In Plato’s ‘The Republic,’ the thesis is put forth that the basis of justice in a community is that each individual be able to devote his or her time to that role which they are best suited for.

I’ve never read ‘The Republic’ previously, but have been listening to an audio version; it struck me as an interesting thesis, which resonated with me profoundly. Not as the definition of justice per se, but by application in terms of my personal contribution to society, and by extending the thought: to everyone else, also.

I’ve had a handful of interesting work experiences,. and a couple of years ago I was in a work situation which I will just call: rather unpleasant. I was hired with the understanding that my role, or job description was to be one thing, but that I was actually installed in a role which was quite different than the one I believed I was taking. Further, it was a role which I was not suited for, and one which I would expressly have avoided had I had an accurate job description at the time of application.

There were a number of other issues and nuances which were quite unfortunate about the situation, but the heart of the issue, I think lies there: I was hired to perform a role for which I was not suited, interested, or adequately prepared.

Before taking the job, I had received assurances that I would receive training, however, that was untrue; I was given no training but put immediately into positions with customers and contractors where I was expected to be expert in areas I had no knowledge of. The previous person who held the role had been unceremoniously fired the workday before I was to start so that I could be put into the position; not only so, but the other staff was not informed of his firing, or of a new staff member until the boss announced it… with me present the morning of my first day.

And that really set the tone for my employment there.

Given my circumstances, I was now obligated to the role not just because someone was fired so that I could have their position, but also because… well I had now stepped out onto a limb to take the job, and well… needed to put food on the table.

I attempted to acclimate myself to the job, but it was a little bit like being thrust into a foreign country where you know neither the language nor the culture, and nobody bothered to take you aside beforehand and at least give you a briefing.

Any rate, it occurred to me that not only was the situation bad for me, but it was also bad for everyone else there. It was bad for my boss who had hired me, it was bad for the other employees, and it was bad for the company overall.

I’ve actually been in other frustrating workplace scenarios more than once, but I would call this particular experience one of the top three worst work experiences I’ve ever had. There followed a trying chain of events, some of which was probably the result of other poor management decisions, but some of which was doubtless the result of my instalment to the position I was given and the previous employee’s removal from it.

Man, there was all kinds of stuff… there was bullying, there were people spitting lougies in the coffee creamer, there was once even a fistfight in a room full of glass and mirrors.

Honestly, the whole experience would have made a great reality show. (where’s Mike Rowe when you need him? I imagine the episode when he’s at the monkey sanctuary where the staff had to be caged to protect them from the abuse of the monkeys who were running wild…)

In situations like that, it is easy to lift our eyes to heaven and ask: “Why am I here? Did you put me here?”

(Actually, I think the reason I was there was to preserve the situation of a friend of mine, but I’ll not go into that here.)

I very quickly realized that my boss had made a mistake in getting rid of the person who had previously held my role (who seemed to have had more qualification for the position than I). And had made another mistake in putting me in that position.

And I had made a mistake by accepting the position (I made a fast decision, which was sort of an ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ kind of occurrence; nevertheless, I had sought the Lord, and do believe in the end that though the experience was unpleasant for me, the Lord actually had a purpose in it which I could see).

I had a good deal of time to analyze the circumstances (I remained there for a year), and understood that the best thing for me to do is what I’m gifted at. Or at the very least interested in. I, I try to apply for work which I am at least somewhat interested in, but as I said in this case I was misled about the nature of the work entirely (I assume to this day, unintentionally misled, but misled nevertheless).

Wow this is a long sad story so far, isn’t it? You still reading? Maybe the Mike Rowe reference kept you going?

My point is: I think that the thesis from Plato is pretty right on, and had concluded the same basic premise on the basis of my experience.

Actually, that’s only the first part of my point. The other, major part of my point is about purpose, and about where we fit into the family of God. The workplace is often seen as the place from which we derive our purpose, and identity. It’s the place we must spend hours away from our family with the intent of contributing to society (if not merely to collect a paycheck).

Ideally, the workplace should be those things. But what if it’s not? I am certain that I am not the only one to have had experiences like this one.

Have a few experiences like this one I described right in a row, and you might begin to wonder if you have any value to contribute at all. That’s not because you don’t, its because of the situation you’re in. Square peg, round hole. I’m not an artisan, or a salesperson, but I can write. What if I found a way to spend my time doing what I’m gifted at, and suited for? Would that be better for me? Would it be better for everyone else?

1 Cor. 12:12
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14 For the body is not one member, but many.

There is a place for you (and a place for me, too), and every one of us has value. Yet, trying to squeeze value out of someone who has nothing to contribute in that certain role or context will only cause a great deal of bruising.

1 Cor 12:18 & 19
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

In the past, I have tried to minister in the context of churches, and church services, and while there is generally always something to DO to help with what’s going on in that context, I’ve come to discover that my gifts and what I am suited for don’t necessarily fit into that context. (That’s not to say that they entirely aren’t; I can preach, and teach from the pulpit, etc.)

Maybe you are in the same boat – whether in the work situation, or in the church situation. Maybe both – that’s no fun.

Honestly, I think that is one of the big reasons that there has been such a pandemic of people leaving the church (…I mean the one before the literal pandemic, which has also helped to see droves leave the church). What is our place here? We show up, we sing the songs, we listen to the message, we go home. In a lot of big mega-churches you can go for weeks – or not – without anyone noticing. In fact, if church is just a show, we could really do it all from home in front of a computer screen, so why even leave the house for it?

But the root of all this is we don’t have a vision for being the body of Christ; for all parts working together in harmony.

Christ is the head of the body; He handcrafted each and every one of us, and all of us have giftings, abilities… and perhaps more importantly than those: a place in His body.

Just because you haven’t discovered your place in the body doesn’t mean you are not a part of it. Neither does it mean that you need to look for something else for fulfilment; you just need to figure out what He has set you in the body to do, and do it.

1 Cor12:15-18 & 21
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Paul describes the church as the body of Christ; and every member being some body part. Of course, in this context, any missing person is like a missing body part. Every person who is not operating in their God-given abilities, but in some other capacity, is like a limb out of joint.

I don’t know about you, but one of my greatest struggles in life has been with this: ‘What is my place in the body?’ Maybe you have wondered that as well. If you are in Christ, you have a place. A church group or organization can say that they don’t need you, but the True body of Christ can’t.

If you are in Christ, the rest of the body needs you. We need you to do what God has gifted, and called you to do. Maybe it’s not part of the general format of what we think of as ‘church;’ maybe it is.

But I’ve also discovered this: nobody is going to hand you your gift and calling but Jesus Christ.

Likewise, we’ll have to walk with Him, be led of Him and act in faith in order to actually accomplish what He’s called us to accomplish. But when you do, it will be what’s best for you, and for everyone else as well.

Be led of the Spirit.

1 Cor 12:13
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.