Last month I read a fantastic business book, Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.
It’s a great piece that works you through discovering and illustrating the purposes behind your business. Not what you do or how you do it, but why you do what you do.
The best illustration in the book exposes a juxtaposition between two different work ethics:
Consider the story of two stonemasons. You walk up to the first stonemason and ask, “Do you like your job?” He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.” You thank him for his time and walk on.
About thirty feet away you walk up to a second stonemason. You ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?” He looks up and replies, “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.” 1
Once again, this Sunday’s sermon was on work. But this time, the emphasis was more on our partnership with God in working to make something of the world. I highlight the word partnership because we’re supposed to view God in this context as a coworker.
Not as an employer – as a coworker.
When God created the garden of Eden, it was full of raw materials. Of gold that was good, aromatic resin, onyx, trees, fruit. 2 It was a land of pure potential, and man was placed in the garden to tend it and to rule it in partnership with God.
Genesis breaks the first command of God into two parts – “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” 3 This is more than just a command to go forth and increase mankind’s population on the planet. We were made in God’s image – in the likeness of God in all His creative glory.
Were were made – and instructed – to go into the rich world God with which God blessed us and make something of it. Furthermore, we do so not as God’s employees, but as his coworkers and partners in creation.
When you look at the story of creating in this light – when you think of your vocation as being just as much God’s work as it is yours, it makes the mundane tasks of a daily job that much more meaningful. If you write software for a living, drive a truck, pour coffee, care for your children, answer phones – you’re performing a task equal in importance to God’s. You’re doing a task that helps to build God’s kingdom.
Even if you’re breaking your back day after day lifting heavy stones to build a wall that may not be completed in your lifetime, you’re building a cathedral.