I have a confession, and it’s probably not much of a surprise: For the past several months, and steadily increasing in degree, I have utterly despised my job. The truth is that I’ve never cared much for my work, but the past months have made it become a beast of another kind. I could probably sit back and attribute the recent change to a number of external factors—to the future financial burden of a child, to the lack of recognition and available opportunities for advancement, etc.—but, as some wise counselors brought me to realize, my distain and dissatisfaction for my work is a far deeper issue than my outward circumstances and is really a matter of my own heart and its idolatry.
Though over these months I have come so far as to realize that the state of my heart wasn’t where it ought to be (as evidenced by my feelings around the whole thing), I never attributed it to idolatry. In fact, I assumed that idolatry was the least of my concerns since I couldn’t care less about my job (aside from the bi-weekly paycheck). In my mind, idolatry was a concern for people who loved their jobs and were consumed by them, not for indifferent masses who drag their feet going to the office every day.
I was wrong. A person can hate his false god just as easily as one can love his false god, yet it remains a false god. And if I were to have stepped back and really examined my discontentment and displeasure with my present job, idolatry is the only explanation. For if we understand idolatry not as the worship of graven objects but as what it really is at its core—the misplacement of faith, then idolatry becomes far more rampant and commonplace than we’re comfortable to admit. Even the things we hate are capable of becoming gods to us.
Idolatry happens, biblically speaking, when we place faith in something other than God. When it comes to work, it often shows itself when a person believes that he finds his identity, respect, happiness, or financial security in it. In other words, idolatry comes about when a person believes that his occupation will accomplish something that only God can accomplish. On the other side, idolatry still manifests itself, but only in the converse. A person (such as myself) becomes angry with his job, because it doesn’t provide him with identity, respect, happiness, or financial security—things that he should seek in God alone but rather seeks (sometimes unwittingly) it in his job. Both sides, as one of my counselors wisely remarked, expect more out of a job than it is designed and able to give.
For me, it was a shameful realization. To understand that—after all the ways that God has provided for me and my family over the years, how we have never wanted for anything and were always given the means to deal with problems that seemed insurmountable to us at the time—that after all of that, I still placed my faith in a human institution rather than in God, and, even worse, in an institution that I don’t presently care much for.
Where I go from here, I’m not sure. Still looming (Lord willing) in the near future is the cost of a child and of a wife that would prefer to stay at home, and I’m sure the anxiety around such things won’t magically disappear because I’ve come to know my problem. All I do know is that I must do what I did at the first—repent and believe—and trust that God is willing and able to provide as he always has.