On Leaving Good Jobs

Just before Jesus calls his first disciples, he’s preaching about repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” His soon-to-be disciples are fishing with their father. They’re fishermen, the family business, probably the line of work they’ve expected and been trained for throughout their youth. Then Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” Immediately, they drop their nets and follow.

It’s interesting that Jesus is preaching repentance right before he calls them. We usually treat repentance as a turn full of regret from a bad thing to something good. But the word doesn’t require that much. When those disciples dropped their nets and followed Jesus, I think we could call it “repentance.” Not the kind of repentance that requires regret––as if they had been doing anything wrong before. But the kind of change that’s required when God is doing something new. The disciples drop their nets not because anything is wrong with fishing, but because they can’t follow Jesus’ calling and still hold on to the nets. Sometimes it’s good things we have to drop to follow God’s calling.

I had five conversations this week with people who know it’s time to leave their jobs. They don’t necessarily have to leave because the jobs are bad. In fact, for some of them, the jobs have been very good. But they’ve also had a clear sense that God is leading them somewhere else, even though none of them know exactly where that “somewhere else” is yet. A few described it as overdue.

That clear sense, even the sense that it’s overdue, doesn’t make it easy. Leaving what’s comfortable, familiar, and secure can be a hard step. Especially when there’s less comfort, familiarity, and security in what lies ahead. So it’s impressive to see those disciples immediately leave their nets to follow. In the words of F. D. Bruner, “they leave the valued familiar in order to live the excitingly unfamiliar life of following Jesus.” May you be so bold if God asks the same of you.

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