One of the worst times in my life was when I was underemployed for several months immediately after college ended. I’d spent months trying to find work so I could graduate and go to work the next day. I’d done my best with interviews (though I interviewed terribly at the time), and tried to put together a winning portfolio and résumé. I’d taken all the advice I’d been given and in the end? I was still working at the bookstore in the mall, rather than in my field of study.
Eventually I found a job, thanks to the husband of one of my coworkers at the bookstore. Then I found another job a couple of months later. Then I lost that job in time for Christmas. Then I went freelance for five months before winning one more job, which I stayed at for nearly five years. And I’ve never been unemployed since.
See, I actually like to work. I’m most happy and productive as a human being when I’ve got a job (or several). I’m not usually working for the weekend (except for those times when I am). But that doesn’t mean I’ve had a healthy understanding of work. See, I’ve waffled between several different views of work. I’ve treated it as a necessary evil, something that enables me to do what I want to do. I’ve treated it as a functional god, finding all my value in it. And like a lot of Christians, I’ve behaved as though there was something holier and more God-glorifying about working for a church or ministry than working for a secular company. (Which is complete bunk, of course.)
But what it took me a long time to realize was the one view that I rarely see anyone espouse: to see work as an act of worship. For me, it was Dorothy Sayers who gave my head a shake, after reading a quote from her in Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor (reviewed here). After describing work as “one of the ways we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities”, Keller shared the following:
So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?. . . [It] is that 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 medium in which he offers himself to God.” (38)
That last line is the key: “It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties . . the medium in which he offers himself to God.” In other words, when we’re viewing work correctly—when we have a Christian understanding of work—we will see our work as an act of worship.
Imagine that. What would going to the office, the factory, the restaurant or the store look like if we started each day understanding (or seeking to understand) our work not as being drudgery or a necessary evil, but one of our chief expressions of worship and imaging our Creator? Would it increase our engagement with what we’re doing—and possibly even our productivity?
Let’s not forget this fact about work—it’s not a necessary evil. It’s not something to try to just get through. It’s a good gift from God—and when we remember this, though we’ll always have bad days, we’ll better be able to see the unique gifts and abilities God has given us at play in our daily routine. And who knows? We might even learn to like our jobs a little more, if for no other reason than because they offer us a chance to become more and more like our Creator and Redeemer.