Your work is valuable in God’s eyes (Part 2: When you’re working a non-career job)

McDonald's, Employees
Image by The Consumerist via Flickr

Maybe back in January, you read my reflections on scripture which teaches that your work is inherently valuable to God. And maybe you’re in a job that has nothing to do with the career path you’d like to follow. It’s a lot harder to maintain an attitude of hope and purpose in that sort of environment, isn’t it?

With this in mind, I asked one of my friends about her thoughts on the matter. Ashleigh works as an assistant manager at a restaurant in town, and I’ve noticed that she has done a great job representing Christ in her workplace, even though she’s planning to pursue a career elsewhere.

Ashleigh, some people might say that your work isn’t that important since it’s not where you want your career to be. What would you say in response?

Everything we do is important. Whether it is increasing experience in transferrable skills or getting better at the skills we have, we should do our best. Even though food service is not anything near what I want to do, I still think it is important because practically it helps me get better as a worker in general. Specifically, any job gives you a mission field to those surrounding you.

How do you maintain a positive and Christ-centered attitude in your working environment?

Sometimes it is very hard to keep a Christ-centered attitude. I have to purposely choose to not lash out in anger, or to do the hard thing instead of the easy thing. Things that help are people who know me and what I’m trying to accomplish. They encourage me and congratulate me when I do well. Even though I might grow frustrated and want a different job, I know that my actions are supposed to represent Christ. So, it is not necessarily what I do, but it’s what God allows me to do. I could not have a good attitude many times without God giving me encouragement or the right mind set.

What kind of impact are you able to have on your coworkers and customers?

It has been humbling when I hear what coworkers have to say. Several of them come to me for help with personal problems. But more importantly, I have people ask about God and say that they know I am a Christian…so what do I have to say about a particular issue or problem they are facing? By being a good worker and doing my best, it allows them to see how Christ impacts me and how living a Christian life is a good thing, not just “a bunch of rules.” I’ve been amazed and happy about the conversations I’ve had about God with my coworkers.

Your work is valuable in God’s eyes (Part 1)

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22–24)

For years, these verses didn’t have much of an effect on me.

Carpenter at work on Douglas Dam, Tennessee (T...
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

I struggle as much as the next guy—probably more—with motivation. I’ve tried all sorts of productivity tricks and methods to prevent me from wasting my time. But I’ve often felt drained of motivation at my job, whether it was working as an intern at the church or keeping up with my studies in college or doing some sort of summer job when I was in high school. When I lose sight of what I’m really working for, I become lazy. Over the last few months, however, the Lord has transformed my understanding of these verses.

Here’s what I used to think. I used to think that you could paraphrase these words to say, “When you’re at work, pretend that God is your boss. Then work really hard because that’s how you would work for him, right?”

Needless to say, this wasn’t very helpful. I’m not very good at tricking myself into working harder.

What I needed was a new perspective on these verses. I think it came back in September of last year, while I was visiting some of the tenants of the apartment management company which I’d begun working for. I got to see them in their homes, the homes that we had provided, and I realized that the work we’re doing is inherently good. We provide homes for people who need a place to live. And whenever I find a home for someone, I pull back the curtain a little bit on what it means to find our eternal home with our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:2–4).

Your workplace isn’t only an avenue to support your family or share the gospel with your coworkers (although it is those things as well!). As long as it adheres to the law of God, your work is inherently good. That’s what the apostle Paul was telling those who were slaves in Colosse. They were in bad situations, and some of them were enduring hard treatment from their masters. No doubt they dreaded going to work each day. Paul encourages them that “you are serving the Lord Christ.” Yes, Jesus Christ finds their work valuable; they are serving him as they do it. Their daily routines have meaning, and Paul reminds them that “from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

So, what’s valuable about your job? Are you serving other people by providing for their needs? Are you manufacturing a product that will help them? Are you teaching or mentoring them? Are you developing or creating something that is beautiful, reflecting the glory of God in his Creation? What makes your work good?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be returning to this topic a couple of times to address people with typical and atypical work situations: homemakers, students, or those working temporary jobs rather than careers. I’m looking forward to hearing from people at my church and getting their thoughts on what makes their work valuable in God’s eyes.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have questions to ask, insights to add, or suggestions to offer.