An Inspiring Word on Work from MLK Jr.

A little inspiration about our work on MLK day from Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.

It’s not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that matters most!

Sometimes we forget that.  We tend to value our work based on what it is rather than how we do it.

With that in mind, I came across this inspiring bit from a sermon Martin Luther King Jr. gave back in 1967. “Whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, do it for the glory of God.”  I Corinthians 10:31

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The Real Reason You Work

Work occupies about 25 – 40% of our week.  And that is the work we get paid for.

Yet, something that makes up such a huge chunk of our lives often gets very little spiritual attention.  We see things like prayer, serving, going to church, as spiritual things.

But work?  That’s just doing what we have to do.

As you start another work week, consider…

  • Do you work for money?
  • Do you work to pay the bills or put the kids through school?
  • Do you work because you have to?

Everyone works, whether they are paid or not. Just to make it through life, we have to exert energy performing tasks.  Mind you, I typically exert as little energy as possible on as few tasks as possible, but that’s another post for another day.

When you think about it, why do we work?

This is an important question to consider.  It’s answer could determine how you approach your work – whether at the office, in the garage, or raising your kids.

  • If we work because we have to, then what we do will be seen as a necessary drudgery most of the time. (“The daily grind”)
  • If we work for money, then that’s all we will tend to think about. (“Another day another $”)
  • If we work just to pay the bills then we will just see it as a job rather than the larger purpose for work. (“Gotta keep the lights on”)

Here’s the bottom line…You and I work because we were created to work.  And we were created to work because we were made in the image of God who is also a worker.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  Genesis 2: 2 – 3

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”  Jesus, John 5:17

When you think about it, if God ever stopped working, the reality we know would cease to exist.  God is maintaining everything seen and unseen, all of nature and its laws.

Unfortunately, we have separated the spiritual from the time sheet.  We often don’t see God’s role in what we do.  

But just as God works, so do you and I.  That job you have (whether you like it or not), those kids you are raising, that house you are cleaning, that car you are trying to fix, every possible kind of work you can do is an expression of the image of God through you (assuming it is legal and moral work).

And that work is actually a gift from God to you. It pushes you, provides for you and your family, shapes you, blesses you and gives you opportunities to bless others.

So, why do you work?

For money? For prestige?  For necessity?

Or, for the God who is also working and in whose image you were made?

What is the true value of your work?

“God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1:30

What’s the true value of your work? Is it what you are paid or the status it provides?

The other day my son picked up a book on our table and I asked him to read the title. “The Gift of Work,” he said. I then asked, “Eli, why do we work? Why does dad go to work every day?”

“To make money,” Eli answered with confidence. I thought for a moment. His answer wasn’t wrong. And it’s an answer that most of us might give.

Yet, after seeing work from God’s perspective, the value of work has a whole new meaning. So, I said to him, “Well, really we work because God works and as His children, we work too. Money is a benefit of work, but the real reason we work is because God made us to work.”

Now, whether or not Eli got what I said I don’t know. It wouldn’t be the first time I thought I taught him something important that he actually didn’t care to get. Even so, we often do measure the value of our work according to money. We think that what we earn says something about us and our job status. But, that’s not God’s perspective. Work has value on its own.

Dorothy Sayers, a writer of the first half of the 20th century, said it this way in her thoughtful essay “Why work?”

The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done.

We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” And shareholders in – let us say – brewing companies, would astonish the directorate by arising at shareholders’ meeting and demanding to know, not merely where the profits go or what dividends are to be paid, not even merely whether the workers’ wages are sufficient and the conditions of labor satisfactory, but loudly and with a proper sense of personal responsibility: “What goes into the beer?”

We are often tempted to judge our jobs in many ways. You may see your job as a means to earn money, provide for the family, as a platform for ministry, as a means of self fullfillment, as a way to ‘change the world,’ as drudgery on the way to the weekend, or as the measure of your success. Sayer’s point is that work has its own value and what we produce should be judged based on it’s quality not just its function.

Work certainly does provide for money for our needs, but if that’s the only reason for work then it becomes a self directed instead of a God directed activity. We may also rationalize unethical activities under the guise of just trying to provide for our families.

When God created He called it “good.” It was good because He made it and He wouldn’t make anything not good. When Jesus worked as a carpenter, I bet his work was good too. After all, the hands that made the heavens also spent time making tables and chairs.

In the same way, as His children, we should judge our own work by its quality not just its earnings. Did we do a good job today?

Our kids see us working, but do they know why we work? Does our work point them to God or just to a paycheck and stuff we can buy because we work? Do they see us working too much or working like our Father who took time to rest?

The gift of work is the work itself no matter if we work in the corner office or the mailroom, at the front desk or bagging groceries, paid or volunteer.

The quality of our work should bring glory to the God who made us to work well, to the absolute best of our abilities no matter what we do.

Faith and Work

No matter what you do, your work matters to God.   Faith&Work exists to connect you to ideas and people that will help you discover God’s purposes for your work!
•Discover ways to integrate your faith and your work!
•Be an effective ambassador for Christ in the workplace!
•Connect with a vocation group for encouragement and new ideas!

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24