Recently I’ve been learning about how our occupations are a way to honor God in a variety of different ways. The irony is that I’ve been learning all about this right before we left on our family vacation to Hilton Head over the 4th of July weekend. Our trip was a sweet time of building memories as a family, having fun, relaxing and enjoying God’s beauty in His creation. It was great to unplug and be away from responsibilities for a few days. A much-needed time to recharge. Now that we’re driving back home, I’m thinking about how our normal routines await us and our responsibilities will begin again. But I think there’s lessons to take away from what other Christians before us have learned to be true for them as well when it comes to work.
One Christian, Dorothy Sayers, was very outspoken about the purpose of our work here on earth. Dorothy Sayers was an English crime writer and poet. In 1937, Sayers was asked to write a play for the Christian Canterbury Festival. She had previously written successful crime novels and now found herself with further writing assignments in the Christian field for radio plays, essays and books. Her faith grew during her writings and she soon became one of the foremost Christians of her generation. Dorothy was passionate that work should bring God glory. A quote of hers that I love is, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sunday’s. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly – but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and Earth”.
What great perspective. I often lose sight of the fact that Jesus was a carpenter for many years before he began his ministry work. And I do believe that he invested himself in his work and made quality carpentry pieces during his profession.
Another learning point recently on this topic came from a YouVersion Bible reading plan called Beyond Savings Souls by Jordan Raynor. In this study he makes the point that our work matters for eternity beyond sharing the gospel. That sharing the gospel isn’t always about leaving our jobs and becoming full time missionaries (although that work is important too). Our work is a way to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), to love our neighbors well (Mark 12:30-31) and to spread the perfume of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Raynor illustrates these points in many ways, one of which is highlighting CS Lewis and how his atheism views were solidified by age 17. Lewis read a copy of a fantasy novel Phantastes in which his biographer writes, “Everything was changed for [Lewis] as a result of reading the book. He discovered a ‘new quality,’ a ‘bright shadow,’ which seemed to him like a voice calling him from the ends of the earth.” Although Lewis didn’t know it at the time, the book’s author, George MacDonald, was a Christian and it spurred Lewis to continue his spiritual belief journey which ultimately led him to become a Christian who went on himself to write many famous books. Our work, similar to what CS Lewis experienced through George MacDonald’s work, spreads the “perfume” of God. It gives others a craving to know God at a deeper level.
I think kids are a great example of what it means to work in our God-given purposes. Never once in my parenthood have I had to tell Olivia – please don’t forget today: you need to play, have fun, learn, explore and be joyful. (Although I have had to ask her to get dressed, brush her teeth and help out with chores at home, but that’s a different type of work 😊). To Olivia – the work of childhood comes naturally. It’s what she was created to do. And it was so fun to have a front row seat to soak it all in over vacation without interruption. To listen to and answer all her questions that she asks because she’s constantly learning. To listen to her funny stories and giggle with her at the silly thoughts that run through her mind. To watch the exuberant joy on her face and whole body as she runs into the ocean to play for hours. To watch her walk around new areas and explore the new creatures in the area (the baby crabs being her favorite). Work to her is easy. And my prayer for her as she gets older is that she listens to God’s calling for her life, is obedient to it and works with the gifts and talents that God has given her. That she would find fulfillment and purpose in the work that she decides to do. And to be honest, it’s the prayer that I have for myself and others as well. That we would find meaning and purpose in the work that we do, no matter what our job is: work-at-home Mom, caregiver, electrician, nurse, marketing specialist, operations manager or truck driver. That we would perform our work with excellence and for God’s glory. We don’t know who we’re influencing simply by showing up and working with purpose and passion. We spend so much of our time, energy and talent at work. How can you maintain a fresh perspective on the work that you do? In what ways can you continue to honor God through the work you perform? Wishing you all the best as you continue your work week with these thoughts in mind.
“Work is not primarily a thing one does to live but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.” ~Dorothy Sayers