Imagine yourself working for Jesus in the marketplace.
That was the meditation we experienced during a senior level seminary class I took titled Redeeming the Routines. The class was taught by my favorite professor, so naturally I took the class thinking it would be time well spent with my favorite theologian and friend. What I learned I put into practice in my own ministry—sometimes successfully and sometimes…not so much.
My professor’s thesis integrated the fact that we don't turn off our spiritual life when we leave worship or a bible study or prayer time. We are who we are all the time. He pointed out that we all spend a lot of time at work. The average person spends 40 or more hours at work with work people. Evidently, God is very interested in who we are during those hours and what we do during those work hours may actually have more Kingdom impact than all the hours Christians spend in study, prayer and worship combined.
A very intelligent theologian named Miroslav Volf wrote extensively about work and God. Miroslav Volf is Founder and Director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University Divinity School.* Like I said, the man has some serious brain power! He’s amazing and reading his work is not easy nor is it for everyone. But, he has amazing insights and life experience.
The book we read for the class is titled Work in the Spirit: A Theology of Work. Dr. Volf wrote intellectually and deeply about the rise of modern industrial society. Work pervaded and ruled the lives of men and women. Think about this—what is the first question most of us ask when we meet someone new? Although there have been many popular books on the Christian understanding of work, this is the first scholarly effort to articulate a developed Protestant theology. Volf interpreted work from a new perspective--in terms of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit--and explores the nature of work in both capitalist and socialist societies. Within these macroeconomic frameworks, he considers a variety of work, including industrial, agricultural, medical, political, and artistic. Volf rejects the traditional protestant understanding of work as vocation and argues for a doctrine of work as cooperation with God.
Imagine yourself working for Jesus where you work. How would you approach your tasks and ’to do’ lists? Would you act any differently at work or speak differently about work-related issues like work place gossip, attitudes about management or stealing something from work?
Sometimes we consider work as a means to get things we need and desire. For example, people work in order to receive insurance benefits, pay checks or prestige. Sometimes people work because they are responsible adults who want to care for their family. Other people work but create hell on earth for their colleagues around them. Work can also be a place of violence. Think for a moment about al the people who work for tyrants in systems that reward the same behavior. I’m sure you know someone who’s workplace is a painful experience and a place many dread going on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Work is important and most likely necessary for many of us. We must pay close attention to our attitude and heart when it comes to the way we think of work, the workplace and the people we work with. How would you unclutter your work? Maybe it is a simple practice. I share with you something I began it long ago after sitting in a class taught by my favorite professor.
Imagine yourself working for Jesus in the marketplace. Imagine your office. Imagine the people. Imagine how Jesus coached you to respond to your enemy. What did Jesus say about gossip and our attitudes about others? What were the ‘blessed’ sayings again? Wasn’t there something about a speck I noticed in someone else and a log in my own eye? Judgment. Jesus was clear on that but maybe it’s time to make an appointment for a one on one meeting over coffee. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and convict you of behaviors, thoughts and deeds that need redeeming. Do the work, the harder work of redeeming those routines because the most important work you may ever do for Jesus in in your workplace.
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God