Work: What They Did for Love

 

Who hasn’t heard the quote,

“Do what you love and

the money will follow”

OR

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Everyone from Confucious to Warren Buffet have weighed in on the idea of working for love, not for money.  A lovely thought, right? As a retiree, I actually have the privilege of doing exactly that.  But, it wasn’t the always the case.  I worked for decades  at jobs I sometimes loved and sometimes didn’t,  in order to attain the right to enjoy the luxury of  working only for love in this new season of life.

In our world today, we have an abundance of humans who grew up hearing and believing that they should live their passion, follow their hearts and do what they love in order to make their careers meaningful.   The result is that many of these individuals are failing to launch at a somewhat alarming rate and the world now has an  abundance of marine biology grad’s and  would be life-style mavens, many  still living with their parents well into their 30’s and beyond.  ‘Anyone want to take a poll on how many college educated Uber drivers we have out there waiting for their dream job to materialize?

Here’s the deal:

Hardly anyone is passionate about plumbing or  janitorial work, being an electrician, an auto mechanic, a roofer, a heat and AC installer, a pest exterminator   a trash collector or a house painter.  But, we as a society need all of those people and each of those are noble professions when done with dignity.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

My own parents moved their  young family to California when it became clear that my Dad’s  job on the railroad was going to be eliminated.  He and my mom sold the brand new home they’d  only recently built in Montana.  With what I’m sure were a trunk full of mixed emotions, they packed up and moved their family to Southern California.  There was no job waiting, just a deeply felt sense of responsibility  to provide for the family they had built.

When they arrived in California my father took a job at a lumber mill until incessant rains shut it down indefinitely.  They struggled to make ends meet. There were dark days.   Next, he found work with a janitorial service who admired his good work but wanted him to cut corners so he would be done faster.  Finally he was hired as a custodian for the school down the street from our home.  I was too young to know that the position of janitor was not a highly esteemed one, but, I was proud to have my dear Dad known and loved by all the children in that school. Through the years he advanced and ultimately was promoted to the position of  Director of Maintenance for the entire  district.  In   the meantime, he also started his own Janitorial Service which he worked at every weeknight from 6-10 after a full day at his day job.  And, every weekend another 12 hours total as well.  Seven. Days. A week.  Until he retired.

My in-laws travelled an remarkably similar path. Selling their home in Pennsylvania to move to California for a better life,  my father-in-law came expecting to join his brother in his small business.  Sadly  after investing nearly all their life savings, the business failed. He was truly struck down but refused to be defeated.  He couldn’t afford to.   Instead he did whatever he could to provide for his family. He delivered dry cleaning, did interior house painting, cleaned the local Knights of Columbus Hall, performed handyman work and became a salesman at Sears. When he retired from that position, he continued to do handyman work on the side in order to supplement his retirement income.

Two wise and determined men–both fathered four children.  Between them, well over a century of marriage.   Though their job histories may not have been coveted by many,  both men left inheritances by their examples of faithfulness, tenacity and  hard work while also providing financial gifts to their heirs.

 

Neither of these two good men had jobs that they were particularly excited about.  But , make no mistake,  both men lived their passion. They both understood that their purpose wasn’t self-fulfillment but instead to provide well for their families.   Although they may not have put it in these exact words, they both lived as if their divine calling was to provide for the needs of their wives and children.   Therein lies the difference.  We  as a culture may well have confused the value of work and responsibility with  that of pursuing our passions.

“…I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot.  Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.  He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”   –Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

There is nothing  wrong with seeking a career in a field you love.  And if you’re very fortunate, it may happen.  But, every career dream needs a “sell by date.”  If you love acting but can’t make a living doing it,  you’d be wise to find work that pays your bills and  maybe join a community theater group.  If you want to do something that reflects your values, keep working hard, doing your best  at your day job and then,  volunteer for an organization that promotes your passions.

Whatever you do, work hard and the money will come.  As for “never working a day in your life,” while that sounds nice,  they call it “work” for a reason.  Even the greatest job in the world becomes work over time. What will make it worthwhile isn’t the money, the status, the title or the acclaim from others, but the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done it well and  provided for the future of your flock. Whatever you’re called to do, do it well.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.  When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field, you will have plenty of goats milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.  He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.”   Proverbs 27:23-27

(Both oil paintings were created by my amazing and gifted brother-in-law Dan Mandish   Visit his collection at:  https://saltandlighteditions.wordpress.com)

 

 

Build Bridges With These Stones

Nearly 70 days into “Safe at Home”/ the Covid-19 crisis, George Floyd was mercilessly killed by a police officer.  All at once, a nation of individuals, many of whom were already stretched to their limit, snapped.  A nation, and then the world,  saw a handcuffed Mr. Floyd bear the weight of a police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, even as Floyd repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe.  To the shock and dismay of other onlookers, the other officers present stood by and watched passively as the life was literally sucked out of Mr. Floyd, a fellow image bearer of our Creator.

