Do you ever find yourself asking these questions -- Does my work matter in the universe? Am I making a positive impact with my career? Does what I do mean anything to anyone else? Does God care about my job? Am I really making a difference?
I find myself asking these questions relatively often. So, you're not alone! Although I cannot offer a fix-all answer to these questions, Paul's letters to the Corinthian and Colossian churches point us in the right direction.
I must confess, even as an employee for an international mission organization, I sometimes fall prey to the lie that my work does not matter in the Kingdom of God.
I become discouraged in one of two ways. On some days, I feel that what I am doing does not matter, often because it does not measure up to someone else's work. On other days, I feel that how I am working is falling short, I either have too much energy to quit or not enough to start. Can you relate?
1) Whatever you do, it matters.
As a Media Director, I essentially produce artwork on behalf of the ministry day-in and day-out. Some of it is good, but some of it is not good -- especially when I compare it to the artwork of others. There are many thousands of media workers who have years more training than I do, and many more who are simply more creative than I am. When I witness what they produce, I sometimes feel that my work is worthless in comparison to theirs.
To take it a step further, I find myself becoming very jealous of mission workers who are "in the field." I think to myself, "they're the heroes doing the 'real' work of sharing the Gospel. What good is this graphic design or this publication doing int he Kingdom, really?"
These thought-patterns are not healthy. My wife often tells me, "Comparison is the thief of joy." She is right.
Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church: "For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body." 1 Corinthians 12:14-20
Are you an ear, or an eye? Are you a hand, or a foot? Whatever you "are," or whatever you do, you play a critical role in the Body of Christ. What you do matters to God, and it matters in the building of His Kingdom here on earth.
No matter how society views your current career path, be it menial or magnificent, God views it as important. Some of us scrub toilets and wash floors. Some of us work in offices. Some of us produce art. Some of us cook and serve food. Some of us lead and manage. Some of us organize and assist. Some of us raise children at home.
In each and every profession, God can and will use you to be a blessing to others. Maybe it's for your coworkers. Maybe it's for a student. Maybe it's for your own children. You are doing what you are doing for a purpose, and it is important in the Kingdom of God.
Brother Lawrence, a French lay-brother of the Discalced Carmelite Priory of Paris in the mid 1600s, delved into ministry following an injury during his service as a soldier in the Thirty Years War. Since he was not formally educated, he was delegated to some of the lowliest occupational positions in the monastery: cook, and sandal repairman. He literally cooked, washed dishes, and fixed dirty sandals from sun-up to sun-down. Anyone in his position may have wondered about the purpose of his or her work , but Brother Lawrence is remembered as working passionately for the love of God, experiencing His Presence even in the smallest of tasks.
In his posthumously compiled work, The Practice of the Presence of God, he writes, "It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God; when it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and adore my God, Who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise, more content than a king. When I cannot do anything else, it is enough for me to have lifted a straw from the earth for the love of God."
2) How you do it matters even more.
As you rolled out of bed this Monday morning, did you dread having to go back to work? Maybe, like me, you can't find the motivation to start the next big project. Perhaps, you are responsible for a very repetitive task all day, and it just doesn't feel meaningful anymore -- the day might go faster if you cut a corner or two.
It's easy to get burnt-out in our jobs -- even those that society may deem the most fulfilling. Every single one of us has felt that weight on our shoulders when the task at hand seems too difficult, seems too humiliating, or seems too "out-of-our-league."
Paul wrote this to the Colossian church: "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him...Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." - Colossians 3:17, 23-24
Do you ever feel burnt-out? Have ever cut a corner or taken a shortcut just to be done faster? God cares about how we do our work. The key to this lies in our hearts, and born out of our hearts is our attitude in which we work.
In the Kingdom, whether you are working in the kitchen or working at the headquarters, God expects excellence. We work for Him, not just for our superiors. If we approached our job with this perspective, that we are going to work today for God Himself, would we do our jobs with greater passion, with more attention to detail, or with more willingness?
Our old friend Brother Lawrence approached every task as an "offering of love" to God. He prayed, "My God, since You are with me, and since, by Your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with You, in Your presence. Work with me, so that my work might be the very best. Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections." I would wager that Brother Lawrence's omelettes were delicious, and that the queue line for his sandal repair was out the door and around the corner.
I pray that you find these passages in God's Word, and these quotes from Brother Lawrence to be an encouragement to your heart today. God cares about your work, and He cares even more about how you do it. Let us take great comfort in knowing even the menial tasks matter to God, and let us pursue excellence in all that we do.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES