Work, Glorious Work
- James Tonkowich ReligionToday.com Columnist
- 2014 29 Jan
Mike understood bonds—government bonds, corporate bonds, municiples and the rest. The team that wrote the bond trading software, however, didn’t have a clue. It was Mike’s job to teach the coders about the bond business and he hated it.
One day, just before a presentation, Mike said wearily, “Jim, I really don’t believe it’s God’s will for me to be teaching Bonds 101 to a bunch of coders.”
Not really thinking, I responded, “It is today.”
You could see the light bulb go on. “You’re right,” he exclaimed smiling, “Today this is God’s will.” Then he got up and, with a bounce in his step, headed into the conference room to teach. He also found another job as soon as he could, but he embraced God’s will for that day: teaching Bonds 101.
I thought about Mike during my prayers Monday morning before beginning work.
“We bless you Creator of all things, for you have given us the good of the earth and brought us to this day.”
Today with all its problems, difficulties, and frustrations and the work of the day with all its Dilbertesque possibilities, difficult people, and unpleasant surprises do not arise ex nihilo. God has brought each of us to this day, to this work, or, if not to work, to our lot in life. True, our sin may have contributed to our lot in life, but God uses even sin.
Esther became queen of Babylon just in time to see her people, the Jews, threatened with genocide. She wanted nothing to do with the problem if she could avoid involvement. But her uncle, Mordecai reminded her of providence, proposing that she might have been in her royal position “for such as time as this” (Esther 4:14).
I don’t know what you do all day, but might it be that you and I are providentially where we are “for such a time as this”? The answer is: there’s no “might” about it. We may be in desperate need of job changes, but for today it’s Bonds 101, not by accident, but by the grace and providence of God.
“Look upon us as we begin our daily work, let us be fellow workers with You.”
If you’re one of those people who attacks the tasks of the day praying for God’s presence to be with you, that he will be with you as you work, I have good news: you’re doing it wrong.
We think the day begins when the sun rises and we hit the ground running. By contrast, the Bible teaches that the day begins at sunset, when we wind down and go to sleep. We arise to a day half spent to step into the work of the day that God has been accomplishing as we slept. The work of the day is not yours and you needn’t bear the burden of it. The work is God’s and you and I step into what he is already doing. God is not our companion in the tasks of the day. We are his companions and because of that, the work we do becomes redemptive work. Even mundane tasks have eternal purpose.
“May our work today benefit our brothers and sisters, that with them and for them we may build an earthly city, pleasing to You.”
This world is not our home, true enough, but while we’re “just a passin’ through” we have a responsibility to bring the harmony of the City of God to bear on the squalor of the City of Man. Love for neighbor goes beyond telling our neighbor about Jesus. It extends to all the tasks of life and institutions of life. Law, government, business, homemaking, home building, “handyman” home repair, military, auto mechanics, and on and on—Jesus is Lord of everything and when we arrive at our place of work he is already there at work before us. So the first item on our “To Do” list is to acknowledge his presence and join him in his good work.
This way of looking at work crystallized for me as the workweek kicked off. God has given me this day and the tasks of the day. The work is his and he calls me to join him. What I do serves a greater purpose, beyond my limitations and even the limitations of space and time.
And thus work—odd as it seems many days—becomes a blessing.
James Tonkowich is a writer and scholar at The Institute on Religion & Democracy where his focus is the intersection between faith and the public square, where worldview makes all the difference in the world. Jim worked with Chuck Colson, managing his daily BreakPoint radio commentary, founding a magazine, writing, speaking, and developing curriculum including the Centurions Program. He is a regular contributor to ReligionToday.com and also works with The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, Oxford House Research, and other policy institutes. Learn more about Jim at JimTonkowich.com.