At Work & Theology 101

Should You Stay In A Job You Hate?

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Should you stay in a job you hate?

It’s a question we often get asked here at IFWE. In fact, it was a question that came up during one of our recent webinars on faith and work. It’s also a question that came up in a recent Christianity Today interview with Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Andy Crouch asked Keller how he would respond to someone who hates their job. Keller’s answer, which we published in yesterday’s post, implies that people should always stay at jobs they hate.

Again, it’s possible that Keller misspoke and wouldn’t recommend everyone always stick it out in a job they hate, but it’s an important statement to clarify.

Sometimes, you might need to leave the job you hate.

Keller implies everyone should stay in an unfulfilling job to “pay your dues” and earn “some street cred.” But why would anyone want to stay at a job they hate and feel is useless?

One of our blog readers, Nathan, found this discouraging. On one post, he comments,

More people need encouragement to stick it out with jobs when they are unfulfilling, even though sometimes unfulfilling jobs do need to be abandoned. 

Nathan’s right. Sometimes you should leave the job you hate.

If you don’t like your job just because you think your work is useless or because you can’t see the end product right before your eyes, rest assured that your job is useful. Perhaps you are in the right job and need to readjust your thinking about the part you play in the overall production. Because of the knowledge problem, as we discussed yesterday, you might not be able to see how your work is part of a much larger economic (and spiritual) dynamic.

On the other hand, if you are not finding your job personally fulfilling for other reasons, perhaps your job is not drawing on your God-given skills and talents. The cultural mandate given in Genesis 1:28 tells us that, being made in God’s image, we each have creative talents and skills with which to develop God’s creation. Your dissatisfaction with your work might be an indicator that God has called you to a different vocation.

Vocation is a very prayerful and personal decision, and we must be careful not to make any sweeping statements.

Love or hate your job, no work is useless

No work is completely useless, though it’s sometimes easy to think that way. Some jobs do make it more difficult to see the end result of one’s work. Yet even the intern entering contact names into a spreadsheet adds significant value to the world through their work. Hugh Whelchel puts it well when he writes,

The work of believers possesses a significance which goes far beyond the visible results of that work…All human work, however lowly, is capable of glorifying God. Work is the potentially productive act of praise. 

There is no such thing as useless work if God has called you to it. But if you are currently in a position that you find less than fulfilling, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and conversation with close friends and family for vocational discernment. Meanwhile, remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31:

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Whatever we do, not just things that we think are important or things we like to do, but everything—especially boring and seemingly useless work—is to be done for the Lord.

What do you think? Should you leave the job you hate? Leave your comments here

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  • Thank you for raising this issue! I always wish there were a simple formula for whether to leave a job or not, but there isn’t.

    Your advice here is so valuable: spend time in prayer and vocational discernment with others. That is the only way I know to discern whether a job is bad because my attitude is bad or because God is calling me elsewhere.

    Regardless, I have often found that being called elsewhere is not an instantaneous process. Even when it is clear that we need to move on, we still need to be faithful in our current work until it concludes.

  • Fallen and Redeemed

    “I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” Helen Keller

  • In order to best answer the question it would be necessary to know what the alternatives to the hated job are. If the alternative is unemployment, then it’s probably best to stick with the job until a better alternative is available. But ultimately I believe everyone should try to do work that is meaningful and fulfilling. Sometimes a job can be a means to that end. I stuck with a job I didn’t enjoy for a long time in order to obtain the freedom to move into a job I preferred at much lower pay. There were times I felt like ditching it, but I’m glad now that I stuck it out until I could afford to move into a more fulfilling career. But it can be tricky to navigate that. As a friend of mine (who did something similar) once said to me, “Don’t wait too long.”

    • Elise Amyx

      Bill, you’re right, it’s definitely not a simple answer. Many times we have no other choice to stick out a job. I am working on another blog post on job discernment with a series of steps/questions that will serve as a guide for those debating whether or not to leave their job. I will definitely incorporate your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

  • pwlsax

    Work is obedience, and God values nothing more than obedience. The evils caused by it, however vast, are of this world, and will be forgiven thru Christ. The evils of disobedience may be forgivable by man but are unforgivable by God.

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