Recently I started working as an intern in the tax department at an accounting firm. I am finding a rhythm to the work and my days are beginning to develop a pattern. Certainly, each day brings new work and different challenges, as well as different rewards. As I look ahead to sixty and even seventy hour weeks of preparing business tax returns between now and April 15th, I wonder what it would be like to make this into a career. There is a copious amount of time spent working on a computer at a desk, and while I enjoy the work so far, preparing taxes doesn’t sound terribly exciting or noble.
All across the world there are people working day in and day out in positions that demand long hours of performing tedious tasks. Some people are gifted with the opportunity to work a job doing something that they love, but many individuals have spent their entire lives working hard to accomplish something they didn’t particularly enjoy, alongside people they didn’t particularly like. Days of frustration turn into weeks of exhaustion that in turn become years of monotony.
It is yet to be seen whether or not I make tax accounting into a lifetime pursuit, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I think I could enjoy doing what I have been over the last few weeks far into the future. There is always the chance, though, that I will find whatever I do tedious or draining as the years go by. I would not be the first, and I would certainly not be the last. Knowing that whatever field I place myself in now could feel like torture a decade or two from now, how can I decide what I want to do with my life? How can anyone?
It is a constant struggle for all of us trying to find our way in this fallen and sinful world to be content and at peace with the decisions we make and the lot we’ve been handed in life. Even those of us who can count ourselves very blessed grow worn and wearied by the routine obligations and responsibilities we face from one day to the next. Work is not the only thing that wears us down. Our relationships with family and friends, the state of the world around us, and looming unknown challenges far into the future all add stress to our lives.
More than one man over the centuries has felt trapped by the life he chose or the life chosen for him by others. More than one woman has felt smothered and unable to pursue her dreams. The phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side” has lasted through the years, because it hits home for many people. Even when we can hardly count the many blessings in our lives, the temptation to experience something new, something different, and something better pulls at all of our hearts.
For those who live hand-to-mouth and paycheck-to-paycheck, the glamorous lives of celebrities displayed on TV screens and across Facebook newsfeeds must seem free and exciting. The people working night shifts in factories across the country must wonder how their lives would be different if they had attained an education in medicine or law, while the doctors and lawyers working twelve hour days week after week must wish they had just a bit more time with their families at home.
It is not easy being content with the hands we have each been dealt or the choices we have made. You and I may be happy sometimes, or even most of the time, but there are always those days where we wonder “What if?” The question is then, how do find peace and contentment?
The answer is, as always, found in Christ. As we struggle to find our place in the world, I encourage you to look to the following verses from 1 Corinthians 12:
“ For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)1
It is easy to idolize the lives of those around us who appear to have it much easier than we do or whose blessings seem more bountiful, but we are not all called to be ears and hands. Every man and woman, in their own turn, has been given strengths and weaknesses that make them unique, but all the faithful belong to one body. From the plumber to the doctor, the factory worker to the lawyer, and the tax accountant to the pastor, we have all been called serve our neighbor in different ways as members of the united Body of Christ’s Church.
When we struggle with questions of where we should go with our lives and how we can find our true selves, our first instinct should not be to turn inward as a means of examining our interests and desires. Instead, we should look toward the community as a whole to which we belong. “And if one member suffers, all members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it.”2 We have (or have had) parents, and many of us have children, siblings, friends, or neighbors who directly benefit from our day to day sacrifices and the monotonous routines we undertake year in and year out. A plumber’s job is a dirty one that does not seem particularly envious or prestigious, but the families who receive hot water and flushing toilets, thanks to the plumber’s efforts, know full well how important and honorable his work truly is.
We each live our lives with distinct challenges and different talents, but we are called to serve one another with those differences. Even in the most undesirable positions, the laying down of one’s life for the sake of another is considered beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. As Christians, we should not seek fame and glory for ourselves, but for the weak, the weary, and the heavy laden. For the glory and majesty of Christ who died for us on the cross covers them as well. We need no greater reward than that, and the grace of the Savior is what frees us from the need to pursue our own fame in order to serve hose around us.
As a tax accountant, there are people that I have never met, but whom I serve daily by (legally) saving them money on their taxes, while simultaneously helping them make sure they perform their civic duty of paying (or at least filing) taxes each year. The money they save can be used to help pay employees and owners, who in turn will likely provide for their own families and other people within their community. On every end of the economic spectrum there are jobs that positively change the lives of other people, and that is a good thing for which we should all be thankful, even as we strive to be optimistic and motivated in our daily trials.
Those of us who have benefited from college educations, and/or have managed to receive well-paying jobs in fields that we love, are called not to sing our own praises from the rooftops. Instead, we are given a unique opportunity to support and lift up those whose opportunities are fewer and whose burdens are greater than our own. “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-24) It is those members of our community who go unseen and unthanked who are truly deserving of honor, and it is actually our privilege to raise them up on our shoulders.
As you go about your routine and seek to find peace with the place you are given, remember that in faithfully fulfilling your vocations as workers, children, parents, and friends you are functioning as a member of the body of Christ who will be honored on the last day when you are welcomed into the heavenly host of saints.