After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Math, my Dad began his career at IBM in the 1980s. He was promoted during his first year and continued to rise quickly up the corporate ladder, wearing freshly ironed suits every day and traveling around the country making presentations to CEOs. From any outsider’s perspective, he was on the fast-track to a successful long-term career at IBM, and certainly he enjoyed the confidence that came with knowing that he could often outperform his coworkers – most of whom had Ivy League degrees while he himself graduated from Auburn.
After several of years of this, he began to feel a strong call from the Lord to work with young people through teaching. He was unable to ignore the call (as much as he wanted to), and after much internal wrestling he quit his job at IBM. The rest is history, and he is now going on his 25th year of teaching high school Physics and Calculus.
It can be easy to think of purposeful, Kingdom work as only occurring in ministry settings that are clearly in service of the Lord or in non-profit organizations that are clearly in service of the common good. I have spent most of a year now in The Capital Fellows Program at McLean Presbyterian Church, where we push back against this idea.
We are learning that good and meaningful work can be done in almost any job, and that almost all career paths can be used to further God’s work in in the world. Because of my Dad’s example, I’ve always thought of myself as free from falling into this trap of thinking secular careers were purposeless, that only “religious” work ultimately mattered. I did not think my idea of vocation and purpose was necessarily limited to “Christian” careers, because I could clearly see how what my Dad did touched many lives.
However, in my own workplace this year, I have realized that I still have further to go in comprehending my own connection to God’s kingdom purpose. In Genesis 35:30 – 36:7, we can see that the Lord gives artistic ability to Bezalel and Oholiab. Those abilities alone are not necessarily religious, but they are used for the clearly sacred purpose of building a sanctuary for the worship of the Lord. Like my Dad’s career, Bezalel and Oholiab’s skills were “secular” but they had a clear connection toward changing lives for the better. God has put me, however, in the business world.
As I think about the day-to-day work I do (social media, press releases, Excel spreadsheets, etc.), it can be difficult for me to see that connection to a Kingdom purpose. I do not immediately feel like I am making clear investments in particular people or a particular cause like my Dad and Bezalel and Oholiab had. I have the head knowledge that my work is still meaningful, but it can be difficult to see exactly how it is meaningful in light of God’s greater redemptive plan for the world. As I seek excellence in the work I do, it is my prayer that I would not seek excellence while blindly hoping that “doing my best” will please the Lord. Instead, I pray that I would seek excellence with a clear view of my human role in restoring the world through work done well.
Where is it difficult to see the connection between your work and the Kingdom of God?
Kate Moody works in Public Relations, focusing particularly on social media. She is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.
Images: FreeImages.com/Michaela Kobyakov, Marco Moreno, Lhys*