Money/Career: What Are You Called to Do?

Pastor Jeff Struecker

We’re going to start a brand new sermon series. It’s three weeks long, and what we’re going to do is just talk honestly and openly about money. And we’re going to start this discussion by talking about your career, what you do to earn a living. 

I’ve subtitled this series “Going From Stimulus to Solid” because we’re talking about going from depending on the stimulus check to be able to pay your bills to the solid ground of knowing that, “My career is my calling in life, and I know who I am. I know what I’m called to do.”

If you are right now the kind of person who is struggling financially, you’re just living from paycheck to paycheck, and if the transmission were to go out or you were to have a financial crisis, you’re in a really, really bad way, well, this entire three-week sermon series is for you. Let’s talk about your job; let’s talk about your work.

Imagine with me for just a moment that you were the dude (we don’t know if this is a guy or a girl) who last night, bought the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket in Pennsylvania. Apparently one ticket was sold last night, and whoever’s holding that ticket is holding a $600 million lottery. If you had that ticket, as the very first thing that you did when you went to cash in that $600 million Mega Millions lottery ticket, would your very first action be to go to your boss at work and give him the naughty finger? You know what I’m talking about, right? -just to say, “You know what? I hate this job. I hate what I’m doing. I did it because I had to and because I needed the money, but I don’t need the money anymore so you can country music song, take this job and…” 

If you’re thinking to yourself the very first thing that I would do if I was holding that $600 million lottery ticket is quit my job, then I don’t think you really understand the value and the dignity that work provides.

Let me tell you what we’re going to go with this thing today. Here’s what I want you to understand about the word work. For most people, work is a naughty word; it’s a four-letter word. But that’s not God’s original plan for the word work. Work doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. Work can actually be very powerful, very important, very satisfying in your life. But work, if you’re not careful, can cross the line. It can cross the line and become something that it was never intended to be.

When you see the word work today, I want you to substitute that word work for a career or a calling in life, because here’s what’s happening around the world: All over the world, there is a massive shift that just happened in the last year. It’s a shift that took 50 years to happen generations ago when people stopped working from home during the Industrial Revolution, sold the farm, packed up the family, moved to a city and people started to leave home and go to a place of work. 

Because of the COVID virus, lots of people started to do this in reverse. Now we’re no longer getting up and leaving home and going to a place of work; now our homes have become a place of work.

It took 100 years for the world to radically shift its idea of no longer working from the home (which is what all of human history has had) to going to a place of work. And now we’re shifting back to working from the home. It’s caused people to re-examine everything about work. Maybe this is your life right now. It’s changed where we work, and now maybe we don’t have to get up and go to an office building or to a factory anymore. It’s changed how we work, and now maybe we’re teleworking or connecting online instead of in-person. 

It’s even changed for a lot of people what we do for work, and if you’re still working a career, if you’re in a regular job, what this probably impacted for you is when you work.

You see, now there’s no real separation between work and home. Now I can be working at three o’clock in the morning or I can be working at three o’clock in the afternoon, and it seems like my boss expects me to be working at both of them. And so when we work, how we work, where we work, all of those things have just been thrown into a blender and smashed up because of the coronavirus. 

But what hasn’t changed is why do we work in the first place? And what I want to do for the next few moments is just talk honestly from the Bible about this whole thing that we call a career or the whole thing that we call work. In order to demonstrate this, I want to just give you some warnings right up front. If you’re not careful, what you do can start to become who you are. And if you’re not careful, the uniform that you have at work, this uniform that you’re wearing on the outside, you can start to subtly take it as your identity, and it can start to become who you are and no longer what you do. 

I want to wear this [Jeff’s Army uniform] today as a warning. Don’t let this impact who you are. This may be what you do, what God has called you to do, but it should never cross the line and become who you are. 

We are all called to work.

The first thing that I want you to know is, work is not a dirty word; it’s not a four-letter word, because we’re all called to work. Did you know that God’s original plan for humanity included work? Are you aware that God’s plan for humanity included work in the Garden of Eden long before Adam and Eve, our first parents, committed their first sin? Work was always part of God’s plan for people.

WORK doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word.

