Your Boss Owes You a Paycheck, not Fulfillment

As I read about leadership, one thing that I’m seeing more clearly is the way that we do a disservice to men when we don’t give them honest and blunt estimations of their work. Without that feedback, men can find themselves slotted in jobs for which they are ill-suited and incapable of succeeding. Better to give the tough feedback at the front end, then to set a man up for twenty years of bitterness and grumbling as he fails to advance with no clue as to why (Prov. 27:6).

But one of the corresponding conclusions that many seem to draw from this is that each of us has some perfect occupational sweet spot that, when we find it and begin laboring in it, will cause the planets to align and all of our wildest dreams to come true. This is a myth, pure myth. The world is fallen and the world of occupations is fallen. There are times when God blesses us with a sense of deep fulfilment and accomplishment in our work. Thank God when it happens. But there are times when your work is tedious and a drudgery. That calls for confession of sin, not necessarily a hunt for a new job. The fact that many of us have the time and space to stand around the water cooler daydreaming of a career that makes us feel more fulfilled is the fruit of countless generations who labored before us to settle our land, eeked out a meager existence for centuries, and have over generations saved up enough capital for us to have our angstie mid-life crises. It is ingratitude.

Even worse, it becomes an excuse to start sucking at your job. You are called to work at whatever is in front of you. “Do you see a man diligent in his business? He will stand before kings.” (Prov. 22:29). The Hebrew word for “diligent” specifically refers to hustle. Do you see a man that hustles at his work? Do you see a man who changes out your flat tire with speed and alacrity? He’s going to do well in life. Do you see a guy who serves your hamburger with a side of hustle and bustle? Put your money on him. Do you see a guy who stands around the water cooler, having a hard time getting passionate about what the boss has asked him to do? Drop kick him to the curb. Don’t even sort him for recycling.

Your vocational sweet spot is an obedient and cheerful attitude before God. Have you read the story about Joseph? Do you think he had good reason to feel like he was not working from his sweet spot during those years in slavery and in prison? How about Jacob serving Laban? Or Paul in his tent-making storefront? Could they have made a legitimate case that their time was being wasted? Maybe. But their obedience was not being wasted.

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Your Boss Owes You a Paycheck, not Fulfillment

  1. The hardest part is when you work for a Christian organization. You go with far less pay and fewer benefits for the sake on the kingdom. You’re often treated quite poorly. I’ve taught at both state and Christian universities, AND at Christian schools, both nonclassical and classical. The world can’t get away with what the church often does, for in the world, we have something called legal recourse. I’ve had some good experiences, and some bad ones. Is Christian college an oxymoron? The husband of a prof in a Christian university told me it is. Is Christian business an oxymoron? Is a Christian job even an oxymoron? The US Supreme Court ruled last year in that case about the Lutheran teacher and ADA, 9-0 against the Obama administration, that ADA doesn’t apply to church jobs. And there’s I Corinthians 6:1-7. This makes fairness impossible for religious workers. I’m not trying to discourage Christian ministry, but religious workers have a lot stacked against them.

  2. I like this article. It’s good encouragement to keep our eyes fixed on Christ while we work. Looking at Christ clears up any misconception about our job description while we are here on Earth.

    I find TheologyQueenofScience’s comments interesting. After you sited 1 Cor. I looked it up to make sure I understood your point. Nothing disheartening or “ham-stringing” about it, rather a call to the justice of Christ and not that doled out by a fallen world. Furthermore is fairness something Christians are called to – grace, kindness, justice, love – these I can find in the Bible, but I don’t know where fairness is mentioned.

    I’ve had some bad experiences with “Christian” employers and I agree that it is sad in a different way than mistreatment by the world, but I also know that my job description from Christ isn’t based on my employer’s treatment of me.

    So there you have it – a few random thoughts.

  3. This is true, and is actually a very great grace. It is grace to the worker, because you can lay down the idea that your work must fulfill you in some cosmic way. It allows you also to do your work heartily as for the Lord, even when your employer has unreasonable expectations and there is no path to success and satisfaction. It is a grace to the employer, because it frees them from having to worry about fulfilling the deep longings of their soul for satisfaction in life, and allows them for asking for the work that the task at hand requires. Great article!

  4. “And there’s I Corinthians 6:1-7. This makes fairness impossible for religious workers.”

    Fairness? All of my warning systems activate whenever the word “fair” or “fairness” is used. Please define fairness within the context of a human race that is actively hostile and in open rebellion against its Creator.

