“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the greatest epidemics the world is suffering from is the loss of meaning and purpose. The latest Gallup studies show only 13% of employees worldwide actually enjoy work. Many of us have viewed work as a daily grind – a monotonous, thankless set of tasks that fails to tap into our God-given talents and potential.

The mantra at work today has become, “Let’s work for the weekend.” Work, thus, has devolved into a lowly means for paying the bills.

How did we come to this perception of work today?

Two key causes I explained in a previous post were poor leadership development and failure to view work as your God-given calling in life. Let me focus on the latter and explain how Christians can connect Sunday worship to Monday work. The truth is we, as Christians, are called as “priests.” Each and every one of us is in “full-time Christian ministry.” We are ministers in the marketplace, in the arts and entertainment industry, in the educational field, in the public office, etc. Luther says that we are God's “hands” and “coworkers.” Above all, our lives ought to be a reflection of the “Good News” – a fragrance of Christ. Os Hillman further says that our vision as Christians is to be at the top of the seven mountains of culture, shaping the culture into one that is good and truthful.

I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this universal struggle people experience in the workplace. But let me share what the Bible teaches and how our perception of work will change. That, I believe is the foundation of any change.

Work as an Act of Love

The singular purpose of vocation is to love your neighbor through serving them with work. Unfortunately, the world today sees work as a means for selfish means, namely pursuing individual advancements. Dorothy Sayers said we have bought into the “essential heresy…being that work is not the expression of a man’s creative energy in the service of Society, but only something he does in order to obtain money and leisure.” When this happens, “Doctors practise medicine, not primarily to relieve suffering, but to make a living – the cure of the patient is something that happens along the way.” How do you love your neighbor?

Work as a Ministry of Competence

You show love by being competent with your work. This concept has been lost in today’s church. Dorothy Sayers makes a valid point:

“The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.”

When people grasp this understanding of work, they will still desire to succeed but will not be nearly as driven to overwork or made as despondent to failure. Timothy Keller advises, “then if you have to choose between work that benefits more people and work that pays you more, you should seriously consider the job that pays less and helps more – particularly if you’re great at it.”

What if my job is so commonplace or lowly?