Did you know, according to the Bureau of Statistics, in 2020, there were more than 123 million full-time employees in the United States? According to ABC, 80% of Americans dislike their job. That is approximately 98.4 million workers. The same study reported 16% of all American workers say they hate their jobs. That is approximately 19.7 million workers. That explains why the American dream is winning the lottery, so they can quit their jobs. Mavis Wanczyk is living the American dream. Several years ago, she won the $758.8 million Powerball. She announced to the world at her press conference, she was going to quit her job. She had worked at her local hospital for 32 years. If you won the lottery, would you quit your job?
This is the question: Do you know someone who hates their job? You must know someone. Eighty percent of Americans are not thrilled with their jobs. According to a website called Salary.com, here are the signs of someone who hates their job:
1. They have a bad attitude toward work
2. They are only motivated by money
3. They dream of quitting their jobs
4. They only do what is required at work
5. They feel overworked and underappreciated at work
6. They lack any commitment to their employer
7. They lack fulfillment at work
8. They hope their children take another career path
9. They take no pride in their work
10. They are bored and unchallenged
I feel bad for people who hate their job. Something in their lives has gone horribly wrong. Today’s scripture lesson reminds us that our jobs are not a curse. Through the eyes of God, our jobs are a blessing. That takes us to our scripture lesson.
We find ourselves today in the Old Testament. To be more exact, we find ourselves in the book of Ecclesiastes. This piece of literature is found with the other pieces of Biblical wisdom literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs. Tradition tells us, Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible. He lived about 950 years before the birth of Christ. Ecclesiastes can be broken down into seven distinct sections. Our reading, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, comes from the fourth section. Solomon wants to remind us, that life, itself, is a gift from God. The secret to enjoying life is keeping your eyes fixed on God. It is even true in the workplace. A life that is blind to God is lived out of balance and unhappy. That is a great piece of wisdom we often forget. God knows what we often forget: work is more than a way to pay your bills. My mother, Ruth Adams (1921-2002), quoted the old phrase regularly, “Have a job you like and never work a day in your life.” That is what I did. I have told my children the same thing.
Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that all the Biblical characters had an occupation? Did you know there are 5433 different occupations found in the Bible? There were builders, embroiders, weavers, stonemasons, tanners, blacksmiths, merchants, soldiers, fishermen, musicians, priests, shepherds, farmers, and doctors, just to name a few. There were even lawyers. Each one of those occupations was not seen as a curse. Each one was a blessing. Each was of those job was meeting a human need. Every legal job in our society is meeting a human need. Can I ask you a question? Do you see your job as a blessing or a curse?
Years ago, I was called by a local funeral home. The man who died was unchurched. As is my custom, I went to the funeral home the night before the service to meet the family. Everyone in the family was nice to me. The deceased’s brother took the lead. He began to tell me his brother’s story. He told me about their parents and their childhood home. He told me about his brother’s education and his job. He told me about his priorities and his hobbies. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody. He told me everything, except what he had done in retirement. He had been retired over twenty-five years. He did not say a word about his brother’s retirement years, so I asked, “What did your brother do in retirement?” The man’s expression completely changed. He said, “Well, on the first day of retirement, he slept in, turned on the television and opened a can of beer. That summarized his retirement. He did that every day for the rest of his life. We did not see him much and no one cared.” According to the deceased man’s brother, his brother’s retirement was a curse. On the day he retired, he not only lost his job. He lost his purpose. According to God, work should be viewed as blessing.
Consider these four things with me:
- Your job keeps you busy and challenges you to do more. Your job keeps you relevant. How long can you sit there and do nothing? Life is short. Do something positive!
- Your job gives you a sense of pride and identity. It is hard to be proud of yourself when you are doing nothing. It is hard for your loved ones to be proud of you when you have done nothing. Are you proud of yourself? Are your loved ones proud of you?
- Your job improves your social life. How many friends have you made at work? Working from home was a challenge to many because they felt isolated.
4. Your job provides for your family. How many bills could you pay if you had no income? How would your life change if you had no income? Let me ask you the question one more time: Do you see your job as a blessing or a curse?
Over the years, the constant question people have asked me has changed. When I was younger, people asked me, “When are you going to move?” In the world of United Methodism, you are encouraged to move, and you are discouraged to stay in one place too long. You are blackballed if you refuse to move. I did not care. Those words fell on my deaf ears. Someone told me once I had committed professional suicide by staying here so long. That was fine with me because I have never considered the ministry a career. It is a calling. I stay here still for one reason. I am not always sure why, but God wants me to be here. The question used to be, when are you going to move? The question has changed. This is my new constant question:
When are you going to retire? It is a good question. It is a fair question. I have asked myself that question. Earlier this summer, I celebrated my thirty-fourth year in the United Methodist pension program. I cannot believe how fast time has gone. I will be honest with you. I do think about it. I’ll give you three reasons why. First, I have the years in to retire and I have saved a few dollars along the way. I have not saved that money to not spend it. Second, I am sixty-four years old, and I am starting to feel like a dinosaur. I am having a hard time relating to my colleagues and church work has changed. It is not getting easier, and I have less patience. Third, my sister’s death, the death of a good friend and my personal health has changed the way I look at my life. Talking about cancer daily has changed the way I look at my life. I wonder when it will be my turn. Life is short and someday I would like a real weekend. I would like a real Saturday night, when I don’t have to go to bed early so, I am rested for Sunday morning.
Several years ago, I went to one of those retirement workshops. I went not because I am going to retire, but I went to learn about my pension. I want to make a wise choice when the time comes. There was a moment in the workshop when I had the opportunity to sit one-on-one with the presenter. She was a woman I did not know well, but I respected her work. She is the one who gave me the best advice so far. She drew near to me and asked me three questions. She asked, “Russ, do you consider yourself healthy?” At the time I said, “Yes!” I am thankful to say, I feel healthy again. Second, she asked, “Do you consider your wife healthy? I said, “Yes!” Finally, she asked me, “Do you enjoy your job?” I said, “Yes!” I have always enjoyed my job. Then, she said, “Russ, why would you retire? When one of those three things changes, retire. On the day your health grows bad, retire. On the day your wife’s health grows bad, retire. On the day your job stops being rewarding and starts being frustrating, retire. If you are healthy, your wife is healthy and your job is rewarding, keep working. Retirement leaves you a lot of empty days to fill. Retirement is not about what you get, it is about what you are giving up.” Her words changed the way I look at my job. Did you know our understanding of retirement is not found in the Bible? I left that workshop seeing my job differently. I left feeling blessed because I had a job. And if you have a job you enjoy, you are blessed too.
The time has come to stop looking at our jobs as a curse and start looking at our jobs as a blessing. Do you remember the quote from the opening words? Without labor nothing prospers.