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Does God care about my job or where I work?

January 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Anonymous, Discernment

Q: Dear Father Edward, I am confused. The questioner in your post on discernment wrote, “I know God is not in the employment business, nor is he that concerned with how we make a living. His concern is for our soul.” Could you respond to this statement? If this is true, then it certainly seems as though it doesn’t matter the type of job that this person gets, and that there is no need to look for a job that “could be integrated into [his or her] spiritual life” because God is NOT leading this person to a job that is just right for him or her. In this case, it seems that God will just use the particular job that he or she finds to work out the person’s salvation. Is this true?

A: Thanks for your question and the opportunity to return to this theme. As mentioned previously, God is concerned about the type of job a person has insofar as it respects the dignity of the human being. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church refers to the objective sense and subjective sense of work. The latter represents the stable dimension of work; it doesn’t depend on “what people produce or on the type of activity they undertake, but only and exclusively on their dignity as human beings” (No. 271). Work also has a social dimension. John Paul II in his encyclical Centesimus Annus observed that “work is work with others and work for others.” We help to build society through dignified work which has a moral dimension.

Let’s put it another way. To say that God isn’t “concerned with how we make a living, his concern is for our soul” would be to pose a kind of artificial opposition. Work is more than just about “how we make a living.” We could make money by selling drugs or performing abortions, but these would be offensive to human dignity — ours as well as others’. In fact, the type of work we engage in can greatly impact our salvation. For instance, let’s say we work in banking and finance. The job starts out productive and useful to society, but over time the work slips into activities of dubious value: pure financial speculation which profits from the misfortunes of others, or high-pressure lending practices that lure people into living beyond their financial means. Or we might work in marketing and find that a retail client is getting heavily involved in objectionable items such as immodest clothing. At what point is that job no longer building the community in a healthy way? This is not an easy question to answer. Each person has to take it to prayer and examine his conscience.

This concern prompted the recommendation that a jobseeker be alert to integrating a work position into his spiritual life. This is not to say that everyone should be looking to work for a monastery. It does mean, however, that a person should weigh how a potential job would impact his spiritual and family life. A job that genuinely helps the community — law enforcement, for instance — might nevertheless impose undue stress on an individual or a family. In such a case, the person might wisely look elsewhere for employment. Or take the case of a marketer. A spiritually minded person would rightly lean toward working for a firm that sells, say, modest clothing rather than a company with a reputation for peddling risqué apparel. These considerations are important because the sincere Christian does not want to become part of organizations that harms the common good. Of course, it is not easy to find companies whose products or services are 100% in line with the Gospel. The world is imperfect, but that is precisely why we have to evangelize it. A conscientious person looks for ways to influence the workplace so that the employer pursues ventures that truly respect human dignity and build up society. That’s a tall order, certainly, but God will bless those efforts. He is interested in how people “make a living” precisely because he is interested in their eternal salvation. Think of it as working out our salvation … with divine grace.

Yours in Christ, Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Father McIlmail is a theology instructor at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, RI.

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  • bluewren

    Well then is it legitimate to pray to God to find the best job?

    • Anonymous

      Always – whenever necessary – whenever you desire.

  • suzi

    Wonderful post Father, Thank you. We need to pray about every aspect of our life. I try to make sure that my earthly life fits around my spiritual life, and not the other way around. Jesus comes 1st no matter what. This way we will always find the right job, right friends and do the right things. God Bless Everyone. I wish you all Heaven.

  • faithful

    I was the commenter who said I know God is not in the employment business, nor is he that concerned with how we make our living; he is concerned with our soul. My statement was poor
    form of communicating the idea I wanted to put forth. You Father Edward did show me my error.
    (in spirit, I think what I wanted to say and how you
    put it forth are the same)

    When I said God is not in the employment business; of course I was trying to say God is
    most concerned with our eternal salvation.

