If you’ve ever worked at the front desk of a business like me (or have known someone in a similar position), you probably know to expect both good and bad. Some days provide the pleasure of rapport with customers, the feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing where everything is and who can help whom. Then there are days that test your nerve and chip your ego. Foreign scammers call from another hemisphere trying to obtain your personal information. Faceless busybodies demand to know your job title and what you do all day.
The Bible is clear on our need for gratitude to God in every circumstance—didn’t John the Baptist tell Roman soldiers to “be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14 NKJV)? Our jobs, though, can leave us feeling like bit characters in a made-for-TV movie, as if our daily effort to earn a living is unworthy of attention. After all, how many novels do you read that are brave enough to chronicle a protagonist’s day at the checkout counter? I’ve noticed that the interesting parts of movies and books tend to happen after five o’clock or before somebody’s punched in. There’s a subtle, demoralizing implication that we spend most of our lives doing insignificant work so that we can do important things on the weekend.
Christians work differently. Our jobs are God’s gift of purpose to us: “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24). We may have human supervisors who evaluate our work and customers we are bound to serve, but we work principally “as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 2:23-24). A commitment to remembering this fact will raise whatever work we do each week—even the drudging, red-eyed, stiff-muscled parts of it—to a level of contented significance we could never attain if we treat our jobs as curses or chores from God. If we choose to work well and pursue quality, we profit his kingdom. Without speaking we testify to our coworkers and friends that what we do matters to us because God matters to us.
My grandparents were the paragon of the Christian work ethic to me. My grandfather drove a truck for a brewery—difficult, backbreaking labor. He only had a seventh-grade education, but he was relentlessly punctual and never shied from a task. The company closed when he was near retirement, and he was the only laid-off worker recommended by his boss for a position elsewhere. My grandmother was a housewife for most of her life and churned out thousands of homemade meals in a cramped kitchen. They were flawed people working for God.
The great Chicago pastor A.W. Tozer wrote this prayer to God: “Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream” (The Pursuit of God 108). Too often we cede our minds to the worldly definition of significance—if you matter, then you will be noticed, you will be recognized, you will be remembered when you are gone. Indeed some excellent Christians will be remembered by history forever. Most—perhaps some of the best—will not. That’s because they accepted work from God that took them away from the world’s eyes and put them where they were needed. On missions. In offices and warehouses. On their neighbors’ doorsteps. Their names may be lost or known only to a few, but their accomplishments endure for eternity.
The Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). We find David’s character expressed in a powerful Psalm that declares, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (84:5-7). David would have accepted the doorman’s job—a lowly post in the world’s assessment—if it meant working where God wanted him and doing what God had set him there to do.
The only question is: Would you do the same?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
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