtu.be/7QUsXRpebTU

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