“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters…”
~ Colossians 3:23
We’re a month into 2017 so I imagine that your resolutions, like mine, are looking a little worse for the wear. In light of such failure, I’d like to offer you different resolution for 2017, and this is one you can swing: appreciate the work you do. The reason you’ll be able to keep this resolution is because keeping it doesn’t even require you to like your job. There’s a Christian appreciation of work that goes beyond how we might feel about a job.
There’s a long-running debate about how people in general and particularly young people, poised to enter the workforce, should decide on a career. Should you follow your passion? Follow the money? Look for a need and fill it? Find a nice piece of real estate in your parents’ basement and hunker down for the long haul? There’s no shortage of options and opinions, and it can be difficult to know which way to go. I won’t try to answer this question here; the tradeoffs of college, trade school, on-the-job training, and choosing one field over another are ones that each person has to weigh. God be with you in finding the answers!
I’m more concerned with what you do once you find yourself in a job. Because whatever leads people into one line of work or another, many people don’t like their jobs. Here are some of the most common complaints: My work isn’t rewarding; I’m not making a difference; I don’t like my company. If your job is attaching one piece to a machine on an assembly line, you don’t get to see the final fruits of your work, and you might feel like a simple cog. Or even if you see the results of your work, it might feel like it’s not a big deal. Sure, you rang up someone’s groceries and now they’re leaving with their bags, but what difference did that make? Am I really helping anybody?
The truth is that most people do work that doesn’t feel like it helps anybody. Even in jobs that are designed to help people—teachers, counselors, pastors, social workers—getting that sense that anything is really being accomplished is rare. So what does all this mean?
As Christians, we believe that God is at work in this world, not just generally, but through the hands of each one. I had a friend who recently took over managing his family farm. A while back I ran into him when I went to see my parents, and he told me about something his dad said to him years ago. They were at the Cenex in Goodridge and one of the employees was filling their tank for them. He told his dad, “I’m glad that we’re farmers. I wouldn’t want to work at a gas station” His dad answered him, “If that man didn’t work at this gas station, we couldn’t farm the way we do.”
It’s true. Without the work of elevator workers, machinery manufacturers, chemists, feed and seed store managers, gas station attendants, and all the rest, producing food for anyone beyond the immediate family would be beyond the capacity of farmers. It’s the same with the rest of us, too. A teacher can only devote herself to teaching professionally because she doesn’t have to grind wheat into flour, wash clothes by hand, milk cows, etc. We can only do the things we do because someone else has freed us from other things. No matter how small or insignificant or impersonal a job may seem, it is part of a large web of work that God has given us to do on this good earth of his. One job is not more honorable than another, God has made each one vital.
When we see our work through this lens of faith, it allows us to trust that what we do matters, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Appreciate your work (even if you hate your job). The Lord is with you in it. May he bless the fruits of your labor, no matter how small they may seem to you. Amen.
Pastor Clifton Hanson