He says: I lost my job and have not been able to find another that pays me what I think I’m worth
She says: His self-confidence has plummeted, but it’s OK because I’m making good money
We’re assuming that her saying, “It’s OK because I’m making good money” means there’s no actual need for him to get another high-paying job. So the problem is not about him making enough money, but about him – and maybe her, too? – equating the worth of someone’s work with how much it pays. It’s a common and grievous mistake.
Consider three people. Person A gets paid nothing to work at home caring for children. Person B gets minimum wage improving the lives of the poor at a nonprofit. Person C gets paid a hundred times minimum wage improving the profits of a corporation. Now, the big question.
Who is being paid what their work is worth? The answer is, maybe all three. It boils down to what’s included in what they’re “paid.”
Money is just one form of payment. It matters, but it’s not the only form, nor is it even the most important.
For example, there are emotional forms of compensation, such as the peacefulness of working in a happy, stress-free environment, or the joy of making a difference in people’s lives. There are spiritual forms, too, like the consolations of knowing that any work we do, no matter how menial, hidden or seemingly unimportant, is a gift from God to be done for him. St. Teresa of Calcutta was once told by a visitor, “I wouldn’t do the work you do for a million dollars.” She responded, “Neither would I.”
Losing any job can devastate your sense of self-worth. But it can also present an opportunity to review your values and goals. Your worth in the eyes of God is all that really matters, and it has nothing to do with what kind of work you do or how much it pays. Rather, your worth has everything to do with the simple fact that God made you and loves you.
So ask yourself this: Regardless of its pay, what kind of work would most interest you, most draw upon your talents and draw you closest to God? Be open to wherever your heart leads you. Remember that Jesus himself was a blue-collar worker and so were his apostles. He didn’t love any less those in higher-paid, more “respectable” jobs. But he certainly didn’t love them any more, either.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.