What you do is not who you are

Missy Lee

The toughest title I have ever had was as a stay-at-home mom. I am not great with kids, but I knew it was what I was called to do in that season. There was no pay, no sleep, and little thanks. It drove me to my knees daily asking God for help.

After almost 11 years as a stay-at-home-mom, all my kids were finally in school and I tried to get a Christmas job. In interview after interview, the reaction was clear: My experience as a stay-at-home mom was worthless by corporate standards. 

If you’ve ever been rejected for a job, you know how easily self-doubt can sneak in when we confuse who we are for what we do. 

About half of employed Americans say they get a sense of identity from their job, but the Bible provides a different perspective on identity. Throughout Scripture, God reminds us that our value is not based on what we do but on whose we are. 

Our value is not based on what we do but on whose we are. 

In a paraphrase of Ephesians 1:1, “The Message”  reminds us, “It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for … part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” 

So what is the purpose Jesus is working out in each one of us? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Psalm 86:9, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Revelation 4:11). 

Understanding the Difference Between Position and Purpose

While I don’t have a lot of experience with having impressive job titles, I can understand the temptation to confuse your purpose with your position. 

God has gifted each of us with unique passions, talents, and abilities (1 Peter 4:10-11). When we get to do use our spiritual gifts as part of our jobs, it is a blessing (Ecclesiastes 2:24). But when we start treating that role as our reason for living, it becomes a god to us. 

An easy way to know if you’ve made an idol of your job is to consider how you introduce yourself. You know your position has become your purpose when you start to believe you are what you do. 

Putting First Things First 

In college, I worked as a janitor at a Christian school.  I hated that job some days, like days when the kids were sick or extremely messy. But many of the lessons I learned back then helped to shape how I see work today. 

  • We can use our gifts regardless of our positions.

Our calling is the same whether we love or hate our jobs. We are called to do our job as if to serve the Lord and to treat others the way we wish to be treated (Ephesians 6:7, Luke 3:31). 

Making our careers about serving God and those around us keeps us focused on the opportunities we do have instead of the ones we don’t. For example, working as a janitor allowed me to pay for college instead of continuing to take out loans. I received full-time pay and benefits while attending classes during the day. Plus, I got to bless the teachers and students with a clean school each morning.  

  • We need community outside of our workplaces to keep us grounded.  

When I was overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom, a local Mothers Of Preschoolers group became my lifeline. There, I found friendship and encouragement from fellow moms. They poured into me, and I poured into them. 

When we are in a tough season vocationally, it is easier to recognize our need for community. But we don’t have to wait until we’re overwhelmed to start building friendships. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us to invest in friendships with other believers through good times and bad. 

  • Encourage others.

Wherever God places us, we can ask Him to show us ways we can encourage those we work around. Inviting the Holy Spirit into our workplaces helps us to discover a purpose that far greater than a job title.

For example, retail didn’t pay much, but what it did give me was an opportunity to share my faith with other young people and pray for them. Today, many of those people have come to know Jesus. 

How Do We Stay Focused?

These days, I have a successful career as a real estate agent. It is nice to see nods of approval when I explain what I do for a living. I’m finding myself in new waters and trying to keep the focus off me and on how to serve God and others in all I do. 

Setting the clock to get up early to read the Bible and pray is a good way to set my priorities. When I invite God to go with me into the workplace and to open my eyes to His ways and priorities, it changes how I approach the day. 

If you’re a struggling workaholic, find other believers who understand and can hold you accountable. Try adding time with Jesus and your family to your calendar and protect those events like you would an important meeting because these are important meetings.  

All careers come to an end whether by downsizing or retirement. When we come to the end of our lives, the work we did for money will be forgotten along with the things we bought and threw away. The way we serve God and others are the things with eternal value. 

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