Unfulfilling work as vocation?

Unfulfilling work as vocation? September 17, 2014

8578352139_1977ae59dc_zA little while ago we posted in this space some musings by Larry Saunders, a man who had moved from white-collar work in the pastoral ministry to blue-collar work in a factory and was returning to the white-collar world because he failed to find his work fulfilling.

Gene Veith over at Cranach picked up on the post and wrote a thoughtful response to Larry.  Here’s a sample:

(1)  Jesus was a carpenter.  The leading disciples were fishermen.  And St. Paul, a tent maker, urges Christians to “work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

(2)  Contrary to the common assumption, vocation is NOT about self-fulfillment, self-aggrandizement, finding your greatness, finding meaning in your life, or doing what you love.  Vocation is about loving and serving your neighbor.  That means, in practice, denying yourself for your neighbor.  Or, as Jesus put it, denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Him in sacrificing Himself for others.  (Another Mission:Work post gets it right:  Jeff Haanen, What’s Wrong with “Do What You Love?”)

(3)  So vocation is not for the self but for the neighbor.  It seems to me that more menial jobs tend to be more directly beneficial to a neighbor than jobs that get lots of honor and higher salaries in the world.  Being a professional athlete or a movie star are legitimate vocations, but the service rendered by those who pick up our garbage and clean up our hotel rooms is much more significant.  The author of this post was working in a factory that made medical devices that would be used to heal the sick.  If he gets his dream white collar job in management, he will order around people in cubicles.  There is a vocation there too, of course, but still. . . .

Where are you in this debate? What would you say in response to Gene? To Larry?  (And, if you’re brave enough to peek into the comments on Gene’s blog, there are some really thoughtful points being made there by some of the participants, too).

Image: “Blue Collar Project” by Brian Stalter Photography, used under a Creative Commons license.

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