I’ve come to dread Christians asking me what I’m going to do now that I’ve graduated college. When I give my simple five word reply, “I’m going to law school,” I immediately feel my smile turn to a grimace as I read their face and anticipate their response. The responses are usually similar: a fake plastered smile and a slow nod preceded by a lawyer joke or being told, “Good, we need more lawyers to defend Christians.” I’ve received this response enough that I now simply return the nod and smile. I’ve previously made the mistake of trying to defend my career choice; not only of being a lawyer, but expressing my lack of desire in being a lawyer that seeks to only defend Christians. I had thought this was an experience unique to me and lawyers, however, I spoke with friends recently–a graphic designer, an engineer, and an accountant–only to learn that they have had similar experiences. It’s as if our professions aren’t good enough, aren’t Christian enough. We’ve even been accused of being “worldly,” simply because we are not pursuing the seemingly “more Christian” professions of missionaries, Sunday School teachers and full-time missionaries….although I would argue becoming a teacher at a Christian school or a nurse would also be an “acceptable Christian profession” by many.
These conversations are too similar. For too long American Christians have wrongly believed that certain professions are “more Christian” or “More Godly” than others. Are we not all called to different mission fields? Have we not all been given different gifts and talents and personalities? If we were all to be “only” mothers, nursers, and foreign missionaries how many tens of thousands of peoples would actually MISS an opportunity to hear the gospel?
God Called A Tax Collector First
One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is that of Matthew, the tax collector:
As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do.” Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”~Matthew 9:9-13
For the first part of this blog post serious, I want to focus on part of the obvious that I feel gets overlooked: Jesus called a tax collector to be His first disciple. One thing has not changed in the past two thousand years: no one enjoys paying their taxes. Even though we may be able to reason through the benefits of paying taxes, like “free” public school education, roads, and national defense, I have yet to many an individual that gets excited to see how much money has been taken out of their pay stub for taxes. I certainly don’t!
I have a deep pity for those who work for the IRS, because I can only imagine the slew of remarks they get when others learn of their job. However, few people would argue that what these people do is actually immoral. Sure, there are those who refuse to pay taxes each year because they believe their dollars are going towards funding abortion or wars they don’t agree with, but few feel their tax dollars are being used to persecute them and their own people. We are paying our government, after all, not a foreign invader. However, the Jews were being forced to pay taxes to the Roman Empire: an invader whom committed atrocities against them and their people. Obviously, Matthew would have been disposed.
Yet, Jesus called him, and called him first. At first glance this post my seem contradictory to my previous statements; after all, the Biblical account states that Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew left his job to be a discipline of Christ Jesus. When he left his tax collection booth that day he was guaranteed to lose his profession. That takes faith! I can’t help but think how many people would be willing to do what God asked if it meant seemingly complete and total financial insecurity…not many. Although Matthew indeed got up and left his sinful profession–and we should all leave our profession if it is sinful–he took his gifts, talents, interests and skills with him, and blessed the world through these.
Gifts, Talents, and Interests
I’ve been told that I think in the black and white a lot. For some of my friends, this can be annoying. To be, something is either right OR wrong. There is no gray area. Never.
Likewise, I absolutely love to plan! I planned out my entire college schedule while in high school after I accidentally gained access to my future university’s student website that listed class meeting times; and for fun I have attempted to plan my future law school schedule. I love lists and color coding. In fact, I will be put in a very deep rut for several days if something schedule did not happen, or the schedule was not followed.
I’m also a gifted speaker, outgoing, charismatic, and empathetic.
These are just some of the ways I’m wired. These above characteristics are part of who I am, and just happen to be gifts/skills that align well with a legal profession.
God does not ask us to give up our gifts and skills, in fact, He does the opposite. He asks us to use those gifts for Him. Matthew, as a tax collected, was accustomed to taking detailed notes and accounts. He obviously liked precision, and was gifted in retaining and sorting information. Although He had previously used these skills in his job as a tax collector, He then used his skills to record the first Gospel of the New Testament. Billions of people for thousands of years have read his detailed accounts, and individuals right now are trying to translate his accounts of his time with Jesus into every single language spoken on the planet and even those not spoken! Talk about a huge task! God was thus able to use his talents and interests to serve Him.
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we each belong to each other. ~Romans 12:5
There are many specific spiritual gifts named throughout the Bible: teaching, prophesy, empathy, encouragement, ect. And these spiritual gifts are used to nourish, encourage and grow what we call the “Body of Christ”, that is, Christians. However, God has also designed each person with unique talents: being outgoing, creative, more reserved, or having an exceptional athletic/musical/other talent. As I will talk more about in my next post, these talents, our interests, and professions allow us to reach individuals with the gospel that those serving in traditional missionary fields (pastors, full-time missionaries, ect.) cannot reach. Instead of being ashamed of our talents, or think we need to give up these talents, we need to think: how can I use these talents and see my gifts as my mission field?
Bloom Where You Are Planted
Growing up I was “shushed” a lot. I always had something to say. I read non-fiction historical books and watched documentaries from a young age. Although I’ve had to learn that there are appropriate times to share information, and am thankful for a recent ADD diagnosed and medications that have helped calmed the constant tornado in my brain, I have grown up thinking that being smart is not cool. My family talks a lot about how they wished I had more “common sense.” Many of my family members are gifted carpenters, plumbers, and overall handymen and women, they can fix just about anything and their mind works this way. I can only imagine how strange it must have been for them to have a child that wanted to read thick biographies about presidents instead of learn to fix things around the house. I was labeled as lazy, book-smart, and different. Although I’m 22, being categorized as these things, and not having my intellect and desire to learn nurtured and appreciated, still hurt.
I wanted to share these parts of my story, to conclude by saying: the gifts God has given you and the way He has made you matters. It should be celebrated. My outgoing personality, love for facts, and desire for truth will serve me well as an attorney. I can use the talents God has given me to work with integrity, and bring glory to Him by using the talents and interests God has given me, and using them well to the best of my ability, And, more importantly, I can use my profession as an attorney to share my faith with individuals who would otherwise never set foot in a church or a mission outreach.
Never be ashamed of the talents and interests God has given you. Use these to do good, and to pursue things you enjoy that glorify God. We’re not all called to speak from the pulpit every Sunday, nor are we all called to sell our belongings and move to an unreached people group. Some of us were designed to stay where we were born, and do jobs that are wrongly labeled as “less Christian.” We must bloom where we are planted. God needs people of all skills and talents, including tax collectors like Matthew and future lawyers like me.