June 27, 2015 • Life for Leaders
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . . And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”
Today I’d like to wrap up some recent reflections on work and God’s glory. In the last two installments of Life for Leaders, I’ve been suggesting that one of the main ways we are able to glorify God is through our work. I didn’t make this out of whole cloth. I found it in Genesis 1-2, where God creates human beings so they might work in the world. If God made us for work, then we can honor and glorify God through working.
I believe the connection between work and God’s glory can transform our experience of work. For example, it can humble and redirect us if we tend to think that our work is mainly for our own glory. If you’ve been working primarily so that people will think highly of you, choosing to work so people will think highly of God is a major shift. It may very well change, not just your motivation for work, but also your patterns and practices of work.
Perhaps, however, you are not tempted to work for your glory because your work is not especially glorious. Maybe your work is tedious or menial. Maybe you really don’t like your work at all. Maybe it’s not the sort of thing that would bring glory to you, even if you did a spectacular job. Perhaps you wonder how what you do could ever glorify God. But, if you see your work as a way of being faithful to God’s intentions for your life, if you seek to “serve the work” by doing it with excellence, if you offer your labors to God as worship, then God will be glorified in your work even if it isn’t as impressive as other kinds of work.
We find an apt analogy in the gospel story known as “The Widow’s Mite.” In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus observes people donating money to the temple treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. But then a poor widow comes along and puts in two small coins that are worth about a penny. Jesus observes, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). Analogously, there are some people whose work seems to be the sort of thing God would care about most of all. It would be easy to think that their work matters more than yours. Yet, they may be like the rich donors in Mark 12, who appear to give a lot, but do not give all they have to the Lord. In contrast, even if your work seems small in value, if you give all of yourself to the Lord as you work, if you seek his glory in everything you do, I believe that God will be glorified in your work, perhaps even more than by work that seems to be more obviously glorious but is done with mixed motives.
I freely admit that there are many times when I forget whose glory I am seeking in my work. I can fall into the trap of seeking my own glory (or at least trying to avoid looking foolish). Yet, when I remember why I am on this earth and why I work, when I commit myself once again to working for God’s glory most of all, I find new freedom, motivation, and joy in my work. Perhaps you will too.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you do your work, do you think of it as for God’s glory? If so, how does this affect you? If not, why not?
If you were to begin to think of your work as for God and his glory, how might this make a difference in your attitude, energy, and behavior at work?
Gracious God, I would love to live my whole life for the praise of your glory. I realize that I will never achieve this ideal in this life. But, still, I want to learn to live for your glory in all things, including my work. Help me, Lord, to discover anew the joy of working for you and your glory. No matter what I’m doing, may I offer it to you as worship. Be glorified in me, Lord, in everything. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.