At Work & Theology 101

It’s Personal: Tales of Comparative Advantage

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Last week I issued an assertion which was also a challenge.

Change starts with us, as individuals first. We have more power through the market process to help those around us by purposefully pursuing our vocational calling. In fact, we have an ability to make a massive contribution to the common good, to poverty alleviation, to unleashing creativity and serving others than any other single institution does.

But it starts with us. We have to decide each day: What am I doing? Why this? Why now? What is God’s plan in all of this? Why me? How can I ever make a difference? I’m just a (waitress, janitor, software engineer, etc.).

So, like I said last week: It’s personal. When I think about this I am reminded of what I would call my life verse, the verse I go back to over and over again in my life for guidance: Hebrews 12: 1-2:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This verse is about how we choose to get up each day and live our lives. How are we going to lace up our shoes before we hit the road? How will we endure the trials and tribulations that come with work and calling and family? How will we seek Jesus in that pursuit and let Him finish our faith?

The answers have everything to do with perseverance and trust in Christ. We so desperately need this in our work. And we know that man’s fallen nature has consequences for our lives and for our work. Work becomes more arduous, it can have times of drudgery. It is those times when I have to go back to Hebrews to get re-focused.

When I think about my own life and the journey I travel, I realize that I could have taken my vocation in a variety of directions. But here I am as an economist and teacher and blogger and sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. I have come home from classes feeling defeated: I didn’t answer their questions, I didn’t tell the right anecdotes, some people are resistant to what I have to say. I couldn’t answer the question on the spot like I would have liked to.

When I feel like I am failing it’s difficult to know not only how God can possibly be using this for good, but how did I ever end up here? And sometimes I have experienced that God is leading me into another job or profession, but sometimes He wants me right where I am. Just because work is hard, or we can’t see the end game, doesn’t mean we aren’t purposefully using our gifts for His glory and for the service of others.

But we’ll never get it right if we don’t start at square one:  know your gifts. Understand where you excel, know what do you love doing. God created us uniquely, so it makes sense that we love doing that which we are good at doing. Comparative advantage is part of our creation and as such we have unique purposes that are fulfilled in our work, among other spheres of life.

Once we understand our gifts we can establish a sense of property over that: this is what I am good at so it’s where I place my focus; I won’t worry as much about trying to be great at things where I am a high-cost producer.

The way this plays out in my life is that even though I fail and make bad decisions sometimes, I am fulfilling my calling by pursuing a career in economics. I like to do other things as well, like cooking and baking.  But cooking and baking are not where I am a relatively low-cost producer, so I can’t serve others as efficiently in pursuing those things. And because I was created to be a teacher I get fulfillment from it, even though it’s hard and even though I don’t do it perfectly (or anywhere close).

This is how we steward our gifts for the Kingdom of Christ. It’s how we serve the common good, and it’s powerful.

How are you using comparative advantage in determining your vocation? Share your story or leave a comment here.


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