"You won't see me here often," another mom informs me last fall, on the first day of school. "I work."

Inside, I silently rise to defend my ponytail and jeans. I work, too! But work is my husband's very loosely approximated term for the less-than-minimum wage I usually make writing essays like this one, even now my first book. His MBA mind has struggled to compute that to do this work, I have, at times, hired out household jobs at more than double the rate I earn. He may wonder if I'm not better off doing a job I love less in favor of a job that pays more.

Do what you love: this is the unofficial work mantra of today, writes Miya Tokumitsu in her recent essay for Slate. As advice, it's terrible, she concludes. "Nothing makes exploitation go down easiest than convincing workers that they are doing what they love." Do what you love is, as an example, the kind of self-serving advice universities dish out to their adjunct faculty whom they pay abysmally and guarantee only job insecurity. According to Tokumitsu, DWYL is the "most elegant anti-worker ideology around."

Moreover, were we to poll the global workforce, as Tokumitsu might suggest to us, we'd find the vast majority of workers, not doing what they love, but surviving, by whatever gainful employment possible. No one loves emptying wastebaskets (or working in a sweatshop), but it pays the bills, and that's good enough. "'Do what you love' disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class."

Does DWYL exploit? Is it advice embedded in privilege and class? And when we choose to "do what we love," are we making Tokumitsu's suggested descent into narcissism, choosing our work, not for the good of others, but for the betterment of the self? Or can Christians and their theology of work actually redeem DWYL?

Let's start by admitting privilege. I do what I love. I write. This is an extraordinary grace in my life. I did not grow up wealthy, but my parents' hard work bought my college degree, which landed me a stable teaching job, which paid my graduate school tuition. Years later, it was my privileged choice to quit my job and stay home with my daughter. Even now, I am not forced back into the work force by economic necessity. I can peddle words for a penny. Yes, to do work that you love—even when underpaid, even when voluntary—is an immense privilege. Every day I count it as such.

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But here Tokumitsu and I part ways. DWYL, she argues, forces work into "two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished)." If we all did what we loved, of course we'd choose the former, rather than the latter, safely assuming, as Tokumitsu, that intellectual work is to be preferred over the contemptibility of manual labor:

If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is being true to ourselves, what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.

She betrays a bias that Christians can't swallow. It was the Ancient Greeks who believed work was inherently servile. Their gods did not work, and the ultimate privilege was unemployment. Because Tokumitsu understands DWYL as a means to morphing work into leisure, she calls it a patrician ideal, one that ultimately dehumanizes workers whose work is less meaningful and "lovely."

But Christians celebrate the goodness of all work and the dignity of all workers. We serve a God whose acts of creation are recorded in the context of a workweek. In the opening chapters of Genesis, God is a gardener. Later, he takes on skin and enters the carpenter's shop. Our God is a God who both works and commands his people to work (Ex. 20:9). All work—intellectual and manual—is godlike, and all workers reflect the glory of the Gardener-Carpenter God.

Christians do not elevate intellectual work over manual labor, and if we do what we love, it cannot mean that we commit only to work that is "creative, intellectual, and socially prestigious." We follow the One whose entrée into ministry was not a glorified sermon but the act of turning water into wine. He dirtied his hands to touch lepers and to wash feet. At the end of his earthly days, he picked up the burden of wooden beams and finished the ultimate work given him by his Father.

No, when we do what we love, it isn't so much about choosing only the work we find most "lovable," but rendering all our work as worship, which is of course the very first work God give humanity (Gen. 2:15).

Nevertheless, should we find ourselves, as I have, with work that often feels less like work and more like leisure, neither should we despise this immense gift. If manual labor is not contemptible, neither is it inherently virtuous. In fact, we must be warned against a heresy that often creeps into our conceptions of holiness: that desire, or doing what we love, is the reflexive impulse of the sin-sick self. We are wrong to safeguard ourselves—from ourselves—by always running instinctively towards the difficult and undesirable.

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The abandonment of desire is no biblical ideal. We owe our suspicions about desire, at least in part, to 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who defended that virtue could only be discovered in whatever was most difficult. Josef Pieper, in his essay "Leisure: The Basis of Culture," disagrees, siding instead with Thomas Aquinas who wrote that, "The essence of virtue consists more in the Good than in the Difficult." Pieper, a German philosopher, argues:

The Middle Ages had something to say about virtue that will be hard for us, fellow countrymen of Kant, to understand. And what was this? That virtue makes it possible for us... to master our natural inclinations? No. That is what Kant would have said, and we all might be ready to agree. What Thomas [Aquinas] says, instead, is that virtue perfects us so that we can follow our natural inclinations in the right way. Yes, the highest realizations of moral goodness are known to be precisely in this: that they take place effortlessly because it is of their essence to arise from love."

Yes, do what you love, fellow Christian. You are redeemed and delivered into a life of new loves. And if and when your work seems effortless—feeling less like work and more like leisure—this does not diminish its goodness.

Do what you love—for the One who has loved you.