In fact, here’s how the Bible describes this. If you were to go back to the very beginning, to Genesis 2, you’ll see how God, our Father, hands the family business off to His son, Adam. In Genesis 2:15 it says this:

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

Now, if you were to just start reading the Bible for the first time, if you were reading through Genesis 1, by the time you got to Genesis 2 you would learn something. Work was always part of God’s plan. There’s never been a reason why work was not something that God’s people were supposed to do. By the time you get to chapter three, you realize that work changed.

We were always working. God was working; Adam and Eve were working. In Genesis 3, work became hard. You see, God’s in the business of creating for six days in the Garden of Eden. He rolls up his sleeves, and he starts to create everything that you and I see around us. And then God creates people in the Garden of Eden. And God gives a little bit of his nature, a little bit of his authority, a little bit of his character to Adam and Eve.

He basically says this: “Adam, I’ve been taking care of this garden. I created it. Because I made it and I’m awesome (everything that I make is awesome), Adam, this really is paradise. I made paradise for you. And then I put you in the Garden, and I’ve got a job for you to do. I’ve got a calling or a career for you to do. And your job is to take care of what I made. I made it, and I made it awesome. Adam, you make sure that it stays awesome and that all of the stuff that I created, I’m now giving you some of my authority or my responsibility to take over and to take care of.”

Adam’s original plan was to just simply make sure that the stuff that God created stayed beautiful. But as you read Genesis 3, you realize that Adam messed up, one of the consequences when God calls Adam to account for his sin is, he says, “Adam, you’ve been working in the garden, but it was really easy work. Now, you’re going to work by the sweat of your brow, Buddy. Now, the ground is going to be hard, and it’s going to have thorns and thistles and it’s going to be by the sweat of your brow that you bring home food for your family to eat.” Now, work became hard. And this is the difference, in my opinion, between a calling and a job, between work and a career.

What I want to do is to try to convince you that you have a calling on your life. It’s something that God has created you and placed you on planet Earth to do. It’s really not that hard to figure out what it is, but when you do what you’re called to do, it kind of feels natural; it almost feels easy. When you’re doing something you’re not called to do, that’s when work gets a little bit difficult.

And we in our country, in the United States, we kind of have this love/hate relationship with work, right? We can easily love it too much, and it starts to become our identity, or we can hate it, and it’s just a necessary evil where I have to go and what I have to do in order to get money so that I can feed my family. When you are working a job just for the income, that kind of existence gets miserable. It’s the difference between making a life and making a living. And when you’re just getting up and doing a job because they’re providing a paycheck but you know in your heart it’s not really what you feel called to do, that kind of life can get really oppressive, really quickly.

Now, when you’re doing what God has called you to do, and you’re making a living doing it, and you’re gaining some income to provide for your family, that kind of work is very different. That’s the difference between a career and a job, between calling and just getting up and go into work. 

So, can I challenge you? For some of you ladies who are single, the guy that you marry had better be willing to work hard to take care of his family because ever since Genesis 3, the responsibility is that you’re supposed to work hard. “Adam, it’s going to be by the sweat of your brow that you make a living and you can take care of your family.”

I tell guys this all the time when I’m on the road, if you’re looking for the kind of job where you don’t have to work hard and you can make a lot of money, that job is almost always illegal. So if you’re planning on making money and providing for your family, you’d better be ready to work hard at the same time. 

Guys, can I be honest with you? The kind of job where you feel like, “I get up and I go do it because I have to do it, but I hate what I do, and I’m just doing it for the paycheck…”, some of us have been there for a few weeks, a few months but it’s temporary. If you live there, and that’s where you’ve been and you’re staying there, you’re in the wrong job, and maybe it’s time for you to just start honestly seeking, What does the Lord call me to do? 

Work brings dignity.

Whatever that thing is, that’s what I’m going to do. You see, work is supposed to be something that you’re called to, and it’s actually supposed to be deeply satisfying on the inside. Did you know that work should bring some dignity or some value to your life? -not just money, but doing something and seeing the results of your efforts should bring some value to your life.

I can list for you 50 guys that I know who were in the Army, got themselves blown up in combat, or maybe they’ve experienced some pretty severe emotional wounds from combat so they got a full retirement for wounds in combat, or maybe from PTSD. They’re on a 100% retirement. The very first thing that goes through their minds (I know this because they’ve said it to me out loud) is, “Woo-hoo! I don’t have to work anymore. Let me tell you what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m going to go to the golf course, and I’m going to go fishing. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”

And for about the first six weeks or six months, they’re living it up at the golf course or fishing all day long, every day. But to a person, every one of those people at some point start to get miserable. At some point just going to the golf course, just going fishing, just hanging out because “I’m on this 100% retirement from the military” gets a little bit disappointing to them. And so many of my friends who already have a 100% retirement from the military will go get another job.

