If you’re anything like me, you entered college starry-eyed, nervous, and a little naive, hoping the next four years would put you on track to finding the job of your dreams. We tend to choose a major based on the things we know we’re good at, the things that drive us and spark our inner passions, the things we could use to make a difference in our chaotic world. Fast-forward a few years. Most of us graduate with a few more loans than we expected and a few more pounds than we hoped to gain (thanks, Taco Bell), but in the prospective job market, we come up empty-handed. Let’s face it. The expectations society places on us to land the “perfect” job fresh out of college are nearly impossible to meet. Most of the employers we’d really like to work for require their applicants to have years of experience, and forming the connections needed to break into your field doesn’t happen overnight. The result? We often end up at a 9-5 job just to make ends meet, holding out hope that one day we can turn our passion into a paycheck, wondering all the while, “Am I really good enough to do what I love if I’m not getting paid for it?”
After months of working my own 9-5 job, sifting through countless job listings in my field, and doing quite a bit of praying, Jesus gave me the answer I so desperately needed: Regardless of what culture tries to tell me, I don’t have to live this way. I wasn’t meant to be miserable or to question the gifts and talents God has given me, and the primary purpose of those gifts was never to make money. To explain more fully what He meant, Jesus pointed me to the accounts in all four of the gospels where He clears the temple. Each gospel writer words the action-packed event a bit differently, but in short, Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem to find merchants selling the animals meant to be offered as sacrifices to the Lord. He was filled with righteous anger and overturned their tables, indignant that they had turned His Father’s house of worship into a marketplace. It can be easy to read that story and jump to the conclusion that Jesus acted too harshly, so let’s try to place ourselves in His sandals. We know He was fully God, but He was also fully human, so He experienced the full range of human emotion. If someone was making a mockery of your father and blatantly disrespecting him in his own house, you would be hurt and upset, too, wouldn’t you?
We can take the illustration a step further. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” We are homes to the Spirit of the Living God, and like the misguided merchants of Jesus’ day, we have bought into the lie that our offering – our gifts, talents, and passions – don’t mean as much if we aren’t able to make money from them. I imagine it breaks God’s heart to see us striving and stressing over gifts He gave us that are ultimately meant to display the diversity and depth of the Giver, not to indicate the worth or usefulness of the one receiving the gift. Please understand that all analogies break down at points, and the issue in our case is less a matter of morality and more a problem of priority. It is not inherently wrong to get paid for doing the things we love most, but if we start to focus more on the function of the gifts than the heart of the Giver, we’ve missed the mark. If we begin to place our identity in what funds our salary, our bank accounts may eventually be full, but our hearts will be left desolate.
If we took a detour from the fast track of the American Dream and slowed down to listen, I think God would whisper to our hearts, “You can trust Me. Lay your gifts at My feet and watch how I can use them to bring hope and healing to a hurting world, even if they never earn you a penny. I see every one of your efforts. Not one is wasted in My capable hands. I treasure everything you offer Me in faith, but you are worth so much more to Me than simply what you do.”
Friends, let’s put down our résumés for a moment and rest. Let’s ask the Lord to rekindle a joy in us that compels us to create just for the fun of it. Most importantly, let’s store up the riches of our Father’s words that are worth more than gold: “Well done, My child. I’m proud of you.”