Made For Mondays: Week One - "A Theology of Work"

Today we are launching a brand new three-part sermon series entitled Made for Mondays.  Our Mondays have more meaning than we may give them credit.

Whether you’re in the marketplace, in the school, or in the home, God takes great joy in work done well. Together we will discover what it looks like to go from simply working a job to glorifying God with all you do.

What would it look like to go from simply working, to glorifying God with all you do?

Today we're going to be focusing on this one big idea:  Work done well lasts forever.  

It doesn't matter what kind of work you are doing--or where you are doing it.  Work done well lasts forever.  But before we dig further into this big idea, let me ask you a question: 

What is the worst job you've ever had? 

My worst job involved a Love Boat costume.  

Seriously.  I had a job for about a month where I was a supervisor for a hotel valet parking team.  After I went through the training, they handed my uniform, which was a stiff white shirt, pants, white shoes, and a captain's hat.  I looked like Captain Stubing from The Love Boat.  

I wore it one day.  

There are worse jobs than dressing up like Capt. Stubing, though.  Here's a list of some of the worst jobs in the history of ever:

1.  Road Kill Collector
2.  Chicken Sexer
3.  Maggot Farmer
4.  Hazmat Diver
5.  Slaughterhouse Worker
6.  Worm Breeder
7.  Pet Food Quality Assurance

So at least you aren't doing one of those jobs, right?

But this needs to be said... there's something wrong in our culture when it comes to the way we understand work.

Think through this with me.  What is the first question that people usually ask one another?

"What do you do?" am I right?

That's the first question that we ask each other.  And if you answer, "I'm retired," what's the question you get asked next?  "What did you do?"  Right?

Here's the thing--this kind of thinking, the way we go immediately to asking the kind of work that we are involved in, it leads to a very big, very dangerous assumption:

I Am What I Do.

And Christians struggle with this as much or more as anyone else--even though we have been taught that our identity isn't to be found in our career or the work that we do. 

Here's a hard word from one of the great theologians of the 20th century, Paul Tillich:
The pharisee of today would boast before God not so much of his obedience to the law and of his religious exercises as of his hard work and his disciplined and successful life.  
So here's the big question that goes along with this.  What happens when what you do... falls apart?

What happens when you wake up one day and realize that you spent years defining yourself by what you did for a living, and you don't especially like who you've become as a result of that?

Or when your company gets downsized and you find yourself on the outside looking in?

Or you retire and soon realize that because you defined yourself by your job or your career that you don't have any idea at all what you want to do with your life for the next twenty years.  

I could keep going, but I'm sure you all get the picture.

It doesn't matter whether you work outside the home, in the home around your home... the work that you do... isn't you.  But when we go down that rabbit hole, it's hard to return, isn't it?

Let's take a look at a few verses, shall we?

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. - Colossians 3:23-24

And this...

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Or this...

6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. - Ephesians 6:6

What do all of these verses have in common?

If you were following along, you probably picked up on these phrases:

" working for the Lord..."

"...for the glory of God..."

"...doing the will of God..."

All of these verses reframe work not as a way of forming identity for us.  

In each of these verses, what you do has value only in the way that it glorifies God.  And when what you do glorifies God, it takes on eternal implications.  Like in that it lasts forever.

Basically, your work--if done to the glory of God--can last forever.

It all has to do with kingdom building.  You know the words from the Lord's Prayer that say "on earth as it is in heaven?" Yeah, it's like that.

When you do your work, no matter what work you are doing, and you do it for God's glory, and not to support your own fragile identity... it is eternal, forever, the kingdom of God kind of work.

So how do we make our work last forever?

I think it comes down to some simple things.

First, our work lasts forever when it is done well.  

As the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3--the passage we just read a bit ago:  "Whatever it is that you do... do it with all your heart."  Now we need to clarify just a bit... if the work that you are doing is like a hitman for the Mob... that's probably not what Paul is referring to here.

Don't split hairs, people.  I'm talking about work that is honorable here.  When you do that kind of work with all your heart, it's work done well.

And here's where it gets a bit sticky for some of us.  Because maybe... maybe... you are not doing what you love to do.  Maybe you are doing a job because its what's required or needed of you in the moment.

But.. but... if you do it to the glory of God and with all of your heart... even that work can last forever. 

I met a young woman the other day who was my Lyft driver in Baltimore.  She told me that she had two advanced degrees in Accounting and Computer Programming, but could not find a job in her field.  So she was driving Lyft. And she was engaging, personable, interested in what I was doing--in other words, a great Lyft driver.  It was a pleasure to ride with her, and to hear her wish me a "blessed day" when the ride was over.

That kind of work lasts forever.

Second, we make our work last forever when it is "other-focused."  

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

"5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant..."

We need to have the same kind of "other-focused" mentality that Jesus had when it comes to our own work.  The question we need to be asking each and every day if we want our work to last forever is this:  "What can I do to serve others?"

When you see the work that you do--no matter what it is--as a way to serve others, it lasts forever.  When your work becomes a way to serve your family... your church... your community... it lasts forever.  That's the kind of work that transcends all of our definitions and embodies the kingdom of God.

Think of someone you know whose work embodies this "other-focused" way of thinking.  Can you see them?  I have a person like this in mind...  there's something about them that just makes your heart swell, right?  Because what they are doing is eternal.

Finally, we make our work last forever when the motives for our work are pure. 

Imagine something with me if you will.  Imagine if you approached every task that you have been given as part of your work... as a God-given task.

I remember this guy that I met once who was one of those dudes who stood on the side of the road trying to get people to come to buy a cell phone, or take advantage of a mattress sale... you know the ones who spin the signs... more likely the ones who stand there listlessly holding a sign while on their cell phone.

Not this guy.  He was dressed in a Superman costume. And he strutted and flexed and paraded up and down the street like it was a performance.  I actually stopped and went to talk to him because I wanted to know what made him inject such joy into what he was doing.

He told me that he wanted each and every person who drove by him to experience happiness.  The reason why he was there was immaterial.  He was focused on the people and their smiles.

That's work done with the right motives.

What would it look like for you if you began to live and work like this?  When you did your work well... when you focused on others... when your motives were pure?

You would do work that lasts forever.

It would show the world what the kingdom of God looks like.

Because work done well lasts forever.  


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