    You are correct, I wrong; when I stated He isn’t concerned with how we make our living. Of course, as you explained; God who guides us would not guide us to occupations that would be detrimental
    to our soul and spirit OR to the spirit of society
    in general. I think what I wanted to say when I
    said he’s not concerned with how we make our
    living was that if God wanted us to see our
    potential to be a nurse or doctor and we of our
    own mind chose to sell automobiles; or work
    as a stock boy in a supermarket – God would
    allow us to make our living in that way; it
    would not necessarily be wrong. We might have missed God’s call; but God would still be ‘ok’ with
    our choice as long as we worked honestly. I
    think this is what you explained with the objective
    subjective commentary in beginning. Though GOD
    would have wanted us to use skills He provided to
    heal others, if we use those healing skills in another
    type of working we are to some degree using the
    God skills of healing. ie: ability to listen to another’s concerns, comforting them in thier worries …even while just stocking shelves, if
    by working as stock boy; one has more time to
    work on relationships with friends and family and
    help them when they are ill; God doesn’t mind we
    chose stock shelves over actually being ‘a doctor’

    We can use God’s gift of healing presence; no
    matter what occuation we chose.

    I think I understand and I apologize for saying
    it in a rather confusing way. It made a lot of
    assumptions that the reader knew where I was
    coming from and what I meant.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Friend – no need to apologize. The goal of all of this dialogue is for all of us to learn from one another, sharpen one another, and grow to better love and serve Him and each other.

  • Rebecca

    My concern with working comes with how much money do I really need to live the life God wants me to live. I could continue to work as I am, buying what I want, having extra spending money, etc. Or, if I adjusted my spending, had a garden, delayed purchases, I could take a lower paying job, but perhaps less stressful and more in-line with how I believe God wants me to be.

    • faithful

      Agree Rebecca, it’s always a concern of not working ‘just for the money’ but because of a sincere interest in ‘the job to be done.’ How many have that way of thought? I think I found awhile ago, the scriptural verse to your sentiment and mine in Paul’s words in Phillipians chap. 4 v 11 – 13
      I have learned in whatever situation I find myself, to be self sufficient. I know how to live in humble circumstances and how to live in abundance.
      I learned the secret of being well fed and of being hungry, living in abundance and being in need…I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.

      I think that is what you wrote…God shows us ‘what he wants of us’
      if More is given; more is required; ie: he won’t send those responsibilities of ‘stress’ if we can’t handle it. (God doesn’t want us to fail) He never gives us a heavier cross than we can handle. If God wants you to have more time for other service ‘for him’ and ‘his others’ …He’ll lead appropriately and you will be just as happy as that big corporate worker. God knows what needs to be done, and sends out the laborers into the harvest, as He sees best.

    • joan

      There is a book entitled “How Much Is Enough” by Arthur Simon that explores “hungering for God in an affluent culture”. It helps sort out issues contemplated here –especially one’s level of affluence and its requisite status (or lack of), what do you really NEED, etc. For people looking to sort out these things in their lives, you may look into a parish-based program called JustFaith, which is an intensive study of Catholic Social Teaching. It provided me with skills, knowledge and support to bring my family’s lifestyle to a place where it better reflects our spiritual lives, so we can really feel like we are living Christian lives everywhere we go…not compartmentalizing our faith because we don’t know how to live it. It is a good way to explore things before making big changes and if you want to make the changes, you will have a better idea as to how…for instance we did start gardening and composting because of that program which supplied so much information that it was simple to make that adjustment. We changed many other things too and do a great deal more outreach work in the community.

  • Stiofan de Burca

    Working in the Public Service may present moral dilemmas eg implementing National and EU legislation that runs counter to Christian principles – conscientious objection is not, but should be accomodated in such employment contracts.

  • Janine

    Then I have a question sort of related to this post. Am I breaking the 3rd commandment if my employer schedules me to work on Sunday? The hours I work do not prevent me from attending mass, but is it ‘ unnecessary servile work’ ?

  • Anonymous

    I think God cares very much about our vocations and/or careers.

    When I graduated from high school (1977) all I wanted to do was get married and have a family. Due to the vast changes that were taking place and all the women’s rights and women’s lib propoganda that was being thrown at us through all forms of media I began thinking that ‘just being a mom’ wasn’t enough.

