Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Things you should not be: Work
So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. Eccl 2:20-23
There are two things used to define us in this society. One is by what we have. The other is by our job title. One of the earliest questions that arises when I come in contact with new people is, "What do you do?" It is a good question worthy of deep contemplation. What have I done? Anything of worth? Have I talked to anyone about their standing with Christ? Have I helped anyone out of a bad situation? Have I comforted the sick, the poor, the imprisoned and the lost? What would be the reaction if the next time someone asked what you do, you replied "I supplied the homeless with some basic needs"?
It certainly wouldn't be the expected answer. My guess is most people would move from you to someone else quick as they could. I could be wrong.
But you know people want to know what your job title is when they ask that question so they can put you in the proper folder in their mind. The folders will be filed by the importance they assign your position. I personally think such assignments are difficult. A lot of jobs we take little heed of are very important and we should have gratitude to those willing to do them. I was in a hospital recently, so let me ask where would you place the doctor and the housekeeper in your file system?
Oh sure, the doctor is pretty important with his years of study and knowledge of just where to make the incision on your body, but how would you feel if he was making that cut in a filthy room on blood stained sheets and spiderwebs on the walls? It would be about the same if you were laying in a sterile spanking clean room with a man standing over you thumbing through a "Surgery for Dummies" book. Never disrespect anyone doing honest work. Whatever they do may be important to your well-being.
Work is important. It not only provides each of us with a means to get our necessities and luxuries, but it benefits many people who use the end products of our service. Yet work should not define you. If your job defines you, what happens if it is taken away from you? I don't think I have a friend who hasn't had a job taken away from them. I have just heard from one who had his job taken seven years ago at the same time as I did have it happen again. If your job is the definition of your life, is the thing you live for, then you are devoted to a false god and you have a good chance of losing your identity.
Look further down my Blog and you will see a list of jobs I have held. There are a lot of them. If I was any of those jobs I would not exist as an entity now. Jobs come and go, sometimes by choice, sometimes against your will and sometimes as a surprise. I always said I worked to live, not lived to work. I have never shied from honest work because of how it was perceived by society. I picked crops. I washed celery. I slung huge wads of chewing gum on a factory floor for processing into bubblegum. I swept floors. I was fortunate enough to have some very interesting and well-paid jobs in my life as well. Yet at some point, no matter how well I executed them, they were taken away from me or I left them.
If you ask me what I do, it wouldn't be my current job that is important. I am a stock person these days as far as position is concerned. I hang women's clothes most of the day. But that is not what I do. What I do is try to please God. It is Christ that is at the center of my life, for all else is transient. If anything is to have real meaning as to who I am, it is in my obedience to my Savior. If I am not true to that, then I am just another man out for himself who in the end will discover being defined by my work is chasing the wind.
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Eccl 2:24-26