Unfulfilling Work is Honorable

In the 1970’s, a book transformed the American workforce. What Color is Your Parachute, by Richard Nelson Bolles, has been revised countless times since it first appeared in 1970 (self-published, then traditionally published in 1972). It has sold over ten million copies. The book advises job seekers to match their passion and their careers. Sounds pretty normal by today’s standards, but when it first came out, it sparked a revolution. Back in the day, a job was a job. Nobody expected it to be fun, fulfilling, or meaningful. It wasn’t a means to self-actualization; it was a means to a paycheck. Parachute changed all that. It spawned a movement toward self-fulfillment in the workplace.

We are, however, returning to pre-Parachute days. Job-seekers can’t afford to be picky. In today’s economy, any job will do.

There is no dishonor in labor. Three cheers for unfulfilling work! It’s still work, and it’s honorable. And it pays.

In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19, NKJV).

No, it’s not an ideal situation, because it was part of God’s curse on a sinful world… even so, work is honorable. You might flip burgers, scrub floors, stock shelves, shovel ditches, type data, or move merchandise. Stand tall; stand proud. You’re doing an honorable thing. You’re putting bread on the table. Work hard, as if you’re serving the Lord. God’s blessing will be on you. Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men. (Proverbs 22:29, NKJV).

What about your soul’s deep satisfaction?

Learn to distinguish your vocation from your avocation.

  • Vocation: a person’s employment or main occupation.
  • Avocation: a hobby or minor occupation.

Let your vocation pay the bills. Let your avocation fulfill your heart. So you wanna be a rock star? Do it evenings and weekends till it pays well. So you wanna be an author? Don’t quit your day job. Cake decorating? Woodworking? Wanna be a bass fisherman? Make it a family affair, on days off, or after work. Make it your avocation.

It’s more fun that way. The surest way to suck the joy out of an activity is to make it pay the bills. I don’t care how much you love it, it’s going to feel like work. Especially your kid needs braces and the bass aren’t biting. Or especially when weekends keep coming and you have to stand and deliver another sermon!!! (Yes, it can feel like work, I confess).

Do not insist on a satisfying vocation — at least not now. Not in this market. If you can swing it that way, fantastic. I’m one who’s been blessed that way. By and large, I love what I do. If God opens that door, by all means step through it.

If he doesn’t, or hasn’t yet, no harm done. Be grateful for a job. Don’t sulk at home, unemployed because no job is “speaking to you.” Let your bills speak louder than your fantasies; take whatever work you can get.

Your family will thank you. Your creditors will get off your back. You’ll have the pride of labor. And God will be pleased.

If the plane’s going down, any color parachute will do.

I know jobs are hard to come by. I hear the stories every week, and pray through a roster of needs, which includes more job-seekers than I can count. Please don’t read this as saying it’s easy. I’m not blaming anyone who can’t find work. My heart is with you. Take what you can find, at least for now. And work anywhere you can till God opens better doors.