    Remember the commercials where the woman in a business suit sings in a sexy voice, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man!!”?

    Between this and all the psychologist and other ‘expert’ advice saying homemakers suffered greatly by not having more intellectual conversations than with a 3-year old……..I got a ‘real’ job.

    After 25 years in the workforce I received the ‘grace’ of having a mid-life crisis……….now I see it as the beginning of my conversion, and one of the best things that ever happened to me…………I had blocked out the voice of my heart, telling me to be a stay at home mom, and had to deal with the consequences of that……….now I am a home maker…….I’m broke……..and I honestly don’t know how we make it from paycheck to paycheck sometimes, (lots of grace), BUT I am happier than at any other time in my life!!!

    This is one reason I am so grateful for this site……..It gives us a place to find the truth of what the Church teaches so that we can apply it to our whole lives….. this is SO important, and yet it is often difficult to find the truth.

    I was being asked to ignore things I felt were unethical………..yet I couldn’t see how we could survive without my income……….I was stuck and was getting more miserable as time went on…….thanks be to God who has a plan to un-stick all of us who need the help!!

    • faithful

      I understand Becky; I graduated high school in ’76, though I can’t say I felt a call to marriage I did feel called to work in the art field in some way (commercial art) To one degree or another I did do such. Desktop Publishing was both a help and
      difficulty…I know the artist must be ‘technically
      proficient as well’ But, I knew ‘art’ was my ‘call’
      81/2 years old I wrote a composition, I want to be a artist. I guess that’s a pretty good clue it was a call. I knew also I was ‘vocational’ ‘work with the hands’ and I just didn’t feel a call to college. I chose art school; and for our day; it was fine…
      labor of hands was needed and I took direction well. I can’t say I earned a lot; but like you knowing you are happiest ‘at home’ even if the money is no longer so great; I didn’t quite care if my salary wasn’t ‘so great’ … it was in the doing that my happiness came. I didn’t want to rise thru the ranks per se; just keep learning and perfecting the abilities God gave me. I did ‘rise’ … I rose by slowly taking jobs with more challenging work to them.
      I was promoting myself (ie: rising In Him who leads)

      I never thought much about women’s lib, and I really don’t care for ‘the group.’ I just knew my
      call was working with the hands, continue to learn, and grow spiritually, and yes; make ‘a living’ …
      I followed ‘my heart’ as you followed yours.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Janine – Fr. John has a two part series on Sunday rest etc starting on Monday. I believe your questions will be answered in this series…

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your response Father; I was the person who asked for clarification. I too could have clarified a bit more in that follow-up question: I was wondering if our choice of work was a vocation or not. From reading the comments below I’d have to say that I had always felt like the readers who feel that their choice of work (in the home, outside of the home) was a matter of leading/calling or vocation. As “God is concerned about the type of job a person has insofar as it respects the dignity of the human being,” I gather from your response that we are to use our interests, skills, education, and talents in a manner that is consistent with our moral conscience, but that God is not necessarily interested in a specific choice of profession for each one of us.

    For me, this throws the entire concept of vocation into a new light, and leads to my next question: how concerned is God with our particular state of life? My guess, to use the language quoted above, is that “God is concerned about a person’s state of life insofar as the choice will lead to their eternal salvation.” In other words, it seems that vocation may be less a calling than a nudge by God to go in the direction that will lead to a person’s sanctification.

    • faithful

      I had to think hard about your words, but by state of life you mean
      religious vocation, married life, or single life. If I hear you, you don’t think there is a ‘call’ to priestly ministerial service; but simply a nudge to serve God and God’s people, or nudge to remain single, or nudge for marriage life. I don’t think I understand; you think one’s state of life is mostly ‘man’s’ idea with God just nudging the idea along? If that’s what you mean, it doesn’t seem consistent with: “without God, man can do nothing”

      One couldn’t live out one’s state of life unless God had placed such a ‘call’ within man’s nature. Man can’t decide anything of thier own mind for it’s own good; since man is inclined to ‘self’ serving…and if it’s a self serving vocational state … God wouldn’t be there even to nudge.

