What do you do?

I have yet to find the correct way to ask someone their occupation.  The traditional “What do you do?” sounds so flat and one dimensional.  It seems like it requires so much qualification, or at least an additional clause: “…when you aren’t having fun?”  “…to put bread on the table?”  “…to keep busy?”  And yet all of those clauses seem so mundane and fail to capture the essence of who the person really is.  While I rarely find myself at a loss for chit-chat conversation with people I meet for the first time, is there ever really a good way to ask people something about their occupation that can get more to their purpose for living?  Too heavy for a first conversation???

Jesus wastes no time in asking us similar questions.  He wants to know if we fully appreciate why we are here – what our purpose is.  Since Jesus is the ultimate teacher, he asks the question not with a question, but rather with a story.  In this Sunday’s Gospel he describes how there is a land owner who has a vineyard, but when the owner sends his representatives to inquire about the harvest, they get met with resistance.  He therefore sends his son, and he is met with resentment and killed.  And the CEO’s of America’s Fortune 500 think they have it rough!

The workers in the vineyard revolt because they little realize why they are working in the vineyard in the first place.  They see their daily work as just a job – an occupation.  “What do you do?”  “I work in the vineyard for some guy to make grapes so he can get rich.”  No wonder the resentment.  No wonder the probable boredom.  No wonder so many live for the weekend.

What do you do?  I live for the King and I labor in his vineyard to build His Kingdom.  Imagine getting that response at a party meeting someone for the first time!  It may seem a bit too religious, but I suggest that any other response at it’s root will leave us wanting more at best and resentful to the point of violence at its worst.  Ask yourself what is at the heart of the violence of the world and I suggest you will find people who are just not sure what they are here to do.  Let us commit ourselves to the ultimate work of the King and preparing for His Kingdom.


Fr. Mike
fr.mike@duke.edu  c. 919-316-8763 / w. 919-684-1882
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