    And, to place the word “fairness” as somehow being a thing to be desired and that it is be “unfairly” denied by God speaking His Word; that just does not seem, well, “fair”.

  5. It’s a double standard. It’s about ministry and doing with less when they want to pay you poorly, it’s about professionalism and the bottom line when they’re upset with you. I could go on and on with details. I know of three headmasters being fired; two were friends of mine. The world treats people better than that. Try supporting a family under these conditions.

  6. I would like to see “That calls for confession of sin, not necessarily a hunt for a new job” extrapolated a bit. When is it necessary? Is low pay or no potential for advancement not a good reason to be dissatisfied? The future of my family is affected by my job choices. If I can make better benefits with another employer and be happier why would being dissatisfied with my current job and leaving be a sin?

    I can also sympathize with TheologyQueenofSciences. While I have not worked for such an organization, I have have worked with them. When they find out you are a believer, your morality is simply used as additional leverage against you to pressure you to comply with otherwise unreasonable demands for a regular professional relationship – not paying being a particularly common one.

  7. Unless you’re the lead dog, the scene never changes. People at the upper echelons in Christian leadership are often paid lots, have their own plane, etc. Those below? Those being paid peanuts so that the “senior pastor” can fly at will?

    Look what I got from someone else’s Facebook page: “Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship. Then it moved to Greece and became a philosophy, then it went to Rome and became an institution, and then it went to Europe and became a government. Finally it came to America where we made it an enterprise.” Richard Halverson. THAT’S what is going on here.

  8. Thanks for the explanation. One final question:
    By “be thankful” are we talking about being thankful to God for the opportunity to work and provide for my family? Or being thankful to my employer who is treating me unjustly? The first I think is a given no matter our situation but when a personal contract between individuals is not being honored by one individual, I don’t think it necessitates the thankfulness of the transgressed. The employee should still live by their principles, obviously, not slander or steal (i.e. “slack off”).

  9. In Bible school, with workers being paid $10 per week plus tuition and room and board, with us barely able to get enough to eat in the cafeteria, our pastor had a twin-engine plane. That’s one example. I’m not bitter, but I think of that post that I bootlegged from someone else’s Facebook page. Yes, religion can be an enterprise here.

  10. Establishing that being underpaid, stuck, or lied to (breach of contract) as legitimate reasons for seeking other employment is enough for me. I’m sure there are countless other examples but this clears up “That calls for confession of sin, not necessarily a hunt for a new job.” Thanks.

  11. TheoQueen,

    “In Bible school, with workers being paid $10 per week plus tuition and room and board, with us barely able to get enough to eat in the cafeteria…”

    Okay, you just made my eyes scream. Now I know that the following is subjective, but please do not make the mistake that it is me saying how great I am. The point is that if I (especially me) could do this, any schmoe can: One wife, one newborn, full time school (with no room, board or cafeteria), straight from school to work at night until 11 PM, wash, rinse, repeat. Was it tough? Absolutely. Did I sometimes feel sorry for myself? Occasionally, but mostly too tired to work up a good pity party.
    By the way, the job paid around $3 an hour, as a janitor, with no benefits (and was unrelated whatsoever to the school).

    Fast forward about 35 years after that experience I was driving to work one morning at 0:dark in a cold rainy mist in a huge metro area while 1,000 miles away from my beloved wife. I was on the verge of breaking out the hat and favors for one of the aforementioned parties when I rolled up to a stoplight. There in the glow of the gas station lights sat a double amputee in a wheelchair waiting at the bus stop with his lunch pail. All I could do was bow my head and plead to God to forgive my utter unthankfulness.

  12. My point is that American religion, like American business, puts its leaders on a financial pedestal. The pastor is now the CEO, and on and on it goes. I’ve worked for wages in four countries, so I certainly have something to compare this to. It’s getting worse now in American business, and from what I’ve read and seen, also in American evangelical Christianity. I’m not unthankful, but I’ve seen enough abuses, as a Bible student, a missionary, and both a Christian university professor and a Christian school teacher. These abuses are typically NOT due to overpaid people in Christian school, at least for the most part, but big ministries have plenty of them. I worked my way through much of my Bible school, so I know the exhaustion you mentioned.

  13. The first thing that strikes me about this post is that this topic hits a nerve in you. The second thing that strikes me is that I would never want to work for you.

