With the little life experience I have had, I find that most of us, if not all of us, desire to live purposeful and productive lives. We feel proud when we go through a long day, no matter how tough, if we feel that we have accomplished a lot. We believe that being productive will bring us a measure of joy. We feel bummed out when we waste our days doing nothing.
I am currently a director in two businesses where I am actively involved in and I have gone through a series of specialized training programs between 2007, when I graduated from college, and now. I have been blessed to have experienced all these things and be in the position I am in now. Examining my life, one would say that I have been somewhat productive.
In these last few years, regardless of which company I was training with or which golf course I was in killing time between jobs, I would ask God “What am I supposed to do?”. This question rarely had to do with my day to day decisions because I am the kind of person that enjoys solving problems and arriving at answers on my own only using other people to gather data. I would ask about what I should be doing with my life in general. I felt like I was not accomplishing what I should be in life. Although I am much more productive now that I used to be I still often feel that way. Obviously, I am not completely satisfied with where I am. Am I being ungrateful? Maybe. Is it a drive I have that enables me to push myself further? Maybe. Or maybe I am really just falling short. Its probably a bit of all of those reasons.
I and many others have preached the message that if we give our lives to Christ in obedience we would find Joy:
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
I remember when I first told God that I would give up living my life my way, I felt joy. That crazy black hole at the core of me disappeared. But slowly over time, that joy would begin to flicker. It would never get as bad as how it used to be before I had that conversation with God, but the joy still waned.
So I guess the question I should be asking is:
Where did my joy go and how do I get it back?
An easy answer would be to become “more productive”. The problem with me is that becoming more productive only seems to work temporarily.
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is something that has been speaking to me lately. I am a workplace person and the parable speaks about the reality of work. It illustrates the fact that people have different amounts of responsibility and resources. What it also tells us is that everyone, at a certain time, is given only what they can handle. If we prove faithful with a certain amount of responsibility, He gives us more. If we don’t accomplish, we are wicked and lazy and He wants nothing to do with us.
Now, what really stuck out for me in the parable is the fact that the Master never actually turned over ownership of the resources He gave each worker.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
The capital was His and the money made was also His.
In my quest to feel purposeful and enter into joy, I have to examine myself and see where I fall short. My reason for making money, if I’m honest with myself, is so I can afford things for myself very selfish. It is mostly about me! The parable of the talents shows us a situation where the money made by the servants was credited to the account of the Master, God. Each of the workers that succeeded with their tasks were invited to enter into “the joy the Lord” (Matthew 25).
The tasks completed were for the benefit of the Master but we are never told in the parable what the details of those tasks were. So how do we know what we’re supposed to do? When we examine the commandments listed in the bible, two specific instructions are pointed out by Jesus as the most important. He goes on to say that all other teachings (prophets) and commandments (laws) are based on and accomplish these two greatest commandments.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If joy is found in following the commands of God and remaining in His love (John 15), and the two greatest and all encompassing commandments are to love God and love people to the same degree as we love ourselves, maybe love is what we should be doing.
Maybe love is what our work and our lives should be about.
In all of the companies I have been a part of and the work and businesses that I have now, I have always worked primarily toward my own benefit. The challenge that I face now is how to start working for the benefit of God and others. Not just to donate a portion of the money I make to church and where else it can help, but to actually consider the good of people at my workplace, the other companies we conduct business with and the consumers that we serve when I make day-to-day decisions.
To conduct business in a manner that God would approve of, that goes beyond just adhering to the law. To not just be ethical, but kind.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is a tall order. But maybe, instead of just always asking God what I’m supposed to do in life, I can start in this journey of true purpose and joy by asking God how I can love Him and others with all the little day to day things that I do. And remember that, what I am supposed to do in general is love.