Core Value #4: Work
Contrary to whatever you may have heard, work is not the result of the Fall in the Garden. Frustration in our work is a part of the curse, but work actually predates the entrance of sin into the world. As such, work is inherently good and should be done with energy and an understanding that it does not detract from doing something spiritual. Work, done well, is spiritual. Too many people, however, settle on a job based on salary, benefits or status. While these are vital factors (we all need cash, health insurance and the respect of others), there are other important values that should drive our decision.
For example, we should choose career paths based on our giftedness and interests. What are we good at? What do we enjoy? We should think beyond ourselves as well, choosing a job based on how well it enables us to contribute to society and serve others -- seeking to raise the level of "shalom" and advance the borders of God's kingdom in our generation. We should seek a match between our skills and temperament with society's greatest needs.
I say all this because I have options. Given my physical abilities (I have a body that works fairly well) and intelligence (I have a mind that also works fairly well), I could do any number of things. I could go get a job at a bookstore. I could sell real estate. I could work in a warehouse, driving a forklift, loading and unloading boxes.
I could go back to school, finish that Ph.D. and teach in a university or a seminary. I could settle into a preaching job in a church. I could go back into student ministry or some other support role at a church.
Trust me: I've thought about doing each and every one of those things. In some cases, I'm still thinking about it. It's really difficult to make a living the way I do. I have to hustle and travel and be willing to be away from my family more weekends than I am home. I'm currently on a pace to be gone 40 weekends this year. Sometimes I think it would be much easier for me to get a job at Kroger!
I get churches calling me asking if I would consider joining their staff. Some want me to preach. Some want me to oversee family ministries. I don't consider them all, but I do consider some. Meaningful work is a core value to me. It's what's kept me doing what I do thus far -- pushing through even when times are lean, the van breaks down, the cable bill gets paid late and we have to eat scrambled eggs for dinner.
I believe God has given me certain gifts to use for his service. I also believe he's opened doors of opportunity for me to cultivate and use those gifts for maximum impact. As he continues to open those doors, I plan on walking through them.
Work is a core value. It's a spiritually formative activity. It's not the highest core value for me, though. Family comes first. If my work ever put my family in jeopardy, I would quit and get a job mowing lawns. I wonder about that sometimes when I have to travel as much as I do. Family comes first, and I need a job that doesn't require as much travel as my current position does.
For this season of our lives, finances comes next. If my work causes me to be financially irresponsible -- which it has sometimes -- I need to now be willing to reconsider my vocational choices. In other words, I need a job that pays me a better salary in a more predictable manner.
Friendships come after family and finances. If I find myself unable to spend any time with my friends because I'm always working -- or if my only friendships are those tied directly to my work -- my life is out of balance and work is calling too many of the shots. I need a job that allows me time to cultivate friendships and spend time with people who really matter to me.
After all of that, I do need a job. Work is not something I would stop doing if allowed to. Work is part of what completes me as a human. Being comes first, but it is made complete in the doing. The work I do must be rewarding. The work I do must be God-honoring. It must truly reflect my gifts, talents and abilities. It must be done out of love for God and for the good of others. Work is highly valued -- a core value -- but it must know its place behind the other three core values of family, finances and friendships.