Vocation

Book Review - Is College Worth It?

William (Bill) Bennett was Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and apparently is now a talk-show host (though I’ve never heard his program, nor even heard mention of it outside this book).

Current accumulated American college tuition loan debt exceeds one trillion dollars, and continues to grow. More than half of all students are in debt from college, with an average—average—debt of $23,000. Horror stories of graduates—or non-graduates—with $50,000, $100,000, even $200,000 of debt and no employment prospects in the field of study are quite common, with very limited hope of paying off that debt in 10, 20 or even 30 years. And this debt cannot be disposed of by bankruptcy. The situation for those who seek or secure graduate degrees is even worse.

Part of this massive avalanche of indebtedness is due to aggressive and less-than-fully-disclosing college recruiting (in both private and public not-for-profit, as well as for-profit schools) that encourages and enables students to secure easy-to-get government loans. A second cause is the fact that the government is the primary lender (creating money to loan out of thin air), rather than banks and other lending institutions, as it was in the past. Banks have a self-interest motive to investigate “ability to repay” factors before making loans, while government bureaucrats have no such motive, and hence are more open to saddling a borrower with unpayable debt (this latter, my observation, not the authors’).

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The Dignity and Vanity of Labor

I’ve always preached that all honest work is God-glorifying and that the opportunity to engage in labor and reflect God’s character through it is a great privilege. Over the years, I’ve also emphasized that if you’re doing the work God wants you to do, however “secular” it may be, you shouldn’t stoop to do anything else. Even vocational ministry is a demotion if it’s not what God wants you to do.

As a pastor, these ideas were relatively easy to affirm. The logic is simple. The best thing any man can do at any time is to obey God. Therefore, if God wants him to sell soap, or make pizza, or drive truck, or mop floors, that activity is the best thing he can do. And if that work is best for him, all other work is inferior.

But when you’re post-pastoral, these principles can be a bit harder to hold with conviction—especially if you loved your pastoral work, prepared thoroughly for it for almost a decade, and still believe it’s what you do best. But sometimes even guys with seminary training and clear evidence of giftedness for ministry can find themselves facing clear direction from God to “do something else until further notice.”

And when that happens, they struggle to find meaning and purpose in the work they find to do.

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