Useful employment

A Christian Science perspective: Gainful employment starts with God’s work. 

Doesn’t everyone want to feel useful, to have a sense of purpose? The press routinely reports that extreme behavior by individuals – involving crime, suicide, terrorism – is often fueled by a feeling of uselessness and frustrated ambition.

I’ve always been grateful for what the Bible teaches about productive activity. The overarching theme in the Scriptures is that any task, no matter how humble or how grand, if done honestly and for the glory of God, good, is worthwhile and brings blessings not only to the worker, but also to those whose lives the worker touches.

Moses meekly tended sheep, which led him to a holy encounter with God on Horeb and prepared him to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Joseph brought the same sacred devotion to his work as a slave as he did to serving as Egypt’s “minister of agriculture.” Jesus privately washed the disciples’ feet before his public victory over death. (See Exodus 3, Genesis 47, and John 13 respectively.)

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, echoed Paul’s sentiments in this passage: “Be of good cheer; the warfare with one’s self is grand; it gives one plenty of employment, and the divine Principle worketh with you, – and obedience crowns persistent effort with everlasting victory” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 118).

Inasmuch as we are striving to live in accordance with the moral and spiritual demands of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20) and Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), we are purposefully employed. Because we come from God and are His children – His image and likeness, as the Bible says – putting into practice our real selfhood, with all of its spiritual, Godlike qualities, is natural and normal for us to do. Selfless service to our Maker, whatever form it takes, brings blessings and develops in us a greater usefulness in whatever type of work God has for us.

Christian Science teaches that a good step in finding satisfying and meaningful employment is to go first to God by asking how we can best serve Him – serve the purposes of good – and pray to listen for where He wants us to be. It can also be helpful to make a list of Christlike qualities we want to bring to a job: intelligence, courage, persistence, goodwill, joy, and so forth. If we cherish those qualities in thought, and practice applying them right where we are, God’s law of supply and demand leads us forward. We can’t be God’s image, or expression, and not have opportunities to express Him. God’s law requires an avenue for us to apply our talents productively. Our unique talents will be gratefully received where they are most needed because God’s infinity does not leave anyone lacking or in want.

The Bible promises, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Employing our thought and life to align with God’s goodness answers His call for our selfless service, and when we serve by expressing God, it serves humanity. Selflessness is important for any career. All great leaders express this quality at some level. In fact, selflessness is a cornerstone in the foundation of greatness.

Mrs. Eddy illustrated selfless service to God in her own career. She was homeless and in poverty during much of the time she was laboring to write her most important work: “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Although having to rely on the help of friends and strangers, she persevered, her only desire being to bless. And regardless of her humble economic status, everywhere she went there were reports of healing. Mrs. Eddy’s work was blessing the world right where she was in that hour. Her perseverance culminated in her becoming a worldwide religious leader and respected spiritual visionary.

Regardless of individual career aspirations, we can begin by knowing we all have equal standing – a place of honor – in our Father’s kingdom. All of us have equal access to His goodness and the infinite capacity to express it. If we’re applying what we understand of our tender relationship to God, then we are already usefully, gainfully, and productively employed. And the tangible results of our prayers follow.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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