If You Hate Your Job, You Are Sinning

I recently came across some information and I am finding myself wrestling with it. What do you think about this?

In the book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat author John Ortberg quotes American playwright Arthur Miller:

It is wrong, it is sin, to accept or remain in a position you know is a mismatch for you. Perhaps that’s a form of sin you’ve never even considered – the sin of staying in the wrong job. But God did not place you on this earth to waste away your years in labor that does not employ his design or purpose in your life, no matter how much you may be getting paid for it.

When I read this, I had two very strong and different reactions. The first was indignation – What the hell? What about those people who try desperately to get out of their current job situation because they feel it is not a good fit and no matter how many companies they pursue, no matter how many interviews they have, no matter how excited they are about the new opportunity – it just doesn’t pan out. Yet, they feel their current situation is not a good fit and they are miserable. Are they sinning? Or is it okay because they are trying? And if God doesn’t want them there, then why are they still there?

Then the other, polar reaction to this statement was excitement. Wow! This has a lot of promise. You mean to say it is our duty to be stewards of our time – including where we work? This is my right of passage? As a daughter of God, it is my duty and my right to engage in work I am passionate about?

What do you think? Do you believe it is a sin to stay in a job that makes you miserable? Why or why not?

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13 thoughts on “If You Hate Your Job, You Are Sinning

  1. My gut reaction after seeing anything like this is, “ACCORDING TO WHO?!” and “This is insulting”. It always frustrates me when people use guilt to motivate and historically speaking, religion may be the biggest culprit of all of them. It took me a long time to work through my catholic guilt and begin to find my spiritual identity. It would’ve been really nice to have a community of supporters instead of having to go though so much of that alone. Alas, telling other people that their path is in sin does exactly that. it creates an unnecessary dichotomy and separates us from an ability to connect and to serve. So my thought is that the only person that gets to decide that staying in a position that doesn’t resonate with your life path is…you. If a person stays with a job that isn’t part of their calling, but their family is fed and the bills are paid then that is their higher path at that place and time. You can not like a job and still do it well, and even excel. If I stay at my job because I’ve got it all figured out, it’s easy and I don’t have to push myself to grow then for me it maybe it could be a “sin”. To let_anyone else define that grey line is utterly unacceptable. Let the first person who hasn’t gotten frustrated with their path cast the first stone.

    • Yes, it was difficult for me to read Arthur Miller’s thoughts without experiencing guilt. Within the context of the whole book, I believe the intention was to encourage us to chase after our passions, but even after reading the entire book I still struggle with this thought.

      I appreciated your response, Josh’s and Abbie’s because each response leaves room for grace.

  2. My initial reaction is to say that Arthur Miller is a douche for saying that. Jesus came to set us free not condem us. My path is twisting and turning and anything but consistant. We live in a era where people do not hold jobs or even career paths for very long. We do different things. Heck, I am only 30 and have done 3 different things since graduating from college. To say that a life path is a sin is way over the top. Religion often times uses guilt to make a person believe or act in the way that THEY want you to. I am on a journey. Sometimes its great, sometimes it sucks. Arthur Miller lived in a different time with a different society. Frankly I am surprised that John Ortberg used it in his book.

    It is really easy to claim this or that about Gods purpose for our lives but then just leave people hanging about how to figure out this so-called purpose. So Mr. Miller if I am a sinner because I am in a position that is a mismatch for me, how do I find the match? Oh? You don’t give any advice on that? Oh. We’ll thanks for the guilt trip. Dick.

    Most people already know what they are doing wrong. Most people don’t need to be beat down. If you are like me, you need a hand up and someone to help you step into your purpose not put shame on you because you aren’t there.

    By the way…what happens then, when you find this purpose? What next?