Here’s what’s fascinating about it: They apply for a job, not because they need the money; they’re looking for something other than the money from the job. They’re looking for something that brings dignity, something that brings value to their life, where they can go home at night after giving some effort, and they can see some of the results of what they’ve done. They get the joy of knowing that I put some energy into something, and it’s made life better for people. See, the book of Proverbs puts it this way:

Proverbs 12:11 The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense.

God’s divine design is for the one who works his land to have plenty of food for his family, but whoever chases fantasies (or who got a military retirement but refuses to work), that guy or that girl is missing something; they lack sense.

I’ve seen this, honestly, in ladies as well. For some of you who are stay-at-home moms, and you’ve devoted every moment of your time and energy into your children (and I am always amazed at stay-at-home moms. You don’t get a paycheck for this and you also don’t get a day off. You’re always at work; you’re always taking care of your children. You’re always investing in them), here’s what happens. The children grow up. They mature, and the children leave home. And when the last child leaves home (I have seen this in more than one stay-at-home mom) she falls apart.

And I really believe that sometimes she falls apart because she has made her identity being a mother who’s taking care of children. And then when the children leave home, now she’s struggling with, “Where is my place in the world? What do I do that brings value to the world or brings dignity to my home?” And she struggles with the empty nest syndrome because she doesn’t know where to turn to or what to do next.

A famous phrase that I try to keep in the back of my mind is, nothing is so dangerous as a man or a woman who’s doing nothing. Or maybe you’ve heard it in these terms: Idle hands are the devil’s tools. Sometimes when we don’t have anything that’s got our attention, when we don’t have anything that’s keeping us busy and that’s causing us to work, sometimes just not having the value and the worth that you get from getting up and putting your efforts into something, it can leave us longing for something more. 

A perk of the job may not be the paycheck; it may be the way that you get to feel satisfied at the end of the day that I put some energy into it and I made things better for myself, for my family, for the people around me. Do you see the difference now between just simply working a job and the calling and the career that God has called you to?

Worship at work

The third and the final thing that I really want you to hear about work, if we’re going to really put it back into its proper place, is that work can be and actually should be, an act of worship. In fact, I want to clear up our language just a little bit at 2 Cities Church, because I think sometimes we can throw this word worship around too flippantly, and we don’t give it the respect or the attention that it deserves. What you do, how you do it, and what has your heart, really can be, it really should be an act of worship.

Think about it for just a second. You will spend the majority of your life sleeping and working. In fact, almost all of the rest of your life combined won’t add up to the amount of your life that you spent sleeping and working. And sleeping is a natural human need. That’s part of the human condition. Working is God’s plan for people, so why wouldn’t work be an act of worship? In fact, Peter, the famous follower of Jesus, says that it really should be an act of worship. Listen to how Peter describes this in 1 Peter 4. I want you to focus with me on verse three. He says it this way:

1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Basically, Peter is saying, “Jesus is coming back again, not sure when, but I think it’s pretty soon.” That is exactly where we live today (which is a whole ‘nother sermon for another day). Peter is also saying, “If you really want to love people well, open up your heart, and open up your home. Start to meet with people regularly, and you will be amazed at what Holy Spirit will do.”

I need you to make sure that you really understand what Peter is saying in verse three. He is basically saying what Paul said in the New Testament. -that everything that we do, to include our job, should be done really ultimately for the glory of God as an act of worship. Peter calls it a gift. 

He basically says, “Hey, some of you have been given the gift of words. Use those words to bless others and to glorify God. Some of you have been given the gift of service. Use the gift of service to bless others and to glorify God. Some of you have been given the gift of working with numbers, and you should be an accountant. Use it to glorify God. Some of you are smart with computer programs; you’re a coder extraordinaire. Use that gift to glorify God. Some of you have amazing leadership skills, and some of you have this nurturing ability. Whatever that thing is, it’s a gift. Use the gift to bless others and to glorify God.”

