Work is what we do to pay the bills, to raise the family, to make us feel good about ourselves, to get us through school. It defines us to a great degree. No conversation with a stranger goes too long before someone says “What do you do for a living?”
Studs Turkel, Chicago’s own late oral historian once made the observation that "Most people live somewhere between a grudging acceptance of their job and an active dislike of it." We also know full well that for many in our high driving society that ‘work consumes’.
Whether we love it or hate it work oftentimes sucks us into its vortex with disastrous consequences. It provides a validation that keeps us pressing harder and longer. It can entice us away from more pressing issues in our life and it can pay for indulgences that we want to believe creates Sabbath but doesn’t. And thus, work needs focused redefinition and a time of rest from it.
For anything that consumes us, preoccupies us, and/or worries us is in danger of becoming an idol that we serve, standing in the way of our primary goal in life i.e. to know, love, and serve God. In it’s own strange way, whether we love it or hate it, work can become what we worship. It’s true for the homemaker that obsesses about her kids, or the student who obsesses with their school work, to the factory worker who spends far too much time whining and complaining about the work that that he/she does, or to the executive who loves the limelight his/her work put her in.
For all of us the work we do can be an idol. And then it becomes a sin. And sin robs us of joy and keeps us unsure of our focus. It moves us away from God.
Some love their jobs. Most have days when we don’t love what we do. It’s at those times we should remember this story from Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God.
When you have had one of those take this job and shove it days try this. On your way home, stop at your pharmacy and go to the section where they have thermometers. You will need to purchase a rectal thermometer made by the Q-Tip company. Be sure that you get this brand. When you get home, lock your doors, draw the drapes and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed during your therapy. Change into something comfortable like pj’s or a sweat suit and lie down. Open the package containing the thermometer and carefully place it on the bedside table so that it will not become chipped or broken. Take the written material that accompanies the thermometer. As you read, notice in small print this statement: “Every rectal thermometer made by Q-Tip is personally tested.”
Close you eyes and then say 5 times. “Thank you, Oh thank you Lord, that I do not work in quality control at the Q-Tip company.
No matter what we do for a living …from homemaker to homebuilder …we are asked to make our work a holy calling.
In the Garden immediately after the Fall the world of work changed from something life-giving and glorious to something that was going to be difficult …’the ground will produce thistles and thorns for you and you will eat the plants of the field …by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”
In other words, work was now going to cost us something. It wasn’t going to be quite as glorious. Sin tainted it. Yet, God still wants to redeem it.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3: 17
And when we do our work in the name of Jesus something happens that’s noble. Even the most mundane of tasks can become very holy.
Jesus never valued some types of work above others. I try to do the Lord’s work. Anita has a radio program. That is her Lord’s work. We’re in very visible Christian ministry. We carry a label on us. It’s clear what we’re supposed to be about. I’m very thankful you all don’t have to wear that label.
I’m thankful that we are all called, however, to or placed somewhere. There, we get to do the Lord’s work. It might be as a student, as a homemaker, as a doctor, or a lawyer, a lab tech or a financial consultant. No matter what we do we now all have a similar job description. We are to make Him known in what we do. We are to let our light shine.
And personally, I’m very happy that there are people who get to serve in other ways differently than I do. I love the customer service rep at Comcast I met one day when I was at wits end …she served me. I found out she was a believer. I’m grateful that the night I had a heart attack people had chosen medicine as a profession. I’m grateful that not everyone is a minister when my plumbing goes bad.
Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing God can use it. Even in quality control at the Q tip factory.
In Buchanan’s Rest of God, he tells the following two stories.
Martin Luther said:
The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays-not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
Os Guiness tells the story of a young mother and widow living in Scotland in the 1800’s. She fell into desperate circumstances and one day she went down to the river to kill herself. But as she stood on the bridge, she looked up. She saw a field across the river and a young man was plowing it. He worked with such skill and care and concentration that she became absorbed in the sight of it. Her fascination turned to wonder, and her wonder to thanksgiving, and her thanksgiving to a sense of purpose. She rose, went forth, and lived a long and productive life.
There is sanctity in honest work. There is something in it that pleases, not just the eyes of men, but the heart of God.
When we work well and for the Lord we make Christ known. ‘Tis good. It’s redemptive.