  3. I think the key phrase in the quote is “that does not employ his design or purpose in your life”…Both the above comments mention that it speaks guilt, but I don’t think that dude’s intent was to say you should feel guilty or shameful about being in a job you’re not supposed to be in. God is not a God of shame. He does not look at my sins in a shameful way because I’m free of them!!
    My dad has been in a position that he dislikes (to the point of hating) for the purpose of providing for his wife and kids and he felt that DID trump his desire to pursue something different (he went to school to be an art teacher). Sometimes, as in his case, I think things that God designed in us are suppressed for the sake of a good paying job, but he selflessly chose to keep that job to fulfill part of his lifes purpose as a husband and father. There IS a grey area there, and how do we do both?!! Providing for our families but not sacrificing our innate abilities/talents/gifts for a crappy job just to provide money/food/insurance? I think that is an individual’s decision. And in my OWN experience, I was in bad jobs that I knew were not part of my perspective of my purpose, but if I look back at them I can see how God used aspects of them to teach me things, guide my next step, or build character in me-all of which are related to my purpose in life.

    • Abbie I think you are right, but I still have an issue with Arthur Miller’s words. The biggest thing here is that “purpose” is just that…a grey area! I have done and continue to do necessary labor (sidebar: isn’t labor called labor BECAUSE there is sin in the world?) that does not, in my opinion, employ God’s design or purpose in my life, yet I still do it. Sometimes because it is necessary and sometimes because I have no idea what else to do. So this makes me a sinner? Do I really need another person coming down on me because my I am not doing my “purpose” just right? Maybe a better thought for this book would be something like “Do you trust God enough to take care of you while you chase after what brings joy to your life?” I think this would set one up for a great adventure. A story that would inspire others to trust God, not one that uses “not-sinning” as a motivator.

    • Abbie, this is good stuff. I love that you immediately addressed “shame”. I experience shame all the time – literally. The crazy part is that I have shame if I am enjoying myself too much, yet then the next day I experience shame for not enjoying it enough.

      I know, I feel like the huge question is just that – “how do we do both?!” (provide and enjoy our occupations). I’m learning personally that as I continue to pursue what I enjoy, doors open up to do MORE of what I enjoy, but it definitely does not come without hard work. Honestly, I’ve wanted to give up a few times, but now I’ve tasted what life could be like – a deliciously tart key lime pie – and I’m no longer willing to go back to vanilla.

      This is awesome: “I was in bad jobs that I knew were not part of my perspective of my purpose, but if I look back at them I can see how God used aspects of them to teach me things, guide my next step, or build character in me-all of which are related to my purpose in life.”

  4. I took a bit of offense to the quote because I am currently at a job that I hate, however, I believe that God put me in this place, position and environment for a reason and in this season. I have to constantly lay this job at his feet and ask him to show me what purpose I have there right now. There are some days that are so awful I walk away wanting to quit and even sometimes thinking that I should because I am so unhappy with it. Then I remember that God provided this job for me in the midst of it seemingly like I was not going to get a job, in a place that is fostering not only my administrative skills but also providing me a place to earn clinical hours and learn from other professionals in the counseling field. God did not promise us that we would always be happy, have everything we want or the job that we want.

    ”Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalms 37:4. I don’t see this verse as indicating that we should get everything we want or ask for. The verse reminds me that as I seek God and drawn near to him, my desires will become what he desires for my life, for his purpose in his timing.

    Therefore, I think it comes down to stewardship. So I ask myself the question, am I being a good steward in the role that God has placed me? I have to work on complaining and having a bad attitude about this job because ultimately, I know it is God’s plan at this time in my life. It is awful many days at work, nonetheless, I trust God is using me and my skills to impact the office in a positive way and also using the afflictions I face to impact me in a way that molds me into a better woman of God. I have to remember the refining process. At this point, if I left my job, I would be fulfilling my own needs rather than God’s plan.

    • Jenean,
      Interesting! Great response. The part that you said at the end caught my attention: “At this point, if I left my job, I would be fulfilling my own needs rather than God’s plan.” So how does one know when the timing is right to leave his/her job? Is it when a new position is offered? I don’t have an answer for this, but I am curious what your thoughts are. 🙂

      This was really good too. What a great question to ask yourself! “Am I being a good steward in the role that God has placed me? I have to work on complaining and having a bad attitude about this job because ultimately, I know it is God’s plan at this time in my life.”

      • Timing is in God’s hands too…so I don’t really know the answer either. I would say it’s important to be seeking him and his word and trust that he will guide us. Again I think when we seek God and his word regarding these questions he’ll guide us. We may not it, or understand it. But I can look back on my life in many situations that at the time I didn’t understand or realize was God’s timing or plan and now it all makes sense.

        My senior year of high school after playing volleyball all through school and now having the chance to play in my last year on the starting team with the number jersey I had been waiting for…I felt like I wasn’t suppose to play. I fought it for awhile wondering why I would not do one of the things that I enjoyed greatly and was good at. Finally, I trusted what felt like God’s guidance and told my coach I was out. Just as the season began I started having severe back pain that increased within a week almost to not walking. Discovered three bulging discs in my back and right then realized, there would have been no way I could have played volleyball that year. If I had been on the team I would have just been on the bench all season taking stats and traveling with the team while feeling miserable that I was a part of the team but could not play.

        Choosing to walk away from something important to me and one of my passions at that time was very difficult…but I’m glad I trusted God and myself to say no. So a new questions arises, if I had not following the direction God was giving me to quit volleyball because it was something I really enjoyed, made me happy and used skills he had given me, would I have been sinning then? Or would I have just been stuck on the bench? Are we sinning when we decide to keep a job or doing something that brings joy to our lives, utilizes the gifts God has given us and even gives us an opportunity to minister to others? Are we sinning if we keep enjoying that job or thing if God is asking us to walk away or do something else?

        I don’t think I would have been sinning had I started on the team, but the Lord really helped keep me out of a sad situation. Sure I came through much pain with my back problems and had lots of tests and therapy, but that year I learned a lot of new things about myself that I never took the time to notice until I was forced to slow down, look around and reflect.

      • oohh, Jenean, you brought up a really good question – “What if God is asking us to walk away from something and we enjoy it so much, we choose to stay? Is that sinning?” I feel like it would be, since we are deliberately going against what He has asked us to do? I just keep thinking of Jonah getting stuck in the whale or Lot’s wife (I think that was who it was) getting turned into a pillar of salt for looking back to the city they were supposed to be leaving.

        At the same time, there is Grace because Jesus died to take care of our sins.

        I think the timing is the hardest thing for me to deal with. Knowing that mentally, I am rearing to move on, ready for change – but realizing there is a reason I am still in the place that I am.

        Sometimes I think it would be cool if we could have the foresight to see what things would be like had we made a different decision. For example with you choosing not to play volleyball. Would something more drastic have happened if you had chosen to stay on the team? Or would it be as you said, just traveling and sitting on the bench. It is hard when He asks us to walk away from something we really want. I reluctantly walked away from a few romantic relationships prior to meeting Josh. I so wanted to be with each of those guys, but I knew I shouldn’t be. I’m very happy in hindsight that I followed my gut. 🙂

        Thank you for sharing! I love the perspective that you bring to the blog!

  5. Call me naive…but I think each of us is exactly where we’re supposed to be at any given time. Yes — we may think we’re wasting our time, or not using our God-given gifts, in a certain place. But I think that, no matter what, we’re supposed to be doing what we can — while LEARNING. Take it all in. Try to understand what you can. If/when the next opportunity comes along, and it’s right for you, take it.

    • Joe, thanks for your thoughts! I have continued to process this thought that it is a sin if we don’t love what we are doing. I feel like I can take an element of what each person shared in the comments and call them all part of “my truth.” What I took from your response is the importance of the journey. I feel like over the past week or so, this has become more clear to me. I’m so focused on the end result of where I want to be, that I do not take the opportunity to ask, “Okay, so, I’m here and I don’t like it, BUT is there something I could be learning while I am here? What am I going to miss out on if I don’t pay attention?”

      • For sure. Most of us are impatient…we want what we want…and we want it now. The older I’ve become, the more I realize that there are probably things I should be learning. Good luck with this. It’s not easy.

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