    The sentiment “your boss owes you a paycheck, not fulfillment” seems like standard fare for leaders who like to abdicate responsibility. Any boss that is any good will never adopt such a sentiment. Assuming that you are in a position of power and leadership, I can’t imagine how the people who work for you, upon reading this post, will ever feel free to give you honest feedback or simply express their needs. Unless of course, they are confessing their previously “unknown sin” of not liking parts of their jobs – then I am sure you are all ears, prayers and drop kicks.

    While I agree with some of what you say, I would highly recommend you reconsider your tone. Perhaps you were trying to strike that “I speak to men like a man” tone that young pastors like to insecurely copy from the likes of Driscoll and others. If you were, allow me to give you an image consultation: you failed. You come across angry, petulant and intellectually sloppy – not funny. I sincerely hope that only fellow mature Christians, who know your personality and probably know that you are trying to be funny are the only people who read this blogpost. I am not sure how this post, written by a Christian pastor, would make anybody who isn’t a believer in Jesus want to know a little more about Him.

    I encourage you to be gentle and kind to your people, no matter how strongly you care about a subject. If you are going to blog as a follower of Jesus, please blog like a follower of Jesus.

    I would love to reread this post as written from a place of grace, gentleness and self control.

  14. A few questions…

    How do you understand vocation, calling, etc.?

    Are your comments just directed to men employed in the secular arena or to men and women in whatever work context they may find themselves?

  15. This article smacks of an ugly double standard. “Your boss doesn’t owe you fulfillment” and “there are times when your work is tedious and a drudgery. That calls for confession of sin, not necessarily a hunt for a new job” are what you’d expect to hear from a cranky boss or an employer who isn’t interested in giving their employees any more than what they have to in order to increase THEIR profits and increase THEIR fulfillment.

    The article ignores the simple concept of supply and demand. Executives are granted extended sabbaticals to “find themselves” as well as the option of working from home, more vacation, exponentially greater pay and a long list of other benefits not afforded employees in the same company who might not be in as great a demand. Workers in higher demand are some of the first to jump ship for better opportunities, usually under the guise of “expanding their horizons.” The guy who sweeps the floor for a pittance should grin and bear it and be thankful he has any job at all, or so it would seem.

    Our employer owes us everything they can muster in order to keep us and keep us happy — no more, no less. You can be one of the best draftsman on the planet, but if there are 100 draftsmen for every job, the lucky among you to be employed won’t be valued highly but will be happy to have a job! Alternatively, if those who write computer code are a rare breed, they will be enticed with all sorts of extras, the likes of which this article would tell us we shouldn’t expect. Sadly, those who do subscribe to the notion of self-sacrifice and honest hard work are rarely rewarded like their more ambitious counterparts who feel they deserve something better. I wish that weren’t the case.

    I’m not defending those who stand at the water cooler and complain, nor am I suggesting that your employer owes you a free ticket to occupational bliss. However, the idea that all employees aren’t entitled to dream of something better for themselves and their families is narrow minded and elitist. Companies will take from you ask they can and pay you as little as they must to keep you. It is up to those brave soils who dare to demand something better and either ask it from their employer or seek it elsewhere that creates the system of employment equity that anyone with a job presently enjoys.

  16. Mr. Becker,

    I must disagree regarding your assertion of entitlement. I do not believe that anyone is “entitled” to anything that is not God-given as supported by the Word of God.
    Without that qualification, (God-given, supported by the Word of God) it becomes just another human preference.

    If you think that something is right or wrong, your assertion stands or falls based upon God’s definitions.

  17. Next thing we know, you’ll be saying that members of the armed services should be content with the pittance that the military deigns to pay them. Or that it’s OK for an employer to pay some guys who worked one hour the same as he paid some other guys who worked all day. Or that it’s perfectly fine for a boss to make his employee do manual labor all day and then come serve him supper, too. Really, you tyrant, you need to be more just and fair…like Jesus. Not to mention, you jerk, that you need to be more gentle and kind…like me.

  18. Liked the post–it made me think about my grandma. She was raised without much money by her widowed mother, worked for a family for room and board so she could go to high school, and graduated in 1929. She loved to tell the stories of how she made it through the Depression by taking any opportunity she had to work and giving it her all. She’s been with the Lord nine years, but remembering her still spurs me on and I can see the influence of her example on my kids today in how they approach their work. If you didn’t grow up having someone like this in your life to show you how to be grateful for work and give it your all, find someone now to imitate. They’re out there blessing the people they work for and the people they work with every day.

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