I spent the first eleven years after high school working entry-level jobs. Four of those years, I felt miserable. The other seven, I worked harder and smarter to stay employed. I found significance in my work. And I know why.
First, God showed me that no ultimate purpose exists without him. The Scriptures told me, whatever I do, “do for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17; 1 Cor 10:31). This revelation gave me a new lease on life, and it motivated me to work harder and smarter. I set out to show my co-workers that the peace of God can impact their lives, too. So no matter what I did, I can have ministry at my job through integrity and hope (1 Pet 3:15).
That’s easy for anyone working in ministry to say! Right? A ministry leader’s work has obvious meaning! But for me? I bussed tables. I sat at a computer or parked cars at all hours of the night. I had eagerness to have purpose in my work. Did parking cars have any meaning at all?
Second, every job has a purpose (except those that are illegal or immoral). The moment I realized my work could reflect one of God’s attributes, I discovered significance in my work. As a redeemed worker, you too can find meaning working, even at entry-level. Consider the following industries:
Food and Beverage
The human experience on this side of heaven is to eat, drink, enjoy community, and enjoy God’s provision (Eccl 2:24). In his article, “The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing,” Dr. Barry Jones explains the experience that occurs around a dinner table. It’s community. And no other creature consumes its food around a table. People share, confess, love, cry, enjoy, and laugh, all while facing each other.
I remember when it came time to sell the outdated, low-budget table I had eaten on most of my life. When it went up for sale, I recounted the times God provided food when my family didn’t have money. I remembered the time I had my girlfriend over for dinner to meet my parents. And I recalled other laughable memories. Some great experiences and some difficult experiences had carved themselves into that tabletop. If only it could speak what it saw.
Hours before his crucifixion, Jesus could’ve chosen a cathedral, classroom, or amphitheater to speak his last words to the masses. Instead, he slowed down for intimacy around a table with his disciples to teach them, bless them, and serve them (Luke 22).
When we dine in community, our aim should focus on having experiences, not meals. Those who host and serve should honor those who seek community through this industry. The Christian can use this as a tool to represent the intimacy, community, and enjoyment of God.
Known for his laughable, cringe-worthy, and awkward antics, Michael Scott from the TV show “The Office” once (and probably only once) said something significant. “Life and business are about human connections.” Of course in classic Michael Scott fashion, he immediately made a vaguely-connected application about why he accidentally drove his car into a lake earlier in the episode. But in light of all the humor, the writers attempted to communicate something serious. According to them, selling bulk quantities of paper didn’t only make money, it made a human connection. It served to benefit each from one another’s labors.
For the Christian, business evokes productivity and community. Even further, think of all the wonders that can occur on a sheet of paper. It can serve as an encouraging note, an acceptance letter, artwork, Scripture, or a handwritten love letter. The marketplace provides a prominent platform to how a Christian’s work can represent the different attributes of God. Meaningful work can flow abundantly from this perspective.
Would you stay at a hotel resort if you had to clean and do the laundry? It’s the very reason people pay hundreds per night! Housekeepers have one of the most essential and least-thanked jobs in hospitality. If you know someone in the industry, go ahead and give them a big “thank you.” Hospitality is hard work!
I’m convinced that taking out the trash today equates to feet-washing in biblical times. No one liked it because it proved gross, yet everyone needed it. Jesus loved others in this specific way (John 13:1-20). God considers hospitality as a direct gift from himself (1 Pet 4:9-10; Heb 13:2; Rom 12:13). Thus, this industry reflects one of his great attributes. Hospitality workers can use this as a means to represent God’s humility through their work.
As an entry-level employee, I fought with “meaning” and “purpose” a lot. I dichotomized my work from meaningful work. I found one thing to ring true through it all, though. God never withholds my capability to glorify or to worship him through each circumstance.
First Peter 3:15 tells me that I have a purpose at work because people look at me and think, “Something’s different. Why doesn’t he worry about petty things? He’s honest with his taxes.” Of course, people can do most jobs in America without thinking twice about God’s presence, but that’s why we differ as Christians.
So, refuse to dichotomize work and working unto the Lord. As a Christian, all work is inherent unto the Lord.
And consider the following:
- “What attribute of God does my product or service reflect?”
- “Does my character at work reflect God’s attributes? If so, which one?”
Believers can have ministry not only at work but through their work. That’s the message I needed to hear during my formative years juggling life’s direction. I found meaning in my work. I learned how to discover it again in the future. The result led to spiritual leadership even at entry-level.
For a more precise discussion on how Christian beliefs impact the marketplace, see Elaine Kung’s interview on her faith at corporate AT&T.