Some years ago I preached a sermon on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I opened with a description of a large mural that I could see clearly in my mind. Painted on the mural were people at work. In one corner, a man drove a tractor, and next to him a nurse tended a patient in a hospital bed. In another section, a cook put food on a plate, someone with a hard hat used a heavy tool, a woman taught a computer class to high school student and a man taught ten year olds about dinosaurs. Off to the right, a doctor examined a pregnant patient, and someone was making a bed in a hotel. Scattered amid the images I’ve mentioned were more people engaged in other forms of work, both paid and unpaid.
After I described this imaginary mural in my sermon, I said that God looks on the mural with joy. I affirmed that God created us with the ability to work so we could participate with God in sustaining the creation and in caring for the people God loves. God is pleased, I said, with the ways we use our talents and energy in our work, and God is with us when we work and longs for us to be faithful servants in our workplace.
After the sermon, a man in his seventies came up to me. He said, “I worked for more than 40 years for the railroad. No one ever told me that my work mattered to God.” He had tears in his eyes as he spoke. I was deeply moved and also deeply frustrated that this lovely man had felt that his life with God was something that did not connect with his work.
Yes, our work matters to God, whether that work is paid or unpaid. Yes, we are called to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the workplace, in our homes, and in all arenas of life. No area of life is isolated from God’s presence and our call to be disciples. Labor Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on all the work we do. Do you know deep down that all of your work matters to God? Do you experience yourself as Jesus’ disciple in every kind of work you do?
Here are some options for reflection:
- Create a drawing that resembles the mural I described, using stick figures if you don’t find drawing easy. Draw yourself in all the kinds of work you do, paid and unpaid. Pick colors to indicate where you feel God’s presence and guidance, and other colors to indicate where God feels absent, and use those colors to reflect on how you experience God in your work. After you have created the drawing, spend some time praying with it.
- Think about the word “disciple.” In Jesus’ time, a disciple followed a rabbi, in a literal sense as they walked together and in a metaphorical sense by modeling life after the rabbi’s teaching. Think about all the aspects of work in your life. In which forms of work is it easiest to be a disciple of Jesus? In which forms of work is it hardest? Pray about yourself as a disciple as you work.
- Ponder your balance of work and other aspects of life. A rabbi once told me Jews try to keep four aspects of life in balance: work, rest, family and making a difference in the world. In which areas of life do you think you are being mostly faithful as a disciple of Jesus? In which areas would you like to grow in following Jesus? Pray about this.
“Follow me,” Jesus said (Matthew 4:19, John 21:22), and he was referring to all of life. Yes, our work matters to God.