Monday, July 11, 2016

Who Do You Really Work For?

Suppose you asked someone, “What kind of work do you do?” and the answer was, “I’m an administrative assistant,” or “I work as a custodian,” or “I drive a bus.” You’d probably think something like, “Well, that’s not exciting, but it’s useful, honorable work.” Would you think differently, maybe just a little, if the person added, “I’m the administrative assistant for Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft,” or “I am the custodian solely responsible for cleaning the Oval Office in the White House,” or “I drive the bus for Dolly Parton when she tours”?

Most likely we’d respond by saying, “Oh, really?!” It’s not just the job, but where we work and for whom we work that makes the impression. Like it or not, working at an important place or for an important person elevates our view of any job’s importance.

So is the secret to having a great job finding one with a prestigious person, or a major company that’s always in the headlines? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: You can have that kind of job right now – and it wouldn’t even be necessary to change jobs.

Tree cutting, if done "for the Lord,"
can be as important a job as any.
How’s that possible? According the Bible, everyone who follows Jesus Christ works for someone with far more clout and importance than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, all the U.S. Presidents, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Paul McCartney and everyone like them in the world put together. Here’s what it says: “For we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul again makes reference to our unique partnership with the Lord. As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain(2 Corinthians 6:1). What’s more important, working for the famous CEO of some big corporation, or for the God of all creation?

At this point we’re inclined to argue, “Well, maybe that’s true for pastors and missionaries, even choir directors and staff of parachurch ministries. But I work in a secular business; I don’t work for God.” May I beg to differ?

In the first place, the word “secular” doesn’t appear in the Bible, and nowhere does it make a distinction between sacred and secular vocations. Such thinking is merely a construct from the early church that’s been perpetuated in some quarters to make “laypeople” think the clergy have more important, even “divine” roles. There was a time when I thought that way, too, but it’s definitely not God’s view. Consider:
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23).
  • So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  • “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7).
  • Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).

I’m often reminded of the time I had lunch with a financial planner who blurted out, “I’d give my eyeteeth to go into full-time service for God.” I don’t know what eyeteeth had to do with it, but I replied, “What makes you think you haven’t already done that? Because there’s no such thing as a part-time Christian, and we’re all called to serve God and others, so that pretty much sounds like full-time Christian service to me.”

The whole idea of acting spiritual on Sundays and other “religious” times of the week, while living differently the rest of the week finds no scriptural support. In fact, in an age when more and more people have little or no connection with the local church, you might be the only example of Jesus that people you work with ever encounter.

When He called His disciples, Jesus didn’t select priests or religious leaders. He chose fishermen, a tax collector, and people of other trades. Vocationally, Jesus Himself had been a carpenter before starting His earthly ministry.

So whenever someone asks what kind of work you do, you can still respond, “I’m a teacher,” or “I’m a CPA,” or “I’m a painter.” But keep in mind the rest of your answer, in case anyone cares to ask: “And I serve and work for God!”

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