Can I just remind us about the word gift for just a second? A gift is something that is given to you that you didn’t earn. Peter is reminding us, “Hey, your ability to work a career, that actually is a gift that comes from the gift giver. You didn’t earn that. He gave you the mind. He gave you the strength. He gave you the passions so that you could be really successful at the thing that he’s called you to do. Be careful that you don’t take credit for the gift.”

Peter is also saying, “By the way, God gave you that gift for a reason. And here’s the reason: He wants you to bless others, and he wants you to glorify him with your work, with your career, with your gift, with that special talent that God has given you. It’s there for a reason.” Now, you get the fringe benefit of making money and that money that you make helps you provide for your family, but the gift itself was actually given to make life better for others and to glorify God. Use the gift (in this case, the gift of your career, the gift of your calling) use that gift as an act of worship.

Did you know that that Old Testament word worship that Peter is referring to, when it shows up in the Bible, this is exactly what that word means in the Old Testament [image shown]? I want you to notice something. When we use the exact same Hebrew word in the Old Testament, sometimes that word means working a job or doing what you’re called to do. Sometimes serving other people is worship in the Bible. What we tend to do is use one definition, and we make the word worship exclusively about singing Christian songs. But I want you to see it is much, much bigger than that.

In fact, I really believe that if God has created us to spend this much of our life working, certainly how we work and where we work and what we work at should be an act of worship. In fact, our work really can be, it really should be of the way that we worship God by saying, “God, I think you’ve created me and you’ve called me to be good at this thing, and I’m going to give this thing all that I’ve got. And God, just by being good at this thing and giving it all that I’ve got, I hope that other people’s lives are better. I know that I’m going to make some income so that I can take care of my family, but I hope it makes other people’s lives better.”

“But more than that, God, I hope that you look down from heaven and you see what I’m doing and you’re saying, ‘Look at that. She is knocking it out of the park right now. Look at how my son, my adopted son, is doing the very thing that I’ve called him to do. He is doing it with excellence and it honors me the way that he does the thing that he’s called to do.” 

What’s happening here is, work starts to take on something much bigger and much more significant than just simply earning a paycheck so that I can put some food on my table. That’s the difference between earning a living and making a life. And I really believe that God calls his people to give their all to the career that he’s called them to as an act of worship. Do it, as Peter says, for the glory of God, and do it for the good of other people. 

Did you know that a lot of people will somehow take the gift and they’ll exchange the gift giver for the gift?

You see, our hearts are twisted. Mine is; yours is. Sin has crept in and it has corrupted the human heart. Because of that, we can take our career and we can start to ask our career to make or to do something for us that it was never intended to do. You know people like this. In fact, if I were honest, there may have been some periods in my life where I was like this. -where I look in the mirror and I start to take my self-worth, I start to get my value as a human being from what I do instead of who I am.

And then all of a sudden, that work starts to take on a level of significance that it was never intended to take on. Work really starts to become an idol that I’m serving. I’m not talking about the workaholic out there; I’m talking about the guy or the girl that their only view of their dignity or their worth in life is based on what they do and not on who they are. And when you have stepped across that line, you have taken the gift and turned and exchanged it for the gift giver. You’ve forgotten about the gift giver who gives us the ability to work and you have exchanged that for the gift. And that’s where even a good gift like work or a career can start to become an idol.

As I was preparing for and praying about this sermon, I was praying, “God, maybe there’s somebody right now who really is practicing idolatry, and the thing that they’re worshiping is not some stone or some wooden or precious metal statue in their living room; it’s actually the thing that gives them their paycheck. And they have let that thing cross the line and let that thing become in their heart something that it’s never intended to do.”

If that’s you, I want to challenge you to put work back in its proper place. It’s important; it’s supposed to be very important in your life, but it’s not supposed to be too important. And if you’re saying, “Man, I think this thing may be taking too much of my time, too much of my attention. I have defined my worth in what I do instead of who I am,” then would you repent?

This is a Bible word that means admit to God that your sorry. But it’s more than just admitting. It’s saying, “I’m going to make the change so that I don’t keep living like that, and keep looking for more from my job than it was ever supposed to be.” Let’s turn from this sin of idolatry and worshiping work and turn to worshiping the One who gave humans the ability to work in the first place, our Father in heaven.