The older I get, the more I am befuddled by how long ago things happened … things that seem like they happened within the span of time that I’ve been on the planet, most particularly. To realize that the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a