Labor of Love

I had a conversation with my mother a couple weekends ago on a rare full-weekend trip home. The fact that we had a conversation is not at all an anomaly, but I think for the first time it focused on the topic of work. As a means of context, she has always been a strong spiritual influence in my life, so I was rather attentive when she said that work had been something God had been working on in her life. The next morning, we went to Reston Bible Church and the topic was once again broached so I knew I had no hope of ignoring it.

Work has been around since the beginning of time. In the beginning, man was created and placed in Eden so that he could do work in the garden (Genesis 2:15). Man doing work was established before he was warned not to eat the forbidden fruit. Therefore, work has a high regard in God’s eyes. But, what as a Christian is to be my view on work?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself, especially lately, compartmentalizing my work and my ministry. When I’m in the office, I’m simply there to do my job and clock out at the end of the day. Then, when I leave the office, I need to be in “ministry mode”. In case you’re worried, yes, this is supposed to seem as stupid as it sounds to read (silently or aloud). Anyway, my demeanor in the office is polite for sure, but my focus is solely on getting the job done for which I am paid. Only once the work day is done can I turn my attention to being an evangelical Christian. Maybe my first warning sign should have been the fact that I work in a Christian office…

As I’ve already hinted a few times now, this is completely wrong. The first question I should be asking myself is where in the Bible does it say that I should only be a follower of Christ under certain prescribed times and conditions? No, it’s nowhere to be found as I’m sure you already knew or assumed. Also, it seems that my work is rather unilaterally, inwardly focused. Now, I’m not saying that work should not be purposeful, I mean to advocate the opposite, but not one that is so…selfish, really. On the other end of the spectrum, work cannot be unfocused while I entertain thoughts of it being ultimately fulfilling and productive.

First and foremost, work, like any other aspect of life, should be governed by the words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Work should be focused on loving God and loving our neighbors, or our coworkers, bosses, clients, etc. in this case. I think that this is best accomplished by having a plan for everyone we come into contact with on a regular basis that takes into account our own specific giftings. That involves getting to know each and every one of these people as valuable individuals and relying on the Holy Spirit to show you how you in particular can love them best. I may not think that I am being paid to love others, but what good can I really do in my position if I am not seeking to build the others around me in love? (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”(1 Corinthians 10:31) If I were to assert that this passage did not include work, I would be a liar and a fraud and should step away from these keys forever. “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” This verse (1 Timothy 4:15) means that not only should we do all for the glory of God, but do things with intention and purpose. “Do they not go astray who devise evil? Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22) With love as our purpose, God will always show up. Let us not create a false dichotomy between our work and ministry, but instead let love saturate all areas of our lives. To Him be the glory. Amen.