A higher view of employment
Considering how many hours most people work over a lifetime, it's worthwhile to ask ourselves how we perceive our jobs and careers. And it can be helpful to view work from a spiritual perspective. One way to do this is to see our real job as reflecting God's qualities. Applying this concept provides a more satisfying and secure sense of employment and of supply.
In thinking about this subject, I've found useful the two stories of creation in the Biblical book Genesis. In the first, found in the first chapter and first three verses of the second chapter, man is created in the image and likeness of God and given dominion over creation. In the second, which begins in chapter two, verse four, man—in this story called Adam—is created from dust and given life when the Lord God breathes "into his nostrils the breath of life." Later, after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam is expelled from the garden of Eden and made to till the ground.
In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy explains these accounts: the first describes how God created the universe, including man, as spiritual, to reflect His nature as infinite Spirit; but the second illustrates, by allegory, that thinking of man as material and mortal is ultimately painful and afflictive (see pp. 502-539). The book says of this second story, "The history of error or matter, if veritable, would set aside the omnipotence of Spirit; but it is the false history in contradistinction to the true" (pp. 521-522).
Certainly these accounts present two different views of man. But do they not also convey two different concepts of employment?
In the first, man is created to reflect God—to glorify Him by expressing His qualities. Man's purpose, or employment, like his existence itself, is spiritual, and his supply is assured. But in the second story, Adam's employment is far from divine. Since he's condemned to till the ground in the sweat of his brow, his work is clearly toil, his supply uncertain.
We can ask ourselves: "Am I grateful for the opportunities that I have right now to reflect divine attributes?"
How does one leave behind this concept of work as drudgery, as a necessity to be tolerated in order to have supply, and make one's own the higher concept? Perhaps the first step is to see that reflecting God is not something that one does merely forty hours per week; rather, it's what the Christian is doing constantly—at work, supporting a friend, or playing with his or her children. In other words, reflecting God should be integrated into, indeed should constitute, our daily living. As this happens, we find that we can bring satisfaction and stability to whatever we do.
If we're searching for a job, we can ask ourselves: "What are the qualities that I reflect as God's child? How can I better show these forth in each area of my life? Am I grateful for the opportunities that I have right now to reflect these divine attributes?" Thinking this way makes us receptive to God's direction so that we know where to apply, whom to talk to, or what further training to acquire in order to put these God-derived qualities more at His service.
Some people face the challenge of working at a job that doesn't allow fulfillment of their potential. What if, in some degree, we feel underemployed? We can drop the concept of ourselves as laboring mortals and understand our work in terms of the first account of creation—know that we're God's spiritual ideas, wholly engaged in expressing His intelligence, joyfulness, and abundance. Thinking this way certainly will make more interesting a job that may seem far from ideal. It will also enable us to do such a job more effectively and to learn as much as we can in expectation of a better opportunity. As we more fully manifest the divine qualities that we truly express as God's children, we can trust that satisfying employment will be found.
The most fully and best employed person in history was Christ Jesus. Even at the age of twelve, he was in the temple talking with the doctors of the law. When told by his mother that she and Joseph had been worried by his absence, he replied, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). He hadn't waited for a director of personnel to offer him an interview! He wasn't held back by the argument that he wasn't experienced nor the right age! He realized that full, useful employment is man's divine right at all times. He later said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). Or, as J. B. Phillips translates this verse, "My Father is still at work and therefore I work as well."
But realistically, aren't we dependent on a job for supply, stability, self-worth, or even as a basic element around which to structure daily life? Though we do have definite human needs, Jesus showed that these are best met not by depending on a job or a salary but by turning to spiritual reality. He said: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:31, 33).
To seek first the kingdom of God is to strive to see the spiritual reality that the first Genesis account indicates. In this reality, supply, stability, self-worth, and structure-giving purpose don't depend on human employment but are naturally man's by reflection. These gifts of Soul, God, are real to us as we seek to reflect Him—as we do our real job!
During the Master's three-year public ministry, he didn't have a human employer nor receive a salary. But he had an unequaled sense of mission and an incomparable sense of God's abundant provision for man: more than five thousand people fed with five loaves and two fishes. And twelve baskets left over! (See Matt. 14:15-21.)
One summer I saw that as I was "about my Father's business," expressing His qualities, my needs would be met. A university student working part time, I didn't have much money. But it seemed right to take Christian Science class instruction with a teacher about 2,000 kilometers away. As class approached, a professor suggested that I apply for funding to do research in a city close to where class would be held. I received the funding and was permitted to coordinate travel to class with travel for the research.
Later that summer, I felt led to attend a Christian Science conference even farther away. About then, I unexpectedly received several hundred dollars back pay for work done four years before. Combining that with a grant I received, I attended the conference. Thus, striving to "do my job"—to reflect God—I found that my needs were met beautifully, as they have been since.
Whatever your current job status, whether you're retired, unemployed, or fully employed, your real employment is to follow Christ Jesus by expressing divine qualities. Doing this, you will be satisfactorily employed, feel God's direction in your moment-by-moment living, and be guided to demonstrate the reality of His infinite provision for you.