When you meet a new person, I’ll bet your conversation goes something like this:
“Hi, I’m John. What’s your name?”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Fred.”
Well Fred, what do you do for a living?”
So long as Fred is not an undertaker, the conversation proceeds. However, asking about work is a lazy attempt to discover a person’s true identity.
What happens if Fred took the job out of necessity? Perhaps his previous employer recently downsized, or Fred is a new immigrant who sacrificed a career as a doctor for the betterment of his family—now he drives a dump-truck. Many workers are square pegs employed in crushing and distorting round holes.
A better question might be, “In what ways is your job an expression of who you are?” Try it and see if it doesn’t help you to get to know people more deeply and quickly.
If you are one of the lucky ones, called to your career and finding great fulfillment in it, then celebrate. However, identity is complex. Work, our past, our health, poverty, injustice, abuse, previous relationships . . . none of these determines our true identity.
Paul’s self-introduction in his letter to the Roman church goes right to the core of his identity.1
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. (Rom. 1:1)
Paul gladly discarded the supposed honors of his past profession as a Pharisee when Christ called Him.2 No matter how rich our heritage, God has something even better for us. In Christ we find our true identity.
Pride has no place because our identity comes from God and He enables us to fulfill it. Paul described himself on one hand as a simple bond-servant and on the other as an apostle—one sent on a special mission. Servants receive little credit for their work; their masters provide all the resources they need. They are rewarded for faithfulness, not for innovation. Paul’s mission was to deliver God’s good news wherever people had not yet heard it.
Our identity in Christ is much more than an assignment, it is relational. We are beloved of God our Father.3 When we attempt to fulfill tasks for God while neglecting our relationship with Him, we quickly lose our anointing and become automatons. When we work alongside Him as junior partners, we grow more like Him and are engaged in the most fulfilling work we can do on this earth.
What’s your true identity? It is always rooted in being God’s child. Beyond that, we discover it by dedicating our abilities to the service of God in extending His kingdom.