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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Sounds Good, But...


I took this photo while in Indonesia about 10 years ago with a group of graduate students from Bakke Graduate University, led by Dr. Ray Bakke, author of A Theology As Big As The City. We went to the waterfront in Jakarta one morning (not the beach), where we received permission to board one of the sailing ships that was being unloaded. Yes, sailing ships. These ships functioned on wind power to get from island to island, with no engines. The particular ship pictured above was full of lumber being carried off the ship by men who worked 12-hour days, unloading beams by hand, carrying them on their shoulders down a plank to the dock, for $9 per day. This was a challenge to my theology of work. I had to ask myself, "Could I experience 'God's pleasure at work' doing this job?" Frankly, I don't think I could do this work for a single day. Maybe not a single hour.

Last week I cited a Gallup poll showing that 87% of workers worldwide are not engaged in their work. They don't like their jobs. I shared a statement from Bonnie Wurtzbacher, a follower of Christ who was serving as an executive with Coca-Cola at the time I interviewed her, who relayed something she heard from her pastor: "We don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work."

Sounds good. But...how would that statement go over with the man pictured above, doing his back-breaking work for 12 hours a day? Even though the pay these men were receiving was about twice the amount considered to be a "livable wage" in Indonesia, I suspect these men did not look forward to Monday mornings. 

If you have a job that doesn't really fit you, and you have the ability to find work that better matches your personal strengths and God-given gifts, I suggest you find it. Yet, many people around the globe don't have this luxury. If you do, see a trained [Christian] career counselor who can help you find a job that better matches your strengths, gifts and calling. 

But even if you are able to find a better job fit, bear in mind that no matter what sort of work you do, there will always be "chores" that are painful, unpleasant or downright loathsome. My friend Mark Warren, a professional "calling coach" in Bellingham, Washington, once told me that if people have a job that "energizes" them 60% of the time, they are very blessed indeed. It's the exception, not the rule. 

We all have unpleasant "chores" connected with our work. This is the reality of labor in a fallen, broken world. Whether these "chores" occupy 95% of the workday, 5%, or somewhere in-between, will vary from person to person. 

One of the great things about the biblical worldview is that it does not shield us from such difficulties, nor does it tell us to imagine these difficulties do not exist. We do not deny that the pain exists, nor do we call the pain something it is not, but by God's grace, we bring meaning and purpose to the pain, in the middle of it--head on--as Christ did on the cross. The biblical worldview does not provide a way around the pains associated with work, but through them. 

More next week. Hang on.