“The prayer of the Christian reaches, therefore, beyond the time allocated to it and extends into the midst of the work. It surrounds the whole day…it promotes work, affirms work, gives work great significance and joyfulness. Thus every word, every deed, every piece of work of the Christian becomes a prayer…” [Italics mine]. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 50.
Do we believe Paul’s words, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17)? If we believe them, what does obedience to them look like in our lives?
Do we believe the Holy Spirit when He says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily [from the soul], as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23 – 24)? Do our lives demonstrate our belief in these words? Can others observing us see something different in our work, something different about our attitude?
Yes, work can be hard, it can be challenging, and it can be unfair; it can also be rewarding and fulfilling and provide us with venues and circumstances to exhibit the grace and mercy and love of God to others. If work is difficult or unfair then all the more reason to worship God in the midst of work, all the more reason to offer our work to Him, knowing that we offer our work and ourselves to the righteous and just One, committing ourselves and our work to a loving and faithful Creator.
When we share life together we hopefully affirm our callings and vocations, we hopefully support one another in work, we hopefully encourage one another in our work. Questions to ask one another are, “How are you worshipping God in your work? How is God revealing Himself to you in your work? In your place of work, how do you sense yourself being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ?”
Work should be sacred, not secular. Work should be sacramental, a means by which we receive the grace of God and disseminate that grace to others. Those in vocational ministry of the Word and sacrament ought to affirm the sacredness of vocation in the lives of others, rather than (usually unwittingly) disparaging other vocations by promoting a sacred – secular dichotomy…as well as a clergy – laity dichotomy.
The gift of work is the gift of coming alongside our Creator – Father and learning to work as God works. The gift of work encompasses our heart and mind and hands – and all work, no matter what it may be (other than sinful and rebellious) is on a level field when it comes to worship, just as all hearts and souls are leveled in the Cross of Christ. The well-swept floor offered to God is as much exalted worship as a well-preached sermon, a well-written book, or the leadership of a powerful and influential organization. A sparkling clean commode offered to God takes its place alongside a complex symphony written for the glory of Christ. After all, we can but do what we are gifted to do, we can do only what we are given grace to do – and perhaps even more importantly, since we are one body (do we believe that?) then what one member does all members do – so that all glory is given to Christ Jesus and none to us (if we believe that!). Life together means work together, supporting and encouraging one another in vocation whatever that vocation might be.
In calling and vocation we are not accountable for the gifts and graces that we do not have, but for those which we do have.
Prayer imbues our work, and our work is to be our prayer. To profane our work is to profane our worship, and to sanctify our work, to offer it to Jesus Christ, is to offer ourselves in worship – both as individuals and as His people - sharing life together.