The other day I had a surprising experience. I took my car to a new location for its regular oil change. The moment I pulled into the garage, I could sense this place was different: It was service and a show! The mechanics called out to each other like kitchen cooks in one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants. Four people at one time addressed various items and reported back to the group. All the while, they included me in a polite and friendly way, making me feel like a racecar driver at a pit stop.
I realized it had been quite some time since I encountered a group of people who seemed to enjoy their work so much. It was refreshing. They were in a groove, having a good time and providing great customer service. I thought about the factors that contribute to a staff like that. I imagined they had good management and likable coworkers. They probably felt valued. The shop environment wasn’t anything special, but it was tidy and ran like a well-oiled machine. (See what I did there?)
Generally, the encounters I have with employees nowadays are nothing like this happy crew. Clerks tell me they’re glad they only have a few minutes left of their shifts. Friends complain about their difficult work environments or annoying coworkers. And overall there’s just a resounding “meh” about work in general.
Blasé feelings toward work aren’t a new phenomenon. According to Gallup, only a little over a third of U.S. employees polled said they were “actively engaged” in their workplaces — and that’s a record high number:
The percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. — those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace — is now 34%, tying its highest level since Gallup began reporting the national figure in 2000.
In case you’re wondering, 53 percent of those polled were “disengaged” (they show up and do the minimum required), while 13 percent were “actively disengaged” (miserable at work).
As I thought more about the happy “pit crew,” I wondered how much of a satisfying work life is controlled by external factors such as management, environment, pay and coworkers, and how much is motivated by internal factors such as a positive perspective of one’s job or work in general.
Why Work Matters
As a Christian, my viewpoint of work should also be informed by Scripture. And a look at God’s Word reveals some encouraging truths about work.
My work can bring God glory. Most of us would probably agree that even average jobs glorify God when we follow the instruction found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That passage may not be talking specifically about work, but, you know, whatever you do. And if you work, your job is covered under that umbrella. Knowing that you can bring God glory through your job whether you’re “slinging lattes,” as my former-barista husband likes to say, or running a multi-million dollar organization, should inspire you to work with conviction.
Work is part of God’s master plan. From the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1) to the future new Jerusalem (Isaiah 65), work is part of God’s plan for humans. At times I may feel like the main reason I’m working is to pay the bills, but I’m created to find purpose and satisfaction through work. God also offers me rest, which is most satisfying when I am regularly engaged in work.
The work I do matters to God. Ephesians 2:10 reveals an amazing truth: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We are created in God’s image to tend to His creation while proclaiming the gospel whenever possible. Whether I feel like my job is personally satisfying or not, God has planned out specific “works” for me to do within it. And my responsibility is to walk out those things.
Beyond these three truths, we also learn in the wisdom literature of the Bible that work is a gift from God. Consider the words of Ecclesiastes 5:18-19:
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil — this is the gift of God.
If work is a gift, I am called to receive it with thanks regardless of how satisfied I feel at the moment. The happy mechanics saw their work as something that was making a positive difference (and it was!). As I dwell on God’s purpose for work and my personal responsibility as a worker, I can find joy in the job that’s before me today.
Copyright 2019 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.