The No Shame Zone

One young person’s subversive thoughts on church and society


Tad HoppI am not my job
A myth that needs to die

by Tad Hopp

“What do you do for a living?”

“Oh, you work as a waiter/barista/retail associate? Well, I’m sure you are just doing that until you find something better, right? Being a waiter is just so beneath you, considering you are so well educated.”

There’s a myth out there. A myth that I want to use this, my first blog post for Presbyterians Today, to dispel.

The myth is that some jobs are more honorable or more important or more distinguished than others. This is a myth that needs to die. It leads to some people feeling like they matter less than others, and it’s not very Christian.

I just graduated from seminary. I’m not pursuing a call right now. I may or may not become a pastor someday. I may instead end up working at Starbucks or working for a nonprofit or doing something else entirely. That doesn’t make me a failure. That doesn’t mean that I wasted four years of seminary. It certainly doesn’t mean that working at Starbucks is beneath me. Believe it or not, I can do ministry right there from behind that cappuccino machine. When did our society decide that a person should be defined by their job? When did we decide that a job should determine a person’s self worth?

Folks, we worship a carpenter.

The economics of American capitalism may imply that our worth is found in our profession; it may even have filtered into our religion, giving rise to that nefarious Protestant work ethic. But this conflation of job and identity is not in the gospel.

This is why I’ve stopped asking people what they do for a living. I’ve come to realize that it actually doesn’t tell me much about a person. I’ve met really nice people who worked at Starbucks and really terrible people who were corporate executives, teachers, and ministers. When I meet someone new, I like to think of more original questions to ask them, such as, “What do you value?” “What are your life ambitions?” “Where do you see yourself living in five years?” “What countries or cities have you visited?” Their answers to these questions will give me much better insight into who they are as a person and whether or not we will be able to get along than their job will.

Our gospel teaches us that all people have intrinsic worth. The main lesson I’ve gotten from the Bible is that we are all children of God and that we are all beloved by God. God doesn’t care what we do for a living. God loves us regardless of whether we are a CEO at Amazon, a butcher, or a barista at Starbucks.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should keep working at jobs that we hate or are abusive or exploitative. Let me make that very clear. Abuse and exploitation are never ok. If you hate your job, quit (though I know that many people, because of their socio-economic circumstances and other obligations, such as family and debt, don’t have this choice). Life is too short to work at a job you hate. That’s been my personal motto, and it has served me well in life so far. Work at a job you love. Work at a job that makes you happy and motivated to get out of bed every day. No amount of money is worth it if you are miserable or beat down.

I’m going to end by stating something that I implied earlier. You are not your job. I repeat: you are not your job. You are you, and you just happen to have a job. It may be a job you love. It may be a job that gives your life meaning and purpose. I hope you have that kind of job. However, it doesn’t define who you are. Only you can do that. You can be a charitable, giving, kind, fun, reliable (insert other adjectives here) person no matter what your job might be. Never forget that. Never lose sight of the fact that you are a beloved and important child of God and that can’t and won’t change no matter what. God will always love you and think you have value. That’s the case whether you are a waiter, a CEO, or a politician. Nothing else matters. NOTHING!

Tad Hopp graduated in May 2015 from San Francisco Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. He enjoys a good movie, singing karaoke, and anything involving the arts (theater, ballet, opera), and is a self-proclaimed Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter nerd! He served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Chicago (2010–2011) working with the homeless queer population. He is a lifelong Presbyterian, an ordained ruling elder and deacon, and currently a candidate for ordination.