Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate

Tim Keller Interview by Andy Crouch

What do you have to say to people who just feel like, “Well, I’m kind of stuck in this job and there’s not a lot I can do to change the circumstances of my job right now”? (AC)

I would say the Lutheran stream and the evangelical stream [are helpful].

The evangelical stream puts the emphasis on the heart: How do you deal with frustrations? How do you deal with co-workers whom you want to strangle? How do you deal with the fact that nobody seems to see the good work you’re doing?

That gets into Ephesians 6—God sees. It’s pietistic, but in the best sense of the word. You’re Brother Lawrence, you’re practicing the presence of God. He cares whether I do a good job today. He’s watching me.

The Lutheran stream says that everyone on the earth is being fed by God. The simplest farm girl milking the cow, the truck driver bringing the milk, the grocer selling it are doing God’s work—which means there’s no such thing as menial labor, as long as the job is actually helping somebody. (TK)

One thing emerging adults say sometimes is a further step from what we’re talking about: “I hate my job. It’s not just like I don’t have a lot of power—I really can’t stand what I have to do every day.” How would you pastor someone in that situation?

I hear that a lot.

What I usually say is, you have to learn the ropes of your profession. I say, “Look, you need to spend some time earning your spurs, getting some street cred, getting to know the relationships. Otherwise you’re not going to be able to function in this field in a way that you think is more values driven.” You basically pay your dues as long as you’re not being asked to violate your conscience. If you’re doing a lot of stuff that’s just useless, it’s only useless in the short term because in the long term you might be getting skills with which you might help people. You can go to a better company or start your own, but for a period of time, if you get too squeamish about doing useless stuff, you may never get good in your field at all. You’ll never be salt and light in it later.

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