“Do what you love” may be a self-destructive impulse, but the opposite—“Do what pays you”—is not the only alternative.
Miya Tokumitsu, who holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, has probably seen too many people falling into depression as unemployed curators or artists when they could have been productive in other lines of work.
Slate published last week an article of hers, “In the name of love,” that eloquently attacked “the unofficial work mantra for our time … ‘Do what you love.’” Tokumitsu writes that DWYL “leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.”
Given our national concern with inequality, Tokumitsu’s argument resonates with many: DWYL divides work into “that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable-work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.”
Tokumitsu notes that “arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are ‘personal care aide’ and ‘home care aide.’” Tokumitsu calls those bad jobs and labels DWYL “the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism.”
And maybe that makes sense, within a materialist mindset. But Christians have a third choice: Do what God loves. An art history professor might wonder how anyone could feel fulfilled taking care of an old, largely helpless person, but a person who feels loved by God has a greater capacity to love others.
In writing about compassionate poverty-fighting for 25 years, I’ve met many who make God—rather than fame, power, or money—the center of their lives. As they serve in lowly ways they feel God’s pleasure—and that makes all the difference.