Our jobs are so important to us in the United States. When our unemployment rate hit 10% in recent days, by watching the news one would think that it was the Apocalypse, that the lazy ones were being judged and the hard workers blessed into the heavenly bosom of a regular paycheck. Politicians screamed “this hurts jobs!” at anything against their agenda (from both parties), and when we feel as if our job is on the rocks, we spiral into unknown territory and terror.
How misguided. Yet, I understand this too well. My partner was unemployed post-college for a time, and we found that quite trying. I have been afraid of losing my job recently, and I understand the stress of an impending restructuring. I have experienced great stresses in both of these cases, and I never even lost my job. I didn’t have tiny mouths to feed; I didn’t fall from the top. If I fell, I wouldn’t fall far. I cannot imagine how that would feel.
Jobs are a false idol in our society. Our government worships the almighty job. Don’t get me wrong–jobs are great. They allow us to make a living. However, when our job becomes our identity and our purpose with our short lives on Earth, we are in trouble. Some of us fear losing our jobs more than losing ourselves. So many Americans would sell our souls to have good ones, to feel important. Without a job, many of us feel like nothing, like no one, and that life is not worth living. We equate jobs and types of jobs with success. How unfortunate.
Let me tell you a story (modified slightly for content, not concept because of this issue of childhood memory). When I was growing up, I knew a family. Let’s call them the Cedarfields. The Cedarfields were very rich–or at least they played the part. The wife didn’t work, and the husband had some kind of big-business, big-paycheck job (nobody really knew what it was, exactly, but no one questioned that he was successful). They lived in a mansion. They had a bunch of kids that went to school with me of various ages. The kids wore expensive clothes, were dropped off in an expensive car every day (instead of riding the bus with everyone else), and talked about their expensive vacations in the Caribbean they always seemed to be taking. One day, I got off the bus and hopped through the door in my brightly colored elementary school backpack to my whispering parents. Something was really wrong with the Cedarfields, and I was too young to understand. Something was really wrong, and they weren’t really that rich. They didn’t indulge me any more. Not too long after, I learned something really horrible had happened. Mr. Cedarfield was dead.
The story started to fill in around the cracks. Mr. Cedarfield had been a big pyramid-scheme crook and had made a lot of money off of others’ misfortune. The FBI had started to close in and Mr. Cedarfield fled and left his family in their big mansion just to be foreclosed on. The kids had to go and live with friends while the poor mother got therapy. This was when I heard my parents’ conversation. A few months later, Mr. Cedarfield shot himself, leaving his wife widowed and his children fatherless. Now, I was not in Mr. Cedarfield’s head nor do I understand his suffering or reasoning. However, I could easily see his fall from the top being too much to bear. Mr. Cedarfield’s pride dying was too painful for his moral body to bear. Again, how unfortunate. Mr. Cedarfield was so much more than his crooked job. He was a man, he was a soul. He was a husband and he was a father. He could be forgiven for the bad things that he did, and he could have lived the rest of his life differently, though with difficulty in the transition from rich life to poor life or jail life. He chose death over these things. What do you think, with narrow speculation, was the most important thing to Mr. Cedarfield?
I find this story very sad, and I understand that it is extreme. But all of us are guilty of worshipping the Almighty Dollar and/or “Success” at some point in our American capitalist lives. At some point, though, we need to decide what the most important thing is for us. What will be our idol? Money, God, or something else? What will it be? For me, I have chosen God. I have chosen God because even if I lost everything else, God would still be there. I cannot lose God in this Earthly life. God is the ultimate net and crutch and life. That’s just me.
I would like to think that if the Gospels had been written today, that if Christ’s words had been recorded in 2011, one of this sayings would be a little different. In Matthew 6:35-34, Christ tells us not to worry about trivial things like the clothes on our bodies or the food in our bellies. Pursuing the improvement of these things and giving them the energy of mental anxiety is silly. If he had said these things in 2011, I would like to think he would have added jobs to this list. Perhaps he would have said,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or where or what you will work; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more important than food or jobs, and the body more important than clothes?” or “Do not worry about your work, what you will do for a living…”
This is pure speculation but the love of Christ and his stresses on the importance of love and righteousness as the first priority of a holy and good life lead me to believe in the flexibility of applying this passage to many aspects of our lives. The mental peace given to us with the freedom of worrying about our job or its security thereof frees us to love our neighbors and ourselves so that we can lead good and holy lives for the sake of our Father, who art in heaven. Amen.
(c) Ada Vaskys