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For the Week of October 7, 2002
by Rubel Shelly
"A dairy maid can milk cows to the glory of God." So said Martin Luther. And while it isn't so because Luther said it, it is a significant spiritual truth that many people in this day and age appear to have missed.
Suppose I were to ask why you work. How would you answer? To make money? To pay the bills? To keep a roof over your head? To earn enough from something you hate so you can someday do what you really want to do? While those responses aren't wicked, they are "stinkers." They are hardly the noblest of answers. And they are the ones typically given by people who suffer burnout.
Work is done to the glory of God when it meets these criteria: (1) the task is honorable, (2) it is performed with integrity, and (3) it is done with a sense of one's role as a social creature who loves his neighbor as himself.
The first norm means that nobody can be a thief or drug trafficker to the glory of God. Behaviors that are unethical cannot give heaven either pleasure or honor. The second criterion says that God is glorified only when you do your duty and make a good-faith effort to fulfill commitments - not just punching the clock, but doing your job as if your employer were Jesus instead of Mean Ole Bob.
The third standard for working to God's glory may be the hardest to grasp. In my opinion, though, it is the most important element for turning a job into a calling or transforming what you may regard as boring work into something you are able to do "from the heart" and "to the Lord" (cf. Ephesians 6:6-7).
"How in the world could I sell bolts or washing machines by that yardstick?" somebody demands to know. "It's too blasted idealistic!" Not really.
I watched my father sell washing machines, hardware, and building materials that way for years. He never knowingly misrepresented a product, pushed a high-priced item over a loss costly one adequate for a buyer's purpose, or otherwise took advantage of a customer. He would have considered that a betrayal of his duty to love his neighbor, to share God's care for the human race.
Sales people, physicians, cab drivers, teachers, attorneys - the ones who genuinely care about their clients treat them differently from those who see them as meal tickets. They serve their needs and won't exploit them.
Could it possibly be that some who insist their unhappiness traces to bad jobs are miserable simply because they do those jobs with the wrong incentive?