Have you ever gone through a career shift?
Due to chronic severe back pain, my husband is anticipating surgery for the implant of a neuro-stimulator in his back. This device is awesome. He will be able to control the amount of electrical stimulation through a remote app on his phone.
As a company representative worked through some issues with Jack during the trial run, I asked her about her background. “Do you have a nursing degree?”
She laughed. “No. My major was English.”
Her career shift is not uncommon. Several sources that I read say 30% of college graduates will change careers at least once.
And then there was Matthew.
Jesus’ disciple Matthew would have fit in well to the world of strange career changes. Yet, to me, Matthew’s career change is still jarring. Matthew started out as a tax collector, one of the most despicable career choices a good Jewish boy could make. This was worse than merely working for the IRS. If you were a tax collector, you had sold out to the enemy, namely the Romans. Then Jesus got a hold of Matthew. He invited Matthew to follow him, and Matthew left his tax booth to become Jesus’ disciple.
Here’s the amazing part. Matthew ultimately became one of the four biographers of Jesus’ life. He was the author who gave the Jewish point of view (POV). His biography is laced with Old Testament references, making him look like he had long studied at rabbinical school. But . . . he was a tax collector.
Whoa, Jesus. What are you thinking? Okay, let him be one of your disciples but seriously, letting HIM write your biography? What qualifies him to do that? And why wasn’t he in charge of the money instead of that Judas guy? That would have fit his qualifications better.
I find reassurance in Matthew’s dossier. Matthew’s career shift from tax collector to biographer speaks to me in several ways.
God is in the business of transformation.
We talk about God’s ability to change lives. We quote the “new creation” verse (2 Cor 5:17). But Matthew’s career shift is practical proof of the difference God can bring about in a life. Matthew’s change wasn’t (definitely) to seek a higher salary or because he was bored or headed toward a mid-life crisis. This transition was spearheaded by the Son of God Himself who extended the invitation and gave Matthew the 3 years of training needed for the job.
I understand that. I’ve experienced that. I was at the pinnacle of college success in my chosen degree program. I wanted to become a home economics extension agent or a home economics teacher. Then God literally took me by the spiritual shoulders and turned me toward seminary. Talk about a shift. I thought the Lord wanted me to pursue the foreign mission field, but another fork in the road propelled me into marriage to a pastor and a writing ministry. And I’ve known others who, in their quest to follow Jesus, have experienced a life change that included a change in career.
God uses everything.
As my friend, Pam, has said, God wastes nothing. I like the way the series The Chosen portrays Matthew who walks around taking notes, observing people, and taking more notes. A tax collector must be a detail-oriented person. So does a biographer. I can envision a tax collector being more of an introvert. I can see that personality tendency in a biographer too. Matthew was the perfect pick for the job Jesus had for him to do: observe everything that happened so he could write it down.
For years I was ashamed that I never got a job in the field for which my college degree prepared me. Instead, for years I wrote Christian education curriculum and now I’m writing magazine articles, books, and historical novels. Why didn’t I major in English? And yet, I look of the substance of my writing and see my college training in so many facets. Through my college years, I had classes that taught me to write concisely. Professors in my field of study often inspired us to take the knowledge of the collegiate research and funnel it into simple grassroots application and oh, how many times have I needed to apply that principle in my church ministry work. I used my training in education over and over again as I wrote curriculum, and many of my articles and devotions reflect my knowledge in child development and family matters.
God delights to do within us what the world considers impossible.
Despite the abilities Matthew brought to the biographer’s table and despite the transformation process, moving from tax collector to biographer is a bit of a stretch. I can imagine some born-again Pharisees sneering at Matthew’s lack of qualifications. A tax collector quoting Old Testament citations? How many years did he spend in rabbinical school? To do the work he did, Matthew had to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to write such an amazing biography.
Those of us who have experienced God’s redirection can honestly say that anything that happened to empower us to serve God’s Kingdom was God directed and God choreographed. We couldn’t claim to have the experience or training the letters after our name would claim. It was Christ in us, the hope of glory. Only God could do the things He has led us to do in later life.
What about you?
Has God asked you to do something you think you are not qualified to do? Something for which you don’t think you have the necessary education or experience? Think again. When we are weak, God is strong (2 Cor 12:10). God can do above and beyond what we can possibly imagine (Eph 3:20,21) . God delights to take the foolish things of this world to shame the wise (I Cor 1:27), for it is then that observers will be convinced that it is God who has made it happen, not the skill and savvy of man or woman.
So, the next time you don’t think you can do something, try it anyway in the strength of the Lord. Your success, made possible by the mighty power of God, will amaze those who know you and who watch you. Most of all, it will amaze you what God can do with you and through you.
Just call yourself Matthew.