Today we will be continuing with our discussion about how work can be more than just work. In today’s part we will be discussing sacred work and using it as a means of service to others.
If you missed Part 1 of the series, you can read it here. In part 1 we discussed our busy society and our search for answers.
If you missed Part 2 of the series, you can read it here. In part 2 we discussed good work and engaging in it with joy.
Deep within the religious psyche of most Christians is the assumption that religious work is inherently more sacred than all other activities, whether that be in the home or the marketplace, and that the very best work we do is religious in nature and, as many would insist, is either focused on the life and ministry of the local church or can be described as a direct participation in the church’s mission.
Consider how easy it is for most Christians to assume that teaching a Sunday school class has more weight and significance than repairing a broken chair. Christians might assume that a short-term mission trip to Haiti carries more inherent value than the long days of getting a new business started. Imagine the response of a church community when they hear that a young couple has decided that rather than managing a local business, they are going to assume a pastoral appointment. We assume that the second has more kingdom value and therefore it merits a higher affirmation.
Religious work or church-related activities, while very important, do not inherently have more weight or significance than the work of the gardener, the business-person, the public school teacher, the pharmacist, or the stay-at-home mom.
Based on this, how would you explain or define sacred work? I would define sacred work as something that pleases God and/or advances the kingdom of God. This is a very broad definition, but I don’t feel that it needs to be more specific than this. Any activity that you participate in that causes God to be happy or helps with the mission Jesus has for us, is ultimately considered the sacred work of God.
In my early experiences in the church growing up, I was part of a religious subculture that was taken with the idea that each of us was capable of extraordinary, heroic actions. While we certainly must not underestimate the capacity of any one person to make a difference in our world, the unfortunate assumption that many of us took from this subculture was that ordinary, daily, routine, common work was not important.
Perhaps the most significant work we do is very ordinary and mundane. It is daily, routine work that in the end may be the most basic indicator of good work, particularly when it is done with joy and contentment.
Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and clergyman, had a very famous and meaningful quote on this very topic. “If it falls on your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.”
Many people will find that their daily work may have little direct meaning or fulfillment in and of itself. It just needs to be done. There is a family to feed and this is the job that has been provided. The meaning of work is that it provides livelihood for a person or a family. In this we never want to lose an appreciation that work in the end is a means of service, offered to God for the sake of others. Each thing we do through our work can be used in some way to serve others. You can serve your customers and you can also serve those you work with. Doing this is enough to make our work a sacred act.
When we turn to the bible, we can find a couple of meaningful verses on this subject.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I have a couple of questions I want you to take a second to ask yourself and reflect on. What reason would most people I know give for working? Why do I go to work?
I would like to challenge everyone to find ways that you can serve God and others through the work you are currently doing. We all have the ability to engage in sacred work doing the things we are already doing. Let’s make it a priority to make sure we are using our work to make sure it is being used for its full sacred potential.