Follow your passion?

NPR had a short segment on a question that was sent to Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution). The hook was for those upcoming graduates who are lucky enough not to get sucked into the maw of this economy, what should they pursue if they didn’t really have “a passion”? And Dr. Cowen expressed some inability to answer it describing it:

The fact that Max and other young college graduates can even entertain this question — “What is my passion?” — is a new conundrum, and still a luxury not everybody enjoys. Yet, Tyler recently told me, it is “a central question of our time.”

So what’s the best, most rational answer for Max? It seems like economics could help; after all, it’s about costs and benefits and modeling complicated decisions.

But, Tyler says, “it was a truly difficult, tough question to make any progress on.”

For Christians St. Paul has a simple answer. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, which is deeply rooted in the summary of the 10 commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. What are you called to do, even when you don’t feel a call? Love God and love your neighbor. What does loving your neighbor look like?

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Now given the difference between the 1st century and the 21st century, the working with your hands might not be a directly possible. I don’t think that St. Paul was saying everyone should be making tents or plumbing. What that meant was do something that was not just being idle. Work is important in itself. One of the large idols of the day is that there are only specific roles that are “meaningful”. That is a false and destructive idol as people idle away waiting for meaningful work. No, serving your neighbor, a proper thing to follow, consists in living quietly, minding your own affairs and doing something that allows you to walk properly before outsiders. How boring! How suburban! But there it is, the bedrock of Christian calling, rooted in the 10 commandments.

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