When Julie and I first got out of college, we helped with a new church plant in a suburb of Washington D.C. During that time, the church could not pay me, so I worked a few different jobs while we lived there. One of those jobs was in the keyboard department at a big music store in the area. One of the guys who worked there with me was obviously different from everyone else. His work was exemplary. He worked hard, and he did his work very well. He also had extraordinary character. He treated customers and co-workers with unusual kindness and humility. But there was something more than that. He had a peace and joy of spirit that was deeper than the other people who worked there. He was obviously not a normal person in this world. When I found out he was a believer, it wasn’t a surprise!
Being a person of unusual character is one way we can be different than the world in the workplace, but there is another way that is even more unusual still. The other way is the kind of work that we do.
When God created mankind in the beginning, he gave them work to do. They were to rule over the animals (Genesis 1:26) and care for the earth (Genesis 2:15). The work they had was relational, creative, and useful. They were to care for other living things, they were to keep things beautiful, and by caring for the earth, they were to help things keep growing well, which was useful to them and the animals.
This work was not toil to them, not only because they hadn’t sinned and there was no curse on the earth, but because the work God gave them was not burdensome. It was good! Work that is quality, relational, and useful is good, but if it is not any of those things, deep in our bones we feel that there is something lacking.
For example, if my work is making furniture, if I am making something that is quality, that is useful to others, and that doesn’t hurt the earth or other people (by paying terrible wages), then I can feel good about that with a clean conscience and a healthy spirit. If I am making something ugly, or something that will soon break, or am doing it in a way that hurts others or the creation, it is soul-crushing work. This is not just true for something artistic like furniture making. If I do heating and air work, I can do it with quality, or I can do it badly. I can do it in ways that honor other people or in ways that does not. I can do it in ways that tries to care for creation, or in ways that disregards it.
Let’s be different than the world in the workplace by putting on Christ’s character, and by doing work—or even starting a business—that is good work!