Wineskins Archive

February 10, 2014

God’s Presence in the Workplace (Mar-Apr 2003)

Filed under: — @ 2:11 am and

by Mike Cope
March – April, 2003

Everyone has a “worst job” story. Mine goes back–as many do–to high school. One of my summer jobs was to carry chickens from their cages to the truck belonging to the kind people of Campbell’s Soup. We’d work the graveyard shift to avoid the stifling daytime heat.

My job was to grab three highly-stressed chickens in each hand, cart them out to the truck, and place them in another cage where they’d be taken to their new “home.” The smell was a combination of chicken and chicken manure. Ahhh, I miss those days.

This morning I pulled up and read of some other occupations I’m not interested in training for: road kill collector, human remains removal specialist (Does “specialist” imply graduate training?), ham skinner (I don’t even want to ask), and porta-potty cleaner.

I can’t say I’m standing in line for any of those jobs, though I highly respect those who work them in order to make a living and feed their families.

But my real worst job would be one in which I couldn’t figure out how the work connects to my identity as a Christ-follower.

Does God care about your job–or does he only really care about what you do “at church”? It’s a vital question, since we spend about a third of our lives on the job.

That’s why it’s so important that we remember that we are all priests of God. We are all–not just our church’s supported ministers–God’s persons in the world. We represent him there. We seek to permeate our little part of the world with kingdom values and behaviors. That’s why Christians have historically referred to their work as “vocation,” a calling from God to be in the world for him.

Having preached to college students for a couple decades now, I have this passion: to help them see that the work which they’re preparing for matters deeply to God. They aren’t just punching a clock so they can get to the real business of worship. Rather, their work is an extension of their lives of worship.

Barbara Brown Taylor has it right:
Perhaps we should revive Luther’s vision of the priesthood of all believers, who are ordained by God at baptism to share Christ’s ministry in the world–a body of people united by that one common vocation, which they pursue across the gamut of their offices in the world. It is a vision that requires a rich and disciplined imagination, because it is largely a matter of learning to see in a different way. To believe in one’s own priesthood is to see the extraordinary dimensions of an ordinary life, to see the hand of God at work in the world and to see one’s own hands as necessary to that work. Whether those hands are diapering an infant, assembling an automobile or balancing a corporate account, they are God’s hands, claimed by God at baptism for the accomplishment of God’s will on earth (Taylor, The Preaching Life, 30).

A middle school teacher isn’t just an employee of the superintendent and school board. She works for Christ! Maybe she can’t begin every class with a prayer. But does that really matter? No one can stop her from praying fervently for her students. She is, in that school, the light of the world, valuing every child—no matter how obstinate they may be.

Please, please don’t think you aren’t a minister for Christ just because you are a stay-at-home parent, a nurse, a factory worker, an architect, an insurance adjuster, an accountant, a lawyer, a secretary, a dental hygienist, a computer technician, or, yes, even a porta-potty cleaner.

You are God’s presence in the workplace!New Wineskins

Mike Cope

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