2.05.2014

Faithful or Entitled

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mOzamT8Zl7A/T1-mFBrWBWI/AAAAAAAABKI/4gjH-ro58DI/s1600/luke%2B12-31.jpgA crucial moment in my Christian journey was my job search senior year in college. Circa the roaring 90's, kids graduating from my alma mater were flocking to Wall Street or Silicon Valley for lucrative jobs at prestigious firms. I ended up sweating out employment at a small non-profit organization with a staff of four that had so little money that it couldn't officially hire me (even at a really low salary) until they got a federal grant (which I helped write the application for as a volunteer during my senior year).

What anchored me every day that fateful year - as friends announced job offers, I got few if any signals from my future employer about the status of the grant, and my parents wondered aloud if I'd lost my mind going in the direction I was going - was a promise contained in the Bible from the words of Jesus:

"And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:29-32)

God's soothing message to me in the midst of all my future-related anxiety was that My job was to seek His kingdom, and His job was to take care of me.  That whole year I had many moments of panic and fear but also moments of a purity of serenity that can only come from believing that the Creator of the Universe is taking it upon Himself to make sure I'm OK.  It certainly frees you to go hard after what you think "seeking His kingdom" means, and for a business major living and studying in inner city West Philadelphia, I thought at the time that that meant using my business skills to help urban entrepreneurs and revitalize urban neighborhoods. 

While I was far from perfect in the process, I do feel I was trying to be faithful.  And, much more importantly, God was faithful: as I sought His kingdom, He did in fact provide for me.  I have been richly blessed in all ways in my post-undergrad days, and for that I am thankful things broke the way they did.

But I do often wonder whether I was more able to be faithful in this way because of my privileged background, and whether such a perspective is possible for others not as fortunate.  In other words, my upper middle class upbringing afforded me a healthy childhood, good schooling, and the opportunity to attend an Ivy League institution.  I then chose to forgo loftier career tracks from that vantage point, and still ended up comfortably paying my bills and affording a comfortable lifestyle. 

Not everyone is so lucky.  When I share my story with others, and get to the part about my senior year in college and how I decided to work where I worked afterward, do people who are of less means get offended at my arrogance and sense of entitlement? How grand of me to trade down for higher purposes; most others have no such luxury.

I was reminded of this when I read this recent Slate article about how the mantra of "doing what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" bespeaks an entitled place in which one needn't sully oneself with doing anything besides what is pleasurable and exciting.  Is this how I sound when I talk about seeking God's kingdom first and letting Him take care of me?  For the vast majority of people who have to scrape and claw just to get by and who are one mini-disaster away from utter ruin, such a loftiness can come across as unbecoming and rude and cold. 

Now, there's a difference between doing what feels good and doing God's work.  And doing God's work is obviously not just for those of us who happen to be fortunate enough to have meaningful career choices to select from.  But let's not kid around: we who are of means can easily fool ourselves into thinking we're doing God's work when what we're really doing is acting like entitled snobs who don't even really how incredibly lucky we are that we can have any choice at all, let alone to choose less than what is possible for our working lives. 

I hope that is not what I have done or what I continue to strive to do daily.  But I am increasingly aware of just how unaware I am of the plight of so many literally all around me.  I have a long way to go to be a better person and a closer representative of the kingdom of the God I claim to follow.







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