Colossians 3:23 – And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men
Follow me through a figurative scenario I have experienced in real life more than once:
I’m at a religious convention meeting new people, and I’m speaking with someone whom I discover to be involved either in ministry, is a teacher, or is involved in direct patient care.
“I find doing the work of the Lord to be very fulfilling. God is using me to directly touch lives. So, what do you do?”
“I work in the business side of health care. I started as a contract analyst, and now I’m a finance analyst.”
“Oh.” The person visibly gathers their thoughts. “That’s nice.” There is a likelihood that eye contact will be dodgy after that last statement.
This awkward pause has frustrated me for years. Is what I do not good enough somehow? It’s like they asked about my family and I told them my mom died yesterday leaving them with nothing to say but to give condolences. Or, as if they asked me what my hobby was and I said I grow pot in my basement and sell it for spending money, thus killing any positive thoughts for the conversation.
What is it that makes them feel awkward and me feeling judged as if I had done something wrong for not choosing to be in some more overtly spiritual or service related field?
Ultimately, they had a wrong view of what work is. The perception is that work in ministry or direct service to humanity (such as teaching or patient care in healthcare) is better, or a higher value, to society and to God.
Is this true? Is it true that God likes it more when people do some jobs as compared to others? That’s an awfully strange question isn’t it? But I believe society, and the church, has this understanding ingrained in it.
Let’s create a hypothetical situation and ask God a question. (I’m a little nervous about speaking for God.) “God, let’s say you were to take two new human beings and put them into a new world. Would it be a world of leisure, or would you give them work to do, and if you were to give them work to do, what type of work would you give them?
2 Thessalonians 3:10 – For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
Genesis 2:15 – Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
“OK, thanks for answering. But those are humans. Hypothetically speaking, if you could live as a human, what type of work would you do as a profession?”
Mark 6:3 – Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Leaving our hypothetical situation, it’s clear that work is not beneath God. Jesus said elsewhere, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” God didn’t set up his first humans as priests or doctors, but as farmers. He sent his Son to be a working man as a carpenter.
“The Saviour’s early years were useful years. He was His mother’s helper in the home; and He was just as verily fulfilling His commission when performing the duties of the home and working at the carpenter’s bench as when He engaged in His public work of ministry.” The Faith I Live By p. 263
Think of it, Jesus was doing the will of the Father every bit as much when he was a carpenter as when he was out in front of the people delivering messages and healing people. So if God is love and does love. Then so-called “ordinary” work is a way of loving your neighbors.
“The application of this dictum – that competent work is a form of love – are many. Those who grasp this understanding of work will still desire to succeed but will not be nearly as driven to overwork or made as despondent by poor results. If it is true, 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 can be great at it. It means that all jobs – not merely so-called helping professions – are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs.” Every Good Endeavor p. 79.
Another true scenario I experienced:
I was playing a group game with a number of healthcare providers of different types. One had to describe my work as if they were me. It went something along the lines of, “I work in healthcare, but I don’t really help people.” The individual was well meaning and meant that I wasn’t providing direct patient care, but if I were to ask that person, “So, how DO I help people?” I think I’d get a response of, “I’m not sure. How do you?”
I help people by doing good work. That makes a direct impact on the lives of my coworkers. If I do a bad job it makes their lives difficult. If people in my position were to NOT do their jobs, ultimately physicians wouldn’t get paid, services wouldn’t be billed for, and all of healthcare would shut down. No joke. Physicians, nurses, PTs, and all the rest depend on people like me in order to do their work. I say this not to inflate my self-worth, but to put forward the idea that every job, done well, is a service to others, and none are inferior or less noble.
Everything we do is service to one another. No profession is higher than another. A businesswoman does not do work that is more valuable than a homemaker (as society tells us in so many ways). A physician is not a more valuable human being than a garbage truck driver. If we work for the Lord, and for the good of others, in whatever capacity our work has us, we are doing work that God sees as important and valuable. It is not lost, and God does not lose sight of it. God cares about you, and he cares about what you do. You don’t have to have a professional job making lots of money to earn his appreciation. God likes you, and what you do MATTERS. To Him and to others.
“Your daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called you and equipped you to do it – no matter what kind of work it is.” Every Good Endeavor p. 80.
* Many ideas in this post are taken from the book Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller. You should read it.