July 30, 2020

What Should I Do If My Career Becomes an Idol?

Nathan W. Bingham & Stephen Nichols
What Should I Do If My Career Becomes an Idol?

God created us to work. But that is far from the only reason why He made us. Today, Stephen Nichols describes the role that careers serve in our lives and teaches us how to respond if we find ourselves idolizing our vocations.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with the president of Reformation Bible College, Dr. Stephen Nichols. Dr. Nichols, what should I do if my career has become an idol?

DR. STEPHEN NICHOLS: Idols can happen in our lives because good things, God-ordained things, we put them out of perspective and we make them larger than they are in our lives, and they supplant God. That can be true of our families and it can be true of our work.

God made us to work. It's part of the created order that we call the cultural mandate. It goes back to Genesis 1 and 2. He's put us on this earth to work. We find admonitions to work. We also find people who are good at work, skilled craftsmen. We see them being honored in the text of Scripture. So let's establish this. Work is a good thing. Read the book of Proverbs, right?

But it's very easy for good things to become idols because we've applied too much energy to them and we look to them to give us fulfillment or satisfaction. That's not what they were made to do. That's the kind of fulfillment that only God can deliver on. And so, it's very easy for good things to become idols.

Well, what do we do? Well, first of all, we've got to repent. When a prophet came to Israel and they were worshiping idols, what does the prophet say? "Repent." And repentance involves realizing that we have an idol. A lot of people don't realize their work or career has become an idol. So, we've got to repent.

Then the next thing we've got to do is we've got to rethink this. Is it this particular place, is it this particular context that's causing me to do this? Am I being challenged beyond my gift level, and I'm applying myself in ways that's detracting from my family or contributing to my church? Rethink, take a good look at it, and then recalibrate. So now let's set a new trajectory. What needs to get that attention in my life that the career has been displacing and misplacing?

So repent, rethink, and recalibrate I think is a good way as we think about all these things that can become idols in our lives. And the thing we've got to realize again is good things can become bad things. It's not just the bad things that are bad for us. Good things can be bad for us too. And so we need some wisdom here, and we need to have a clear-eyed view of ourselves as we think about these things.