Is it Biblical to Choose a Job You Love? An Example

Yesterday I argued from the principles in 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 that our own happiness is a legitimate consideration in making major life decisions. This is how Paul sees the choice to marry, and it seems that the same principle carries through to other areas of freedom, such as what job to choose.

Today I wanted to give a helpful example of this. As I’ve argued before, choosing a job that you want to do is typically the path to greater effectiveness. Here’s an example that illustrates that, from William Lane Craig (a top Christian apologist), from his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision:

Jan and I have found that in our life together, the Lord usually shows us only enough light along the path to take the next step without knowing what lies further down the trail. So one evening as Jan and I were nearing the end of our time at Trinity, we were sitting at the supper table, talking about what to do after graduation. Neither of us had any clear idea or leading as to what we should do.

At that point Jan said to me, “Well, if money were no object, what would you really like to do next?”

I replied, “If money were no object, what I’d really like to do is go to England and do a doctorate under John Hick.”

He goes on to tell the story of writing a letter to inquire about studying with Dr. Hick, getting accepted, how God brought the money together for this in spite of the fact that they were “as poor as church mice,” and how his studies in England turned out to be foundational to the whole rest of his ministry.

This is a great example of choosing a job (or, in this case, the next step along the path) for fundamental reasons rather than instrumental reasons.

In other words, doing what you find meaningful in itself is usually the path to greatest joy and effectiveness, rather than trying to take a lot of steps that you don’t want to take, but which seem “necessary” to get where you want to go. Craig’s story here is as good of an example of that as any — especially since he pursued it in spite of many obstacles in the way, and the Lord provided.

I know that there can be extenuating circumstances for people. But as much as you can, make career choices for fundamental reasons rather than instrumental reasons.

  • Dan

    I’m glad you addressed this today–I’ve been teaching through Ecclesiastes, and it seems so clear in that book that a person who fears God will enjoy their work (and wife and possessions and food)–the author of Ecclesiastes actually treats it as foolish to work a job you hate in the vain hope that you can set aside more money or gain some transitory good.

  • Lily

    I’ve really appreciated all of your posts on this subject; I think they give the pursuit of joy in Christ very practical application in an area that touches the lives of almost every adult Christian. That said, I really wonder how these principles apply to women. I know many complementarians believe that women should if possible be homemakers if they have children, but what if homemaking is a disliked job chosen for instrumental rather than foundational reasons? And what about women who choose to work but still believe they have a greater role to play at home than their husbands, and decide to pursue jobs they may not enjoy as much for the flexibility they afford; what is there for them in terms of career fulfillment? Must they just look for other outlets for their God-given talents and passions that could otherwise have been expressed in a gratifying (albeit too time-consuming) career?
    I ask these questions because I do fall into the second category, and as an ingoing 4th year college student I really want to think carefully about my career decisions with the little remaining flexibility I have. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

  • Wendy McMahan

    Great story. I had a nearly identical experience five years ago while sitting at the dinner table with my husband. Discontent with my job at the time had grown to a point of discouragement.

    My husband asked the same question that Jan asked her husband. I responded, “My dream job would be to do such-and-such with So-and-so.” And then I went on to tell him all the reasons that such a job would never be available to me.

    After dinner, I got online to look at “So-and-so’s” job listings, and wouldn’t you know… they had the very same “such-and-such” position available that I had just dreamed up.

    That story, how God led me to the role where He wanted me to serve with delight, has become part of the fabric of our family’s story.

    Both stories point to the effect that a spouse or friend can have in coaching each other along! I’m grateful that my husband chose to ask me what I would really LOVE to do.

  • Wendy McMahan

    For Lily: My heart goes out to you! The decisions you’re making as a college student sound just like the ones I was thinking about at 21. I don’t have answers to all of your questions, but this is in response to your final question: “And what about women who choose to work but still believe they have a greater role to play at home than their husbands, and decide to pursue jobs they may not enjoy as much for the flexibility they afford; what is there for them in terms of career fulfillment?”

    I’d admonish you to still pursue the area of study that you find most fulfilling. What job is there that couldn’t be done part-time, or couldn’t be put on hold for a few years while the kids grow from infants to kindergarteners?

    I almost made the mistake of becoming a school teacher. Not that being a school teacher is a mistake–it’s a wonderful choice for most teachers, but for me, I don’t think I would have done it well! But I thought it would give me the flexibility I needed for raising children.

    Instead, God pointed me to a line of work that is perfectly in line with the giftings he’s given me (see previous entry) AND has greater schedule flexibility than I could have ever predicted. What’s more, I simply didn’t know this kind of position was available when I was in college. Nor did I know that God would continue forming me into the kind of person who would WANT the kind of job I’m doing now. But, well, here we are.

    God’s blessings to you, Lily, as you sort it out, as you weigh the options, and as you pray through it.