Your Work MattersIs there a difference between holy work and everything else? Ginger Kolbaba explores if it’s possible that the work we do is a meaningful way to glorify God and further His mission.
“DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE WHAT YOU DO DOESN’T REALLY MATTER?”
My friend Debbie asked me. “I mean I know it matters, but sometimes… I don’t know.” Her gaze wandered off, and she grew silent. Sometimes we can feel, because we aren’t doctors or social workers or pastors as though our work doesn’t have that same level of significance. I mean what’s eternally weighty about brewing a double-shot espresso mocha latte, working retail or handling endless IT issues at the local auto dealership?
Work is that thing we do to make a living, right? We work and then we engage in other things— “real life” things: we enjoy our families and friends, we practice our faith, we eat and laugh and love and catch up on all the latest Netflix offerings. But work is that thing over there.
Eusebius, a historian in the early fourth century A.D., taught that there were those who had vocations—work that exclusively focused on “ministry”—while everyone else had “work that had to be done,” which was good but not necessarily important to what God was doing in the world.
My friend had what she called a dead-end job, but she desperately wanted to be a writer. She told me that when she squeezed in an hour or two to write, she felt as though she was doing holy work, but the rest of her time felt mundane and nonessential to God’s kingdom.
Is there really a difference between holy work and everything else? Is it possible that the work we do isn’t in the “other” category, but is a meaningful way to glorify God and further His mission?
Rethinking Your Job
I spent time with a friend who was a bookkeeper and now is a full-time stay-at-home mom. “My job paid the bills and helped my family, and for that I was grateful,” she told me. “It wasn’t my life’s calling or my deepest desire, but I knew that every day I balanced my company’s books, I made a difference. When I did my best, I was pleasing God. Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, the deal is still the same. I don’t love changing diapers or, frankly, even cooking, but I do it because I know it needs to be done and I please God through it.” She was living out Colossians 3:23:
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Your work life can be your ministry, says Christopher McCluskey, founder of Professional Christian Coaching Institute, an organization that trains life coaches and helps people discern and pursue their goals. “I’ve worked with thousands of people whose lives changed when they began to see what they do as integral to God’s mission.”
When we begin to rethink our work as an opportunity to glorify God and use what He has uniquely given us in a place He has uniquely placed us, then our mundane, dull jobs take on a new and revitalized role in our lives. What we do matters because we do those things with an eye toward honoring God. So, our work becomes the ministry of God’s kingdom. We don’t work and then do real life; our work is the very essence of God’s kingdom.
Rethinking Who You Are in It
“Every endeavor we undertake can glorify God,” McCluskey says. “Our jobs—even the most basic—are not incidental to God’s mission— especially when we consider them in light of who we are.”
So, who are we?
First Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a kingdom of priests. That means that every job, from the janitor to the restaurant hostess to the swim instructor to the assembly line worker to the patent attorney, is vital to God’s work of restoring and redeeming all things in Jesus. It isn’t just clergy, but all vocations that matter to God’s mission.
Not only are we priests, but we are also masterpieces. The God who knew us before He made us (Jeremiah 1:5) designed us as “God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). Those good things include the work we are doing right now.
For what purpose? To ultimately transform us into Christlikeness. Paul reminds us that “all of us… reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). In other words, that job that feels insignificant is the very tool God is using to make you more like Jesus. Those routine duties can shape your character, grow the fruit of the Spirit, and reflect within you the beauty of Jesus.
It becomes not how we do the work, but how the work molds us. We don’t cultivate Christlikeness when we escape the daily drudgery (such as during our quiet times or church services)—although those times certainly serve their purpose. Rather, we transform more into Christlikeness during those long, dreary hours of work. How different we can view our jobs when we realize that everywhere we go and in everything we do we bring the presence of Christ through our priestly role.
Rethinking the Sacred/Secular Divide
When I was an actress, I experienced plenty of days in which I wondered what difference I
made playing “dress-up pretend.” When I worked at an insurance company, I wondered what difference putting together short-term disability quotes held in the scope of eternity. And as a writer, I’ve often pondered the eternal significance of a well-placed comma. But one thing I’ve learned through all those professions: God provided them for me not just to earn my livelihood, but to interact with others who need to see the beauty of Jesus—and that beauty comes through how I allow God to transform me in the mundane moments of life.
As McCluskey says, “Our jobs provide the perfect place for us to live out a sacred journey into the heart and mission of God. We don’t go to church on Sundays to find God and be transformed and then let Mondays through Saturdays deal with the meaningless drudgery of life. It’s in that Monday through Saturday existence that we find our truest significance.” God finds us there, transforms us there and there leads us into an ever-greater degree of glory.
So, it turns out there is a lot of eternal weightiness to brewing a double-shot espresso mocha latte, working retail or handling endless IT issues. Priestly duties, all.
This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of The War Cry