A recent poll discovered that 21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year—over three times the number of older people. Only 29 percent are engaged at work, again less than any other generation. They’re largely “checked out,” indifferent and unexcited.
It’s not all their fault. Much of the blame lies with the economic reality of working 2-3 jobs, knowing jobs will change so personal brand is more important, and workplace failure to engage.
The truth remains: more see their job as a stop gap tool for making money, not as a vocation. They certainly don’t view it as a vehicle for kingdom momentum.
Two women in Scripture show us the meaning work can have. Theirs is not glamorous work. It’s messy, frightening, bloody work. They occupy one of the lowest occupational rungs there was, in terms of social standing.
Yet they also had the opportunity, every day, to offer comfort and bring life. They massaged the backs of women who couldn’t go on. They celebrated new life with giddy parents. They held the ones whose children didn’t live.
These are, of course, Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives of Exodus, Chapter One. They are there for the questions, concerns, confusions, and adjustments of family transition. They share the greatest rejoicing, and sometimes the greatest sorrow of a couples’ life. These two have made their job their holy calling. They have done this because they have looked to God for how they can bring forward the kingdom of God by what they do.
Because they’ve made this kingdom mindset their constant practice—they are handed an opportunity to do something extraordinary in their ordinary lives.
Pharaoh, frightened by the growing numbers of “other” people in his country, issues them an order:
“Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: ‘When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.’ But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.
“So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. ‘Why have you done this?’ he demanded. ‘Why have you allowed the boys to live?’ ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,’ the midwives replied. ‘They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.’” (Ex.1:15-19)
These women know their lives are at stake. If they operate with Pharaoh, they live. If they don’t, no guarantees. Yet they decided long ago that their vocation was to bring life, not death. Their purpose in life was to comfort, not bring distress. They found meaning, despite a low-level, unglamorous position, in becoming a part of the lives and families of the Hebrew women. Because they feared, and loved, God, they chose his side every day when they did their job.
They knew what they had to do, because they knew what their calling in life had decided for them already.
Their defining role is to get people through pain to joy. To walk beside. To foster and prioritize life. These unknown midwives went about mundane, common jobs fraught with everything our jobs are, and they are heroes for what they brought to it. They saw their job as a vocation to accomplish God’s purposes.
Because of that, when Pharaoh gives this order, they immediately sense that they have been given this job for such a time as this—to love their neighbor as themselves. They have an option to just follow orders, just do their jobs. But they choose to do their jobs with an eternal kingdom mindset first. As a result, Moses lives, and eventually he overthrows the very government system that tried to kill him.
The statistics for millennial adults who have a deep, resilient faith, like that of the midwives, are markedly different than the average. Sixty-one percent are excited about their career path. Sixty percent believe their job is making a positive impact in the world, and fifty-seven percent believe they are using their God-given talents in their work. An enormous ninety-four percent want to use their unique talents and gifts to honor God.
Many people find deep satisfaction in their jobs, but many others struggle every day to find meaning in what they do 9-5 (or 24/7, for some). Approaching what we do as a vocation, a divine calling, offers us a chance to see it in a new light. We’re able to view the choices we make daily not as mundane chores, but as opportunities to decide if we will show love through that choice or not. We can see our experience as training for kingdom work, not busy work. We will be able, then, to notice when the calling comes for extraordinary obedience in the middle of an ordinary day.
It seems that when we “fear God” as the midwives did, we gain a different perspective on how to go about our daily vocation. We understand that, whatever its significance in human terms, our job has deep meaning in the Kingdom of God.