Even my first job, which I got at fifteen years old—yes, I lied about my age)—and stayed with on into college, demonstrates the role that enjoyment played in my choice: I worked for minimum wage (then $3.15/hour) at a fancy bookstore at
. Others I knew worked
at Albertson’s supermarket, where, for exactly the same work of ringing things
up and organizing things on shelves, made, because supermarkets in South Coast
unionized, $7.50/hour. Why? Pleasure, for them, meant whatever it was they wanted
to do with two and a half times as much money as I made. In each instance, though, it
was worth it. We were motivated by enjoyment. California
We select our spiritual jobs so differently. We are motivated by duty and guilt. We regard God’s work as a sacrifice, a duty, not as something we deep down want to do or even are good at doing. For me at least, even when I’m doing some worthy spiritual task I’m certain is what God wants and expects of me, I’m typically deep down resentful. I’d rather be doing anything else.
Not only that, but when I’m doing whatever it is, or having done it, I feel, most times, like a failure. I never love or give or pray or share the good news or humble myself as well as I think I should.
Anyway, as I say, I was working on talking points and thinking about this business of the difference between our regular worklives and our spiritual worklives, and it occurred to me that I didn’t really know a good way to refer to what it was I meant by our spiritual work. It was, I decided, our response to the question I vaguely remembered people asking Jesus: What then should we do?
So I looked it up, and lo, I discovered it was not Jesus they were asking but John the baptizer. (Hence this momentary foray out of Jesus’ mountainside sermon into another time in Jesus’ early history we’ve already visited.) John was preaching, in this case, going on, as Jesus would soon be going on, about how evil they were.
“You brood of vipers!” he rails at them. “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. . . . The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9 NIV).
The crowds surrounding John are so dismayed! “What then should we do?” they ask him, clearly horrified. Then the tax collectors ask the same thing: “What then should we do?” Then the soldiers ask the same thing: “What then should we do?”
It is, I’m guessing, Everyperson’s question. Given all the rules of scripture, and recognizing that our best efforts are dirty rags, what, oh what, should we do? And how do we go about it with the same enthusiasm with which we do other worthy work?
That’s what my book’s about, I decided I’d tell the radio host, if I got the chance.