Have you ever been asked this question? Our job or career can be a good introduction, but it doesn’t truly define our ultimate purpose and potential.
A very common question that comes up when people first meet is, “What do you do?” Usually they are referring to the kind of work the person does. What is your occupation or your career field?
In the minds of many people, who we are is defined by our jobs or career. We are a doctor, lawyer, teacher, plumber, builder, homemaker, etc. Our occupation tells others what level of education we have progressed through and probably the range of our income.
When asked, “What do you do?” no one answers, “I pay my taxes, obey the laws of the land, take care of my wife and children, help my neighbors and live by the laws of God.” Or, “I am a loving mother. I am one of the most important people in my children’s eyes.”
A question of value?
Too often, people’s value is measured by their job, how much they earn or what they possess. What criteria do we use in assessing others or even considering our own value?
Once when Jesus was teaching, a man in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” This great Teacher was speaking of things that pertained to eternal life in the Kingdom of God, but this man’s mind was far from it (Luke 12:13-15).
Perhaps his father had died, and an older brother had not yet shared with him his portion of the inheritance. He was thinking about what he hoped to get from the family estate, not about living forever as a child of God.
Jesus stated that He did not come from heaven to arbitrate cases involving financial and legal matters. Then He used the interruption to remind the crowd of the dangers of seeking only the things that seem to enrich this physical and temporal life.
“And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (verse 15). He stated emphatically that this is not the correct way to assess the value of a human life.
If we define ourselves or others by what we do or have, we are missing the whole point of human life. If so, we need to take another look at our priorities. This man was focused so strongly on material things that they were a barrier to his ability to hear and grasp the more important spiritual truths available through the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Yes, education, careers and jobs are important, but we shouldn’t measure human worth by possessions or social status. We must not value activity more than character, career success more than relationships. More important than anything else are our relationships—first with God and then with our family and neighbors.
Jobs, careers, education, making a decent living, providing for our families—these are all important. But an essential key to happiness and true lasting success is to have our priorities right. If making money consumes us, our time and our lives to the point that it becomes an obstacle or distraction to the more important things, in the long run, we will fail.
Christ asked His disciples, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:25). He admonishes us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [physical] things shall be added [provided] to you” (Matthew 6:33).
In Psalm 49 we read: “Hear this, all peoples; give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together. …
“Why should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity at my heels surrounds me? Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit [grave].
“For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; he is like the beasts that perish” (verses 1-2, 5-12).
You can’t take it with you
A few verses later in Psalm 49, the psalmist reminds us that naked we came into this world and we will leave it the same way—carrying none of what we have accumulated with us. “For when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him” (verse 17).
The Easy-to-Read Version captures Solomon’s wise thoughts on this subject, “There is a very sad thing that I have seen happen in this life. People save their money for the future. Then something bad happens and they lose everything. So they have nothing to give to their children. People come into the world with nothing. And when they die, they leave with nothing. They might work hard to get things, but they cannot take anything with them when they die. It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’?” (Ecclesiastes 5:13-16).
“Who are you?”
John the Baptist was sent to announce the coming of the expected Messiah, the Savior of the world. John was an effective speaker with a message very different from what the Jews of that area were accustomed to hearing. They were unable to figure him out, to put him in a familiar cubbyhole, so they barraged him with questions:
“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’
“He said: ‘I am “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the LORD,’” as the prophet Isaiah said’” (John 1:19-23).
Who was Jesus?
Later, Jesus Christ began His ministry preaching the good news of a coming kingdom, the Kingdom of God, which included the prospect of entering the family of God and living forever. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Now they wanted to know who He was: “Then they said to Him, ‘Who are You?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning’” (John 8:25). He was the Son of God.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).
What about you? Do you ask yourself: Who am I? Where am I going? Where am I headed in life? What are my big goals? What will I be when I get there? What will be the finished product?
What will last?
Christ warned about putting too much value on things that are temporary, things that lose their value over time.Christ warned about putting too much value on things that are temporary, things that lose their value over time.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Stocks can lose their value, buildings can get old and fall down. You can’t eat gold or silver if there are food shortages.
The apostle Peter spoke of a time in the future when all the physical things of this world will be destroyed just prior to the time of the new heavens and new earth. He showed the futility of making those things a top priority instead of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).
In the very first chapter of the Bible, God gives us what His top priority is: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). The very purpose He had for creating mankind was to add to His family, offspring such as Himself. He has begun the process of building a family of children—His children, children of God.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). In a sense, God is recreating Himself. As we respond to the work of His Spirit and the guidance of His laws, we can take on His godly character.
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
And in Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
This is man’s incredible potential! It’s not what’s on the outside, what people see or the possessions we have that determines our worth. It is the character that is on the inside. Both the Old and New Testaments show how God sees and judges:
- “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).
- “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
This is the potential of every human who lives, has lived and will live. This is your potential! If you’re interested in claiming it, download our free booklet Change Your Life!