“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?
You may say that your job is so commonplace that you have a hard time thinking how to serve your neighbor. Luther argues that all work is objectively valuable to others; it will not be subjectively fulfilling unless you consciously see and understand your work as calling to love your neighbor. Keller further says, “When you obey God’s calling, you can be sure that the splendor of God radiates through any task, whether it is as commonplace as tilling the garden or rarefied as working on the global trading floor of the bank.”
Your work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it no matter what the line of work is.
Question: How do you worship God through your work?
Paul Sohn is an “organizational chiropractor,” purpose weaver, and kingdom-minded catalyst. His mission is to glorify God through equipping, connecting, and transforming people and organizations into Kingdom-minded influencers of this world. Paul is a Korean-American-Canadian who envisions seeing the world turned upside down for His Kingdom. He writes at his blog Salt+Light to equip, empower, and mobilize the next generation of leaders by helping them discover their God-given purpose, talent, and potential. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter @PaulJSohn, and LinkedIn.
Publication date: July 1, 2014