Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
When I was a Mum with small children, I continued to do work projects. However, I struggled when people asked me “What do you do?” I tended to respond: “I’m just a Mum.”
Two things to say about my response:
- “I’m just a…” That’s a value statement. It represents the fact that I valued my work less because it isn’t paid work; or I feared the person asking would value my work less because it isn’t paid work. In fact, after a while, I came to describe myself as a Domestic Manager because it was a title that gave me more dignity, and it tended not to shut down further conversation like “I’m just a Mum” does!
- Secondly, you will notice the switch between question and answer. We do this all the time. What do you DO? …I AM.
When we meet someone for the first time, one of the first things we ask, after “what’s your name?” is: “What do you do?” And how do we respond to the question. Most people respond to that question with an “I am” statement.
You might say: I am a programmer, I am a financial analyst, I am an online education specialist… We ask people what they do, and they respond with who they are.
In Australian society we have literally become our jobs.
“I am” is an important statement of identity.
In Exodus 3, Moses is confronted by a burning bush, and God speaks to him. Moses asks who he should say is sending him and God says:
I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I Am has sent me to you.”’
It is the ultimate statement of identity because God was saying, “I have the authority and power to choose who I am.”
When people ask me what I do, I say, “I am a lecturer,” but that of course does not sum up all of who I am. While it describes the core of what I do, it does not describe the core of my identity.
What the Bible Says
I am not God, and I cannot choose my identity. My identity has been given to me by God, who formed me in my mother’s womb and knows everything about me (Psalms 139:1-18). My identity is that I am made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and I am loved by him (John 3:16). What is more, because I believe in what Jesus has done for me, reconciling me to God on the cross, I am a child of God (John 1:12) and heir to his Kingdom (Galatians 4:7).
The beautiful thing about having our identity established in God, is that it does not change, not just for this life, but for eternity. It cannot be changed, marred, discredited or taken away from us. It is fixed and firm. It is not affected by our work: what we do, where we work, whether we are paid or not, whether we have a job or not.
Think it Through
- How strong is the temptation for you to define your identity by your work?
- What encourages you about the knowledge that your primary identity is determined by God?
Forgive us, Lord when we are tempted to source our identity in something other than you.
Forgive us for the temptation to define ourselves by our status and achievements.
Thank you that you know us intimately, and love us completely.
Thank you that you call us your child, and heir to your kingdom.
Please help us to reorient ourselves around you and your promises.
Please help us to live and work within the freedom that this status brings.
Help us to live out this new identity in every area of our life.
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.