Best of Daily Reflections: Full Christianity: Doing, Thinking, and Being, Part 7
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
In yesterday's reflection, we saw that being a Christian touches, not only our doing and thinking, but also our being, our identity, our sense of who we are. Today, I want to consider how this might influence our work, whether paid or not. Of course, I can just scratch the surface in this reflection. So, I hope to encourage you to think about how your identity as a Christian shapes your own work.
Yesterday, I wondered how you might respond if I were to ask you who you are. Of course, for the most part, when we meet unfamiliar people, we don't ask, "Who are you?" Rather, in my experience, one of the first questions we ask is, "What do you do?" By this, we aren't expecting an answer like, "I breathe. I eat pizza. I watch football. I pray." Rather, we understand that we are asking a question about work, especially the work for which we are paid. What we do, the doing that matters most of all, is our employment.
This cultural and psychological prioritizing of work strongly shapes our sense of identity. If what I do for a living is the most important thing about me, the thing you most want to know, then I can easily equate my job with my true self. Who am I? What is my fundamental identity? I am the Executive Director of Digital Media of Foundations for Laity Renewal. If this clarifies who I really am, then it also defines my worth as a person. If I'm successful in my job, I matter as a human being. If not, I am a failure, not just at a job, but in life.
Moreover, if my essential identity is established by my job, then everything else in my life will be ordered and valued in light of my work. I will invest in key relationships only if they enhance my work or, at any rate, don't take time away from it. I will offer myself in service to others only if I have extra time, that is, time when I don't need to work. I will be part of the community of God's people, but only if this commitment doesn't detract from my need to be available to work. And so forth and so on.
When our core identity is determined, not by what we do for a living, but by our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, everything in life shifts. Work, whether paid or unpaid, continues to matter, but mainly as a way of offering ourselves in service to God and then to the world as his representatives. My decisions about how to invest my time and money will be guided by God's truth and his eternal values rather than how they might enhance my professional success. Most of all, my core sense of being will depend, not on how successful I am at work, but on the undeniable and unchangeable fact that I am beloved by God, that I belong to him, that he is my Lord, Savior, and friend, and that he will never leave or forsake me.
FOR REFLECTION: How does your work influence your sense of identity? How does being a Christian influence your work life? How might a clear sense of being a Christian actually help you to be a more effective worker?
PRAYER: Gracious God, for much of my life, my work has defined my being. When I was young, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up. When I got older, they asked me what I was training to do through my education. Now, I am often asked what I do. My soul has been shaped so that I see myself, most of all, as a worker. My identity is what I do for a living.
In a way, this is close to what you have intended for me, since you made me to work. Yet, when my sense of self is shaped most profoundly by my work rather than my relationship with you, then everything goes off kilter. My work is no longer an offering for you, but rather an idol. My value as a person is determined, not by your love and call, but by the outward signs of my success.
Forgive me, Lord, for defining my being apart from you. Forgive me for assigning to you second place, or third place, or even lower. Help me, Lord, to know who I am as your child, as your servant, as your beloved, as your disciple, as your friend. May I be a Christian most of all, one whose being is determined by Jesus Christ. Amen.