As long as the lost are working in dead-end jobs, God will be sending his people there.
That should be encouragement – and an alarm bell – for those of us who think that God’s “callings” end in cushy white-collar jobs, or even in sweltering, malnourished foreign nations. You want to get out of your comfort zone? Some of us are far more bugged working the Taco Bell drive-thru than building houses in Mexico. At least Mexico feels like a mission. Service-sector jobs feel like a waiting room at best. Leftovers. And for those who somehow keep circling back around to the same jobs, they can start to feel ominously like destiny. Like the best it’ll ever get.
The glorious reality is that they’re an opportunity. Fertile ground for the gospel of Jesus.
Dead-end jobs are stacked with struggling souls. Some of God’s most inspired evangelists are needed in dead-end jobs. The debt-wracked, the terminally ill, the criminally marred, the addicted, the newly divorced, the ostracized…there are booming, famous preachers who couldn’t begin to understand this stuff. They make their money at a safe distance from the streets. But you’re a different story. You could reach where they couldn’t dream of reaching – and don’t really want to.
Here are four things that a Christian can do to bring the light, and please, don’t let me overstate my own success in these areas. I’m still learning.
1. Do the job well
No, that receptionist job isn’t the pinnacle of your life’s ambitions. But you signed the W-4, and the world is watching you, Christian, to see what you’re made of. Show you’re made of Jesus.
Show up a little early. Stay on top of your tasks. You’re not paid to stand around. Reject shortcuts and do things the right way, even if it’s longer or inconvenient.
Here’s a big thing: if you don’t know what to do next, ask. There’s always something else. If not, your bosses will at least know that you’re trying your best. It’ll earn respect for you, and for God.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
2. Don’t complain
I’ll warn you now: dead-end jobs bring plenty to complain about. The conditions, the coworkers, the pay. Don’t do it. Nobody likes a griper. The person who acts grateful for all things attracts others, makes them wonder what’s powering the gratitude.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:14)
Earlier in that chapter, Paul describes how Jesus was willing to ditch equality with God and embrace the sweat, dust, tears, and ultimately blood of his mission. If that’s our Savior’s example, I daresay we’ve got no call to moan about working at a car wash.
3. Stay late
Dead-end jobs might ask you to arrive early, stay late, swap shifts, or help out on the weekends. These times are frustrating. They’re also spiritual currency. Coworkers and bosses won’t forget your willingness to “bail out” the business in a crunch, especially if you make it a pattern.
A few months ago, a friend prayed a random prayer for God to have his way in his life. A coworker called and asked him to cover his shift so he could attend the birthday party of his young daughter, of whom he was desperately trying to win custody. That was Wednesday night; he was supposed to be mentoring students at church. But he picked up the extra shift instead, and the coworker was profoundly grateful. Who knows what God might do with that?
4. Be happy to see people
Nobody loves showing up at these jobs. The least everyone can do is smile. It can make an enormous difference when the heart relaxes as it pulls up to the store, rather than clenching in expectation of angry, unlikable coworkers.
By the way, this will require not judging. These jobs get everyone from wide-eyed high schoolers to folks just getting out of jail, or caught in a dark haze of drugs and squalor. Yes, it’s their fault. But Jesus isn’t consigning them to hell because of it. He longs for them to hear his Gospel, and he’s made you the carrier. That starts with showing people grace, no matter what their circumstances.
If you find this difficult, join the club. But remember that his strength is available to you. He can empower you to obey. Remember, too, that his system of reward is backwards from ours. We can’t even imagine what “lowly” assignments will reward us for, when all is said and done.
These jobs aren’t a stepping stone to some mission field down the road. They are a mission field. And the workers are few.