Contrast two workers.
The first one slices the air with his hand, making points, instructing the crowd. He is a teacher and, from the look of things, a compelling one. He stands on a beach, rendering the slanted seashore an amphitheater. As he talks, his audience increases; as the audience grows, his platform shrinks. The instructor steps back and back until the next step will take him into the water. That's when he spots another worker.
A fisherman. Not animated, but frustrated. He spent all night fishing, but caught nothing. All night! Double-digit hours worth of casting, splashing, and pulling the net. But he caught nothing. Unlike the teacher, the fisherman has nothing to show for his work. He draws no crowds; he doesn't even draw fish. Just nets.
Two workers. One pumped up. One worn-out. The first, fruitful. The second, futile. To which do you relate?
If you empathize with the fisherman, you walk a crowded path. Consider these sobering statistics from author Dan Miller's 48 Days to the Work You Love:
- One-third of Americans say, "I hate my job."
- Two-thirds of your fellow citizens labor in the wrong career.
- Others find employment success, but no satisfaction.
- Most suicides occur on Sunday nights.
- Most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings.
Many people dread their work. Countless commuters begrudge the 83,000 hours their jobs take from their lives. If you're one of them, what can you do?
Change careers? Perhaps. But until you change, how do you survive? You still have bills to pay and obligations to meet. The problem might be less the occupation and more the outlook toward it. Before you change professions, try this: change your attitude toward your profession.
Jesus' word for frustrated workers can be found in the fifth chapter of Luke's Gospel, where we encounter the teacher and the frustrated fisherman. You've likely guessed their names-Jesus and Peter. Random pockets of people populate the seacoast today. But in the days of Christ, it swarmed, an ant bed of activity. Peter, Andrew, James, and John made their living catching and selling fish. Like other Galilean fishermen, they worked the night shift, when cool water brought the game to the surface. And, like other fishermen, they knew the drudgery of a fishless night.
While Jesus preaches, they clean nets. And as the crowd grows, He has an idea.
He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was [Peter's] and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowds (
Luke 5:2-3, MSG).
Jesus claims Peter's boat. He doesn't request the use of it. Christ doesn't fill out an application or ask permission; He simply boards the boat and begins to preach.
He can do that, you know. All boats belong to Christ. Your boat is where you spend your day, make your living, and to a large degree live your life. The taxi you drive, the horse stable you clean, the dental office you manage, the family you feed and transport-this is your boat. Christ shoulder-taps us and reminds:
You drive My truck.
You preside in My courtroom.
You work on My job site.
You serve My hospital wing.
To us all, Jesus says,
"Your work is My work."
God's eyes fall on the work of our hands. Our Wednesdays matter to Him as much as our Sundays. He blurs the secular and sacred. One stay-at-home mom keeps this sign over her kitchen sink: DIVINE TASKS PERFORMED HERE, DAILY. An executive hung this plaque in her office: MY DESK IS MY ALTAR. Both are correct. With God our work matters as much as our worship. Indeed, work can be worship.
Peter, the boat owner, later wrote: You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God (
Next time a job application requests your prior employment, write priest or priestess, for you are one. A priest represents God, and you, my friend, represent God. So let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus (
I have a friend who understands this. By job description she teaches at a public elementary school. By God's description she pastors a class of precious children. Read the e-mail she sent her friends:
I'm asking for your prayers for my students. I know everyone is busy, but if you ever can, I know there is power in specifically addressed prayers. Please pray for …
Randy (smartest boy in my class-mom speaks no English-just moved from Washington-blind in his right eye because he poked it with a sharp tool when he was three.)
Henry (learning disabled-tries with all his little heart-it takes him about a minute to say two words-I think he's used to me now, but it was hard for him to keep up at first!)
Richard (a smile that could almost get him out of any trouble-his mom can't be much older than I am-and he's very smart and pretty naughty, just the way I like 'em!)
Anna (learning disability-neither parent can read, write, or drive-they have four children!!! Who knows how they keep it together-colors me a picture every single day, writes her spelling sentences about me, I'm the main character in her stories.)
On and on the list goes. Does this teacher work for a school system or for God? Does she spend her day in work or worship? Does she make money or a difference? Every morning she climbs in the boat Jesus loaned her. The two of them row out into the water and cast nets. My friend imitates Peter. She, however, shows more enthusiasm than he did.
When [Jesus] finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."
Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets" (
Luke 5:4-5, MSG).
Root-canal patients display more excitement. Who can blame Peter? His shoulders ache. His nets are packed away. A midmorning fishing expedition has no appeal. Still, he complies.
In the light of day, in full sight of the crowd, the fishermen dip their oars and hoist the sail. Somewhere in the midst of the lake, Jesus gives the signal for them to drop their nets, and "it was no sooner said than done-a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch" (vv.6-7, MSG).
Peter and his cohorts stand knee high in gills. The catch and the message of their lifetimes surround them. What is the message? Some say it's take Jesus to work and get rich! The presence of Christ guarantees more sales, bigger bonuses, longer weekends, and early retirement. With Jesus in your boat, you'll go from Galilean fishing to Caribbean sailing.
What a scene: Christ amid the common grind, standing shoulder to shoulder with cranky workers. Directing fishermen how to fish; showing net casters where to throw. Suppose you did what Peter did? Take Christ to work with you. Invite Him to superintend your nine-to-five. He showed Peter where to cast nets. Won't He show you where to transfer funds, file the documents, or take the students on a field trip?
Hold it, there. I saw you roll those eyes. You see no way God could use your work. Your boss has the disposition of a pit bull; hamsters have larger work areas; your kids have better per diems. You feel sentenced to the outpost of Siberia, where hope left on the last train. If so, meet one final witness. He labored 18 years in a Chinese prison camp.
The Communist regime rewarded his faith in Christ with the sewage assignment. The camp kept its human waste in pools until it fermented into fertilizer. The pits seethed with stink and disease. Guards and prisoners alike avoided the cesspools and all who worked there, including this disciple.
After he'd spent weeks in the pit, the stench pigmented his body. He couldn't scrub it out. Imagine his plight, far from home. And even in the prison, far from people. But somehow this godly man found a garden in his prison. I was thankful for being sent to the cesspool. This was the only place where I was not under severe surveillance. I could pray and sing openly to my Lord. When I was there, the cesspool became my private garden.
He then quoted the words to the old hymn, In the Garden:
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
I never knew the meaning of this hymn until I had been in the labor camp, he said.
God can make a garden out of the cesspool you call work, if you take Him with you.
For Peter and his nets, my friend and her class, the prisoner and his garden, and for you and your work, the promise is the same: everything changes when you give Jesus your boat.
- Lucado writes about the dissatisfaction that many people experience on the job. Are you satisfied with your work? Why, or why not?
- How can you "take Christ to work with you"? Is that really possible? Explain.
- Lucado suggests your work can be worship. What kinds of things would need to change in your attitude or perspective to make your job an act of worship?
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