  • Anonymous

    By “calling” I meant a predetermined vocation that we must “discover” by discerning the will of God. From Father’s response it doesn’t seem to me that God calls us to a specific type of job (e.g., doctor, homemaker, electrician). According to my logic it follows that neither does he determine the specific state of life (married, single, clergy) for each and every individual. It seems to me that he nudges or leads us to figure out what state of life would make us happiest and would lead to our greater sanctification, though we are free to choose whether to go in that direction because we have free will.

    Certainly there are many who have felt called to the priesthood or to religious life who were not accepted by the Bishop or by their chosen communities. And there are priests and religious who do not remain in their former lives. What of them? Was it just a mistake in discernment and they were never “called” in the first place? Does the road to sanctification end because their state of life changes (probably again, after lengthy discernment)?

    • faithful

      Deep question. I think ‘nudge’ and ‘call’ are the matters of intense discerning. If it’s an an authentic God call; to priestly vocation, marriage, or single life – everything almost falls right into the lap. The seminary admissions director one is led to, the words of a parish priest you speak to about it. Same with marriage, if called to marriage, you don’t need an
      online date service; or external help – God practically puts spouse to be
      right there in front of you and ‘click’ it’s done. Single life call; you will
      no doubt be given such other interests that single life just happens. To my opinion ‘a call’ is out of our hands; it just will happen. A ‘nudge’ seems to my mind to be more about ‘feelings’ and I think ‘feelings’ are a human
      thing. Feelings are based on circumstances, emotions, the situation one
      finds oneself evokes feelings. If in a restaurant with a tantilizing scent of
      meatballs and sauce, one is ‘nudged’ to ordering pasta. It wasn’t a God
      call to order pasta.

      So true with religious, married, single – if one likes the external surroundings of a quiet church and the peace when there alone; those feelings ‘of self’ might ‘nudge’ one to think they have such vocational
      calling; but FEELINGS fade; and one needs to ‘see beyond them’ to
      the whole scene. The work of priest, endless counseling, doing funerals,
      marriages, saying Mass every day, visiting the sick and lonely and
      staying in composure (faith shown) Can that be handled? then God
      has called. Same with marriage; one is nudged because of passion
      of a beautiful woman; or nice guy. feelings of happiness when dating
      are nice; and nudges one to think yea yea…give me this forever…
      BUT can those feelings of happy stay when the beloved is grouchy,
      beloved has nothing to give back (can’t work and contribute dollars)
      can one support new life that will come by marriage? If the answer is
      yes, good or bad…I want to marry this one; it’s out of one’s hand’s
      GOD called one to such. And single, some initially like the idea of
      being only responsible for self. Freedom is the nudge. But single life can be lonely if it’s just a nudge for self seeking reason and not as God called one to live. If it’s a God call, one is generally content as one is, and uses the time not for ‘just self’ but to be available when needed by any in one’s life. God’s call to this type. That’s as I see the diff between call and nudge.
      Nudges are ‘our feelings’ / an authentic God call is acceptance of and PEACE no matter the difficulties of such life. (whatever the life)

      God’s call as to occupation, as Father indicated, and I think I understand; is that our jobs must be in line with ‘the will of God’ in that what we do
      best utilizes the gifts God gave to us for the betterment of mankind and of our own soul’s growth. It’s not God’s call to sell pornography. It would be our own. If God called one to be an artist (as my case) He might lead me to ‘working with the hands’ and ‘creating’ in some way. The ‘gifts’ of being
      artist would be put to use and the occupational endeavor would be successful. If as an artist call, I tried working as a bookkeeper keeping track of bills and invoices all the day long, I’d probably be fired from every job. If someone has call to be nurse; because of gifts of a tender heart
      and listening ear; and winds up working as a secretary in a school…
      that would be using ‘the call’ to care and listen sometimes ‘fixing up’ the one’s who need a bit of encourament.

      That’s my take. I’m open to rebuke if I’m off base.

    • Anonymous

      Father, would you be willing to give us your thoughts on this?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EC5JLQOS73ZQ3L4FUNBYKW455A Juan Oskar

    I pray daily for my wife, our parents, kids, friends, etc. that our Lord blesses them…Keeps them from any harm, and illness.  But everyone I pray for has a job and income and the basics…Food, water, clothes, & a roof over their head. My questions is, in America, are we praying for our egos? Do we deserve to pray for more specifics (moving up, more money, more vacation, bigger home, bigger pensions,) when there are so many suffering people praying in the world and God doesn’t seem to be answering?  My life is good…Should I pray for more? I’m just wondrin’.  Peace amigos….JO

  • Anonymous

    I think we should give more and that we should pray that those with the great wealth we enjoy have generous hearts towards those who have very little. Wealth is only unhealthy if we keep it instead of giving it away and using it to build the Kingdom of God.

  • neil

    Father Edward,
    I appreciate your thoughts on work that is acceptables to God. I’m 43 and a 2010 catholic convert. I am married with three small children. I worked for a sales firm making well over 100K per year. The company was corrupt in its practices, which had become apparent to me after being there around 6 years. I had a “spiritual awakening” which eventually led me to the catholic church. I began to realize shortly into RCIA that I had a big decision to make with respect to my job and my walk with Christ. It was the most agonizing decision I’ve ever made, but I resigned from my job two weeks prior to my confirmation. I had no idea of the econonomic turmoil our country would be facing which was right around the corner. I had been putting together a business throughout my time in RCIA, although it felt extremely ill planned. I have since gone through my retirement and life savings to keep my family afloat. I’m still waiting on God to pull us through this and establish me in work that is pleasing to Him. At this point, it all seems impossible and the business isn’t even off the ground yet. I know we are suppossed to wait eagerly and patiently for God and His Providence, and my faith has been tested to the brink. I also understand that anyone who chooses to serve Christ will experience trial and tribulation, which reassures me to some extent. Any advice that you could offer would be greatly appreciated. God bless.
    Neil

    • Anonymous

      I’m not Fr. Edward, but wanted to say, GOOD JOB!! for leaving your corrupt employer.  I’ve been through similar trials…….didn’t think we could manage without my income……..and God had no choice but to make me ill enough to quit.  That was six years ago…..I’ve gone through my retirement as well, and I still wonder how we manage….but we do.  It’s all God’s grace.

      Trust in Him…..and pray for Him to show you, and for the ability to discern, what work He has waiting for you.

      Blessings!

      • neil

        Thanks Becky. I can’t wait to be out the other side of this. I’m working on discernment, reading Ignatius of Loyola mainly. I’m definately starting to see where the enemy’s hand has been throughout this. However, as a father, it’s difficult to accept that I’m not able to provide for my children. After 18 months of this, I’m a bit beat down, and just ready to feel like I’m in motion serving God in some way while providing for my family and those around me. All of my former friends have left. They all think I’m crazy. My only brother is out as well. He thinks I’ve lost my mind and ruined my children’s lives. The irony is, as difficult as this situation has been, my mind has never been this lucid.
        God Bless,
        neil

        • Anonymous

          The paradox of the cross! 

          I can relate to the loss of family & friends as well.  If you’re interested, the faith formation program I’ve worked through might be a good thing for you……..it provides me with others to talk with who have been there…..and using the teaching of St.s Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and others of this caliber, teaches us to discern according to how God is working with us personally.  You can find some info here: http://www.disciplesofjesusandmary.org/whatIsDjm.html

          I’ll keep you in prayer.

          • neil

            Thanks Becky. Just having someone confirm me and not say, “what in the world were you thingking?”, is quite a relief in and of itself. I’ve completed every novena known, daily rosary, frequent Communion, and even an hour in the early hours of 4th and 5th Saturday mornings before the Blessed Sacrement just me and Him for over a year now. I’m exhausted. I need an Easter Sunday soon.

          • MJC

            Neil, I will keep you in my prayers. All will be well! God doesn’t abandon His faithful.
            I left Corporate too and had no idea what/where/how I was going to serve God. In my prayers, I was deeply honest realising that I had no idea. I just begged Our Lord to help me do His will.