The video of his murder went viral immediately, igniting justifiable anger, unquenchable grief  and unending dismay.  There is no universe in which we can watch this incident and excuse any part of it.   Cries of “No justice, no peace” have been heard around the globe.  Peaceful protests have taken place all over our own country,  along with great destruction of personal property,  businesses, churches and  national and local monuments.  Buildings have been burned,  police vehicles defaced and  destroyed and more lives lost in the chaos that has followed.  Anarchy is taking place in many  of our cities.

Nearly overnight,  the same first responders we hailed as heroes a mere three weeks earlier became the object of that same violence. Many of us  who eschew judging others by the color of their skin now cast blanket judgement on  all who wear a badge and drive a black and white vehicle. Sadly, in this world where sin and the prince of darkness reigns, hate,  bigotry, lust for power, selfishness and ignorance will never be completely eliminated.  Even so,  that doesn’t mean that every officer is wicked anymore than all men play golf.  Painting with that wide a brush is  both foolish and dangerous.

As a disciple of Christ, my heart breaks at the shameful treatment and murder of Mr. Floyd and the foothold it has given our enemy.  While many are convinced that the protests, looting, violence and general destruction are  all about  racial inequality, social justice and/or politics, there is a greater truth we are overlooking.   There are spiritual forces at work all around us, threatening all of humankind with destruction, prejudice, hate, chaos and division.  Read your Bible.

The collateral damage,  makes an aching  heart heavier still.  The resulting devastation to our communities is symptomatic of the deep division the enemy is nurturing in the hearts and minds of men.  When I see the vitriol from believers on social media chastising other believers for their responses or lack thereof, I could weep.  Division is one the enemy’s most effective tools. Jesus calls us again and again to be united in faith, spurring  one another to good works, loving our brothers and sisters, gathering together,  praying always, not showing favoritism, and spurring one another on to good works.

If you haven’t already done so, Christians, it’s time to act.  Not as  the world would have us,  but as the WORD tells us to. We need to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, defend those who are unjustly accused or mistreated, welcome to our tables and into our homes those who don’t look like us or act like us. We are called to give special consideration to those who have greater needs.   We don’t have to be experts or have all the answers, but we need to be actively and regularly seeking them in God’s Word.  We need to know it so well that we are equipped, armed and dangerous as we then act on what it tells us to do when confronting the spiritual forces that threaten to divide us. The evil around us is real–

But there is an antidote

As my pastor  so eloquently stated  just yesterday, with regard to all the unrest in this world– ”

“the body of Christ is the antidote.”

Yes.  The church, God’s people,  we are the antidote.  We need to lay down our earthly weapons and take up our spiritual ones.  We do not have the luxury of lashing out in anger, demeaning those who disagree with us or spewing hate.  We are held to a higher standard than this world calls for.  Jesus calls us to be salt and light.    We need to pray always,  to be peacemakers and  to listen much more than we speak.  He calls us to be merciful and seek justice.  We must work to love those who hate us and to choose to serve vs being served. We need to be the  good Samaritans,  be willing to get our hands dirty,  give sacrificially and also to be respectful and to pray for those in positions of authority.  We are to pray for those who consider us enemies, yes, even to love them as they mock us.   We may be angry but we are not to sin in our anger.

We cannot undo the past but we can  expand our spheres of influence, lean into the future and be committed to living a life that both honors and continually shares the One who came to serve and save.  This is  the good news of Jesus Christ who came to save men and women of every tribe, tongue and nation. The truth is, nothing will change until hearts and minds are changed by surrendering to the One who holds us in His Everlasting Arms.  And we need to tell them as we share and live out the Gospel.

We all have much to learn.  But we must not lose heart in the midst of the battle.  We can  and must continue to learn, to listen, to love, to pray and to then to act on what we know.  We need to do what we know to do.   Be encouraged by the words of the great American poet,  Dr. Maya Angelou, who so beautifully said,

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

We can all do better. And, by the grace of God, we will.  Let’s walk forward  in both faith and hope.  Let it begin with me.

 

For more about what the Bible says on these issues, start here:

Proverbs 18:13

Proverbs 31:9

Isaiah 1:17

Zechariah 7:9-10

Micah 6:8

Luke 10:30-37

Romans 12:9-18

Philippians 2

Galatians 1:10

Hebrews 10:24-25

James 2

1 Thessalonians 5:17