I’ve always preached that all honest work is God-glorifying and that the opportunity to engage in labor and reflect God’s character through it is a great privilege. Over the years, I’ve also emphasized that if you’re doing the work God wants you to do, however “secular” it may be, you shouldn’t stoop to do anything else. Even vocational ministry is a demotion if it’s not what God wants you to do.
As a pastor, these ideas were relatively easy to affirm. The logic is simple. The best thing any man can do at any time is to obey God. Therefore, if God wants him to sell soap, or make pizza, or drive truck, or mop floors, that activity is the best thing he can do. And if that work is best for him, all other work is inferior.
But when you’re post-pastoral, these principles can be a bit harder to hold with conviction—especially if you loved your pastoral work, prepared thoroughly for it for almost a decade, and still believe it’s what you do best. But sometimes even guys with seminary training and clear evidence of giftedness for ministry can find themselves facing clear direction from God to “do something else until further notice.”
And when that happens, they struggle to see meaning and purpose in the work they find to do.
So on this labor day, I’m talking to myself and to any of the rest of you who sometimes feel that your work is a bit wanting on the scale of importance, meaning and enduring value. (It’s also a holiday, so I’m not going to work too hard at this. Please enjoy the irony.)
Vocational researchers examining “chaos theory” tend to emphasize not the consistent, orderly nature of career patterns, but rather the importance of initial conditions and the impact of seemingly random perturbations on career development, that somewhat disrupt the ultimate trajectory of individual careers. ... God has given you particular interest, aptitudes, and abilities for a reason.
By Dr. Jim Thrasher and The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College (Grove City, PA). Used by permission.
The first job I ever wanted was to be a “garbage man,” as that is what I called it at age five. I would run out to the curb each week when the garbage truck came. The garbage man would greet me with a big smile and say, “How are you, Jimmy?” It was exceedingly apparent that this man had a positive attitude while performing what most would call a smelly, repetitive, and mundane job. I sincerely believe that this man—who impacted my life and whom I will never forget—loved his job because he saw beyond the required tasks and faithfully served and cared for others. For him, it had little to do with the job itself. I wanted to be just like him because, as I look back now, I sensed his service, commitment, devotion and calling.