On Work and Passion
Since I am a young adult (am I still a ‘young adult’ once I marry?), I often hear my peers talk about their jobs and how dissatisfied they are with them. They aren’t passionate about their jobs, it’s boring, and so on. That’s kinda sad.
But many times, I will hear some of my peers talk about the link between work and passion in moral terms. If you don’t employ yourself in what you’re passionate about, you’re selling out. Any job that you have that you’re not passionate about you shouldn’t hold onto for long because that’s not God’s best for you.
Is this Christian?
I would say: no.
Where in the Bible does passion suddenly become the guiding rubric for choosing careers? Where in the Bible does it say that only if you are enjoying your job are you in God’s will? Answer: nowhere.
For most of human history, people did not choose jobs in the same way that we choose them. In a hunter-gatherer society, if you were a man, you went hunting and to war; if you were a woman, you raised children, cooked, and cleaned. In trade-oriented societies, if your dad was a shoemaker, you were a shoemaker. In underemployed societies, you take whatever job you can get. Are any of these people making morally inferior choices? I don’t think so.
I’m afraid that in our mixing Christianity and Culture that we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into the ideal of equating work and happiness as normative. “You have to do what you like, what makes you happy.” In the ever elusive search for personal happiness, we buy into the notion that “if only I did such and such I would be happy.” Last week in our study on James, we were learning about patience. I would go out on a limb to say that the Bible is more likely to encourage us to learn to be happy where we are at (in the Lord), rather than chasing after “happiness.”
I think we’ve also made the mistake of confusing occupation and vocation. Occupation is our work, our job; vocation is our calling (does passion always have to factor into calling?). For most people, they cannot make their vocation their occupation. This is a fact, but I think that somehow, we make people feel bad about this. Consequently, I know people who switch job to job in search for their calling, people who put their heart and soul into their jobs in order to compensate for their lack of passion, people who do their jobs so begrudgingly because they don’t like their jobs, people who are chronically unemployed because they can’t find “the right job” (you know who you are), and so on–you know what I’m talking about.
What is the “Christian” way? I’m not sure yet. I still think that we need to be challenged in the way we choose our jobs, our pursuit (or neglect) of vocation, the making of money, and so forth. But I think that the sort of way we’ve been going about things have led us astray.