When it comes to getting a job, it feels like there are three choices. If the market isn’t willing to pay a living wage for a skill that brings you meaning, then you’ve either got to find meaning in a job that does pay a living wage, get a job that pays but kills your soul, or do what you love and live in your parent’s basement.
Also, some people just seem to have more choices than others—whether it’s a summer job or a postcollege career. They have the “right” family name, the “right” socioeconomic background, and the “right” ethnic background. Generations of privilege and opportunity have opened more options for some.
These are the realities of the bent world in which we live. But what about a summer job? That’s just all about making money, right?
A Gods Eye View
Should pay be the only factor in the summer job you choose? What’s God’s perspective? Is there anything in the Bible that can guide what kind of job we pursue?
Jesus gave a sermon once on a hill. Now we call it the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5–7). Even people who don’t believe Jesus is the Savior of the world love this sermon. Blessed are the peacemakers, love your enemy, turn the other cheek, do unto others—it’s all there.
Jesus also said something in that sermon about what’s worth pursuing: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33, NRSV). The Greek word for righteousness, dikaios, carries elements of justice. In Spanish Bibles, it reads, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his justo.” Some manuscripts just say, “Strive first for the kingdom and its righteousness.” Simply put, above all else, work for kingdom justice.
Prior to this verse, Jesus mentions some things people strive after, including basic needs like food and clothing. He assures listeners that God knows what we need for survival. God even provides food for birds and adorns the grass with flowers. There’s no way God’s going to miss the fact that you need food and clothing. But rather than pursuing these things, Jesus calls us to chase the justice of God’s kingdom.
As you think about a job, what does it look like to strive first and foremost for God’s kingdom and its justice? This might include looking out for the marginalized, empowering those who are excluded, introducing people to Jesus and his kingdom, or taking the Sermon on the Mount more seriously.
I’d like to suggest that you consider four things in looking for a job: posture, people, profession, and paycheck.
I know, it’d be way easier if God had a specific opinion about which career you pursue or which summer job you pick. But I don’t think he cares as much about the job as he cares about your posture. Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with him (Mic 6:8) is something you can do in most jobs.
I’m not saying that it’s fine to go work for the Mafia. I’m just saying we tend to sweat more over choosing a specific job, a place to live, or who to marry rather than our posture in the process of the choosing. Check your attitude. What does it look like to love God, love neighbor, and pursue kingdom justice in the various choices before you? Choosing a godly posture is more important than choosing the perfect job.
I once calculated the number of hours humans have for workplace productivity. If you consider our biological demands for food and sleep, the theological commands for regular sabbath, and the years of being too young or too old to work, it turns out that far less than 50 percent of our lives is available for any decent levels of “production.” Most of our life is focused on relating to other people. Listening to them, loving them, and serving them.
Consider the community you’ll be part of as you think about your summer plans. Invite your current community into the discernment process. Whether or not you choose a job where you know people, recognize that loving God, loving neighbor, and seeking kingdom justice will mainly be about the lives of those you live and work with.
What ultimate good does the job or the organization offer the world? You need to believe that the thing you’re doing contributes to the good of the world. Consider what skills might be developed in you. What do you want to become good at? How might this job make you a better person with more to offer the world? Whether taking a summer job at a restaurant, a construction site, or an office, think about how it might shape your character and add to your talents. Think of your job or internship as a skills workshop that’s growing your professional talents and your value to God’s world.
In heaven, the market won’t decide who’s rich or poor. We might even be able to see this aspect of the kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven eventually. But some of you have a responsibility to contribute financially to your family or pay for school now. A job shouldn’t be about the pursuit of possessions or wealth, but a paycheck is part of the equation, especially for those who’ve grown up in under resourced communities. How might you provide financially for yourself and your community? How can you pull yourself and others out of debt? These are fair questions when considering a summer job.
Finally, as you think about the summer, consider joining InterVarsity’s Work Life program. This program as well as other volunteer or study opportunities can grow you in important ways. They are character and resume builders and matter as we pursue God’s kingdom justice.
So seek first God’s kingdom justice in your attitude, think about the people involved, consider the talents you want to develop, and then ask what financial commitments you should consider. Let God worry about all that other stuff.
Is it possible for you to truly flourish in your work? Addressing work ethic, character formation, work-life synergy and more, business executive Shundrawn Thomas brings you to a deeper understanding of your abilities and passions, which in turn helps you to harmonize what you do and who you are.
If your life is like mine was, summer means leaving the support of your InterVarsity fellowship and church and living in the spiritual desert of your home environment. Without even a strong church tie at home, I spent my first two summers caught in a harmful cycle of sin, guilt, and little spiritual growth.