Do you love your job?
I recently had the chance to listen in on a conversation amongst a group of Christian leaders on the topic of work. More specifically, they explored the question, “Can you do what you love?” The event was sponsored by The Regent World (a publication of Regent College) and Christianity Today and included a panel with Andy Crouch, RIkk Watts, and Josh Kwan interacting around the concept of work and fulfillment - or, as the event describes, “doing what you love, being part of something meaningful, and still getting paid in a messy and unpredictable world.”

I decided to live tweet meaningful ideas and quotes as I listened, both as a way of taking notes and sharing some of the wisdom with others. Here’s what stuck out to me as I twittered away:

Andy Crouch

"Change the world" is unhelpful. We need to realize our cultural influence has a limited scope. Instead: "be image bearers"

"Work in the world with its existing goodness...keep the good and add to the good"

"Alone, loving my work really becomes about self love. Work needs to be ordered to loving God and others."

Rikk Watts

"The bible is about rhetoric and design...this is what image bearers do"

"Be present to the water and the dish."
Rikk Watts’ perspective on menial day-to-day tasks such as doing the dishes. Presence can go a long way to sustaining our well-being in whatever we find ourselves working at.

"I'm amazed at how many people are just lonely"

Josh Kwan

"It's easier to be excellent at something you love"

"If we place all of our identity in our work, we put so much pressure on this trajectory of success."

A luxury?

During the forum there was opportunity for the audience to ask questions via Twitter. It came up from a few folks, but here’s how I framed it: “How does the luxury of this conversation in this time and place frame our view of meaning and work within history?”

How to do what you love for work is not a global question but a question of luxury, a question reserved for those in places of cultural privilege and wealth. To this luxury, there was general agreement that when it comes to work, it’s not so much what we do, but how we do it. Andy Crouch pushed back against the title of the forum itself, as “doing what we love” implies a relationship with our work in terms we should reserve for actual relationships. In this sense we can love within our work, but to actually love our work goes beyond the purpose of work itself.

Unfortunately time restricted greater interaction on this question. Overall, I found the forum to be a helpful discussion on how Christians can and should seek purpose when it comes to work.



Anonymous said...

I agree that we ought to find meaning and fulfillment in our work, however, we need to account for the inevitable hardship and frustration that comes with any vocation. Commenting on the vocation of the prophet Jeremiah, Dr. Ellen Davis comments, "Jeremiah's laments disabuse us of the notion that if our vocation causes us agony we have missed our calling."

The reality is that all jobs come with there joys and sorrows. Without this awareness we may end up having an uneccessary vocational crises whenever we run into challenges.

David Warkentin said...

That's a great line - "disabuse us of the notion that if our vocation causes us agony we have missed our calling." Thanks Phil!

And I think in extremes for approaching work (selfish vs. selfless) we neglect an honesty that is so crucial to sustainable engagement with whatever we are doing in life. For Jeremiah, lament was an honest expression of frustration in that still fit into a sense of purpose. He was honest, but not hopeless.

Anonymous said...

It's funny Phil, when I read your comment I immediately thought of how much that sounds like our society's approach to marriage. It would seem that we are not really prepared for hardship on any front any more.. -Tim

David Warkentin said...

Yes, that's true Tim. I wonder though, is such ill-preparedness a conscious choice (e.g. I will not tolerate hardship) or just an unknowing acceptance of the belief that hardship equals failure?

Jeremy Klaszus said...

Thanks for posting this Dave - just spent an hour listening to it and likely wouldn't have come across this without your post! This discussion reminded me of this essay I read a while back:

Tim said...

I imagine there are a number of factors at work here.
1) It is possible in western countries for people to go long periods of time without going through any significant hardship. The older you are, the greater the chance that you will experience hardship. I think we mostly learn how to deal with hardship and failure by actually experiencing it. The longer you go without going through any hardship, the more likely you are to have your world absolutely rocked, since it seems so abnormal.

2) Our affluence can also set the stage for a sense of entitlement. If this is the case, then when something goes wrong, we start to say things like: “how can this happen to me, I don’t deserve this!”, and once again our world is rocked to the core, because we’ve come to believe that the good things in our lives have been earned somehow.

As for who is to blame, I’m not sure. But I think the church is largely guilty of measuring success the same way that society does. Wealth, fame, power are all viewed as indicators that somebody is doing the right things. By that definition of success, people like Jesus and Paul would not rank very high on the list. In the first chapter of Philippians Paul talks about how his chains are not a hindrance to the gospel, but instead further it. I suspect the people he was writing to weren't sure what to make of the fact that he was in prison…

David Warkentin said...

Tim, good points around entitlement and how it insulates us from suffering. Would be good to redefine faithfulness and blessing along the lines you suggest.

David Warkentin said...

Jeremy, thanks for sharing that article - exactly what I wrestle with: "The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers."

Post a Comment