180 – Man in the Mirror: A Man’s Guide to Work. An Excerpt from Pat’s New Book
Here’s an excerpt from A Man’s Guide to Work: 12 Ways to Honor God on the Job, January 2010, Moody Publishers.
Unfortunately, over 50 percent of all workers are dissatisfied with their jobs — a record high — and as many as 80 percent are not in jobs best suited for them. That’s tragic, since about half of your 112 waking hours each week will be devoted to work and your work commute.
Most men do not have what we might call “a theology of work.” They feel theologically stranded-left to cobble together their own doctrine of work. They have not been trained for the marketplace.
Ask most Christian men, “Is business or plumbing a calling, like being a pastor? What is God’s purpose for you in the marketplace?” or a dozen similar questions, and you will probably get blank stares. That’s not because the Bible is thin on the subject. Far from it. The Bible is replete with wisdom for every work situation you will ever encounter.
Same Work, Two Results
Picture two airline ticket agents. They do exactly the same job, but one views his work as something he does to earn money, so when he finishes his shift, he can do what he really wants to do. He is easily irritated by customers complaining when their travel plans go awry.
The second agent views his work as a calling. Every time someone comes to him with a problem, he sees it as an opportunity to serve the customer and represent his great God. The agent does what he was called to do to the glory of God, even when facing resistance from a particular customer.
That second ticket agent understands the big idea of this chapter: Whether you’re a businessman or a minister, your work is a calling. It has intrinsic value, and it has potential to bear eternal fruit that honors God.
Is Work a Blessing or a Curse?
Many assume that work is part of the curse that resulted from Adam and Eve’s sin-what we commonly call “the fall.” As a result of that sin, God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground” (Genesis 3:17-19).
Ouch! But work itself was created prior to the fall in Genesis 2 as a blessing from God, not in Genesis 3 where, because of the fall, work was made difficult. Because of the fall, though, we must do our work while feeling the prick of thorns — it is both a blessing and a curse.
Is a Career in Ministry More Spiritual than a Career in Business?
Once I visited a church in my hometown. For about forty minutes, the guest preacher said, in essence, that if you really love Jesus, you will go to the mission field. When the service was over, I slinked out of the sanctuary. I felt that if I didn’t become a full-time career missionary, I always would be a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom.
That distorted view, severing our work life from our spiritual life, is biblically inaccurate. Work, it turns out, can be a calling just like going into the ministry. Every vocation is holy to the Lord. God makes no distinction between sacred and secular. If you look up the word secular in your Bible concordance, what will you find? Nothing, because the word secular is not in the Bible.
Twentieth-century evangelical theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, in answering practical questions written to him by everyday people, noted, “One thing you should very definitely have in mind — that is that a ministry such as teaching the Bible in a college is no higher calling intrinsically than being a businessman or doing something else.”
God calls some people to be pastors or teachers or evangelists. And He calls some to work in businesses, hospitals, fire departments, or construction.
You Are an “Ordained” Worker
I remember a man who once visited the Friday morning Man in the Mirror Bible study I lead, who told me, “All my life I wanted to be a high school math teacher. Finally, my dream came true. But I soon saw two problems. First, my students were coming to class with problems math can’t solve. Second, the Christian teachers in my school don’t know each other. God has put a vision in my mind about how to address those two issues. I am an ordained math teacher.”
He sure got that right. If you are a Christian in the marketplace — whether driving the truck, fixing the computers, or running the company — you are “ordained” to that position.
Work Is Ministry
As already noted, work is not just a platform to do ministry — it is ministry. If you are a waiter, every couple sitting at your station is a divine appointment. They provide an opportunity for you to serve them in the name of Jesus Christ. “How may I help you?” “May I take your order?”
If you are a salesman, every appointment is holy, and every closing is sacred. If you are a manager, every time you intervene between two employees who cannot see eye-to-eye, you have an opportunity to demonstrate the reconciling power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The landscape designer, the building contractor, the UPS deliveryman, the chief executive officer — all of these people have chosen employment that can be spiritual when accomplished within the circle drawn by Scripture. Every vocation can be holy to the Lord, if we look to Him day by day for His help. For the Christian, all of life is “spiritual.”
Work Should Bring Glory to God
Not everything you do has to result in someone’s immediate salvation. Just working in a way that wins the respect of other people is valuable to God’s kingdom. And furthermore, it is valuable to work in such a way that you limit your dependence on other people (e.g., not going into debt). Those simple aspects of living out your calling will enhance God’s reputation in our culture.
Simply put, your work is a summons to follow Jesus. Your work enables you to go where Jesus would go, to be what Jesus would be, and to do what Jesus would do. That is a calling. We will experience resistance — that’s part of the curse. But when we see work as a calling, we know we can do it for God’s glory.
Work is a noble and holy vocation. That’s the “big idea” for this chapter: Regardless of whether you’re a businessman or a minister, your work is a calling. It has intrinsic value, and it has potential to bear eternal fruit.
I pray your work will be a place where you can feel happy, alive, and useful because you know that you’re doing what you were created to do.
Pat Morley is the Founder and CEO of Man in the Mirror.
© 2009. Pat Morley. All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced
for non-commercial ministry purposes with proper attribution.
Dr. Patrick Morley
After building one of Florida’s 100 largest privately held companies, in 1991, Dr. Patrick Morley founded Man in the Mirror, a non-profit organization to help men find meaning and purpose in life. Dr. Morley is the bestselling author of The Man in the Mirror, No Man Left Behind, Dad in the Mirror, and A Man’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines.