I’m a firm believer in doing work you love. Not only is this an intrinsic good, it also enables you to be more effective at what you do — and thus serve others with greater effectiveness, passion, and clarity.
But someone might say “Since God can use us wherever we are, it doesn’t matter if we love our work or not. So let’s get rid of this silly quest to actually like what we spend 40 hours (or more) of our weeks doing.”
Sounds a bit spiritual, right? Or, maybe I should say, sounds a bit…over spiritual. Which is the first sign of the problem. So let’s take a closer look at Paul’s core passage on work, Ephesians 6:5-8.
Paul does indeed teach that the Lord can use us anywhere, and that we can find joy in our work no matter what it is (assuming it is lawful). His teaching to slaves here is to “do the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, not that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.”
So, no matter our work is, we can indeed find a way to take joy in it because we can do it for the glory of Jesus. Specifically for slaves, Paul’s counsel is: “If you are a slave, don’t worry about. Do your work with joy, knowing that you are ultimately serving God. Your ability to make an impact will not be lessened because you are in slavery; do all the good you can in your work, knowing that you will be rewarded abundantly for it from the Lord.”
This is a precious, fundamental reality. So, following from this, we might then say: “So it doesn’t matter, then, if we actually like our jobs themselves. Who cares if you have a job you like? God uses you anyway.”
This is where the fact that Paul is here addressing those who are in slavery comes into play. I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with how everyone applies this text directly to modern-day employees, as though we can just take it over wholesale. The general principles certainly remain, but the fact that Paul is addressing those in slavery here does mean something.
This flips us over to 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, where Paul addresses the issue in some more detail. Here Paul teaches us that we are to live according to the condition in which God has placed us. Paul’s counsel to slaves is “don’t worry about your condition. I know it is hard, but don’t worry that it diminishes your relationship with the Lord. You can do everything in your condition to God’s glory, and he will be fully pleased with you.”
The thing is this: God pays attention to the specific contexts of our lives and seeks to give us counsel tailored to our unique situations. Whereas those in slavery didn’t have any say over their work and roles, those who are free do have a say. That’s what it means to be free.
That matters. If you notice the argument of the passage, Paul’s point is that it is OK to live according to the context in which we find ourselves. “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). If you became a Christian while a slave, that’s OK. Likewise, if you became a Christian while free, that’s OK to. You can keep living as a free person. “In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24). And part of what it means to be a free person is that you have control over what jobs you choose and which career path you want to take. You can make those choices — it’s up to you.
So Paul is not saying to free people “just put up with whatever you’re given.” That’s contrary to the nature of being a free person. Paul expects free people to live as free people. Thus, it’s OK to seek a job you love. Again, that’s part of what it means to be free.
Paul’s counsel to those who are free, then, is simple: live as a free person. It’s OK! If you want to work in a field you love and have a job where the bulk of the activities are things you find engaging and which challenge you, go for it. You don’t have to fall for the trap of the over spiritualizers who say that since some people (maybe them?) don’t like their jobs, you shouldn’t either. “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). For those who are free, that means living according to the fact that you have freedom over what you choose for a job. So if you prefer, then seek a job you love.
It’s OK. Go for it!