For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8)
Today, we will challenge the deeply entrenched lie that “you can be anything you want to be.” As many modern cultures suggest, if you work hard enough and believe in yourself, you can do anything you want to in your career. We love to believe this lie for some good reasons. For one, it gives us the courage to step out and take risks as we seek to discern our calling. This can be a good thing! But it doesn’t change the fact that this cliché is ultimately untrue.
When I was in elementary school, all I wanted to be was a professional basketball player. But something troubling happened when I entered the sixth grade: My friends hit huge growth spurts while I slowly grew to top out at 5’ 6”. Could I have chosen to continue to follow my dream of being a professional basketball player? Sure. But I was never going to be a great one, serving my teammates, coaches, fans, and owners well through my chosen vocation.
The truth is that if your desire is to do your work with excellence for the glory of God and the good of others, you simply can’t be anything you want to be. As today’s Scripture readings make clear, God acts as a craftsman, taking great care in creating each of us uniquely, with particular passions and gifts. In the words of the apostle Paul, the Lord has given us all “different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:6). You and I were created with a unique mix of passions and talents and called to steward those gifts well. In other words, there are certain kinds of work that God has designed us to do exceptionally well, and, naturally, other kinds of work that we are unlikely to excel at.
But wait a second: Haven’t technology, access to information, and economic prosperity made it possible for many of us to choose to do any work imaginable? No doubt. But just because we have more options of work we can choose from doesn’t mean that we have more options of work we can do with excellence. Today more than ever, we have the ability to choose to be anything we want to be. But if we accept our mandate to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) we would be wise to understand how God has created us and choose work that aligns with his design, ensuring that we make our greatest contribution to the world.