What Do You Do For a Living?
All pastors have had a “first year,” and some of the lessons and experiences in that first year will likely make up the initial core snowball that will eventually roll into a large circular mound of snow 25 years later. One lesson or somewhat common experience I’ve had in this first year is based on something we all go through— it’s part and parcel of most introductions, a question we’ve all either asked or answered.
We’re asked by someone, perhaps a new barber or personal trainer, or simply when a mutual friend introduces you to someone else: “So what do you do for a living?” It’s a question I’m still practicing how to answer because, after enough times, I’ve realized that saying you’re a pastor has a range of implications, and it’s easy to see just by their facial expressions what might be going through their head. Answering that question with too much high-spiritedness, others may think I’m some strange cult leader. In fact, I once met a waitress whose entire demeanor changed when she asked, and I answered, her question about my occupation. It wasn’t until she found out I was a pastor at St. Paul that the tension in the air let up, and she exclaimed that she had written me off as a judgmental, Bible-beating person. I was at least thankful for her honesty.
We all ask this question to people somehow because it helps us identify someone. We can retrieve much information about someone by how they answer this question. If we’re not careful and generally not, we can easily judge that person- character, personality, or even identity judgments.
When our work or professions become our identities, or when we come to conclusions about the character, quality, and makeup of another based on how they make a living, we’re slipping into a way of thinking and perceiving that has forgotten about Jesus and the baptismal identities we share with him and one another. Beyond the jobs we could land or the careers we could pursue, we’re humans created through love by our creator God, whom we know fully through the person of Jesus, who was baptized and marked by God as beloved, as were we.
So if your friend introduces you to someone new and they happen to be a pastor, janitor, doctor, or bank-teller, pinch yourself, cross your fingers, and do something to remind yourself that this isn’t just a doctor or a janitor, God created this person through love, with purpose, meaning, and value. You may be surprised by how this attitude opens you up to discover anew all sorts of people that in the past you perhaps would’ve judged and shoved into a box or framework that pinned them down before they even had a chance to say, “so, what do YOU do for a living?”
I invite you to reflect and dwell in the Matthew text listed below today, as it is a fresh reminder for us all about judgment- a mental activity that we easily and compulsively engage in and that this time of Lent asks us to face and reconsider.
Matthew 7: 1-2: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”
-Max Franks, pastor in residency
3 Comments on “What Do You Do For a Living?”
I am thinking about your message and how often we judge people by first impressions without knowing anything about them, their career, personal appearances we need to step back and look at them before we know them as a person
Thanks Pastor Max. Such a timely and important message this time of year. Good food for thought.
Thank you, Max, for a very thoughtful article. And so much needed.