In the last two months, my employment has changed quite a bit. I stepped down from being the youth pastor at my church and; while I’m still an associate pastor there my wife and I have begun the transition to serving as missionaries using a Gospel based approach to community transformation and development in Jacmel, Haiti. More information on that in another blog post perhaps…and you certainly can check out the rest of our website for that as well. Perhaps the biggest risk in this transition is that my wife and I have started our own e-commerce subscription coffee brand and have begun working from home part-time in order to fulfill this endeavor.
Two Sundays ago, I was asked to preach and while I always seek to prayerfully prepare for such an engagement - the subject of the sermon was clear to me from the beginning. Since the Monday after my last day in youth ministry (August 12) God has been speaking to me in my morning devotions about the meaning and the minutia of work almost every day. Mostly, this has been coming out of the book of Ecclesiastes.
“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away”
- Ecclesiastes 3: 9-15 (ESV)
A couple of quick take aways: 1) God is a worker who is using our work to do a work in us; Did you get that? Read it again…& 2) therefore; our work itself is a gift from God (vs. 13). Now did you get that? Not the money, or the benefits or the fact that you’re employed — but the work itself is God’s gift to you. The output (or result) of your work and the legacy that you leave — are your gift to God and to everyone else. King Solomon’s (the author’s) conclusion is then that we should rejoice in our work. That’s worth repeating: we should rejoice in our work — in the work itself.
That begs the question, does your work make you happy? Are you happy with your job for the job’s sake? As a side note, what we call how we make a living says a lot about what we think of it (i.e. is it a “job,” or a “career,” or a “vocation,” or a “calling?”). See what I mean? I suppose then, that the next logical question is “why am I happy?” or “why am I not happy with what I do?” I’m sure the former will be more difficult to answer than the latter. And finally, if you’re not happy with your work: what are you going to do about it? Two of the points of the Book of Ecclesiastes is that life is really short, like a vapor or a smoke; and that finding meaning in it can an elusive task even for someone as advantaged as a King.
While I was pondering these questions for myself I couldn’t help but thinking of a different King, Jesus of Nazareth as He stood in His own palace and was asked by His mother why He had not returned with them from the Feast in Jerusalem. His reply? “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father's business?” (Luke 2:49) What was His Father’s business? Why would Jesus, at 12 years old, be so adamant about doing it? Jesus seemed as happy in what God had given Him to do whether He was in His Father’s house (the Temple) in Jerusalem or building people’s houses as a carpenter in Nazareth. And I’ve always been struck by the way Jesus’ life and teaching seem to make the most difficult questions of our lives become so simple. So I thought to take a page out of Jesus’ book (literally) and look at the first instance of man’s work in the Bible. Some think this is the first instance of the word work in Genesis 2. But the “job offer” so to speak is actually given a chapter earlier:
"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
- Genesis 1: 26-28 (ESV)
There are three words that grab my attention immediately: Dominion, Subdue & Fill.
They are a bit difficult to understand at first but I’ve come to appreciate each of them more as I’ve gained an understanding as to what they mean to our purpose as human beings. Before mankind fell and sin entered the world, even before marriage, we were given a purpose. We were given something to do; each of us, all of us. And we need to find what that purpose is for each of our lives specifically if we’re going to find the true joy and true value in our work that God has ordained for us. But perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve discovered is that in God’s sixth day of work, He began a work in all of us and one day, we’ll each have our “final review” before His Throne. Nothing that we do is secular, everything is sacred.
All our social media posts for the next month or so are going to focus on the nature of our work and these three commands for us as humans: have Dominion, Subdue & Fill.
Hopefully, we all end the month together with a little more understanding of our purpose and a little bit happier with where we spend the majority of our effort in our lives.
At City of Lights Coffee Co. our product is coffee but our mission is:
"Cultivating Compassionate Communities, Sowing Seeds of Faith, By Inspiring Acts of Love, Always Drinking Great Coffee."
Our current project is to sponsor education for 40 students in the Beaudouin Community this school year. The average cost per student is $60. Will you partner with us to meet our goal? Learn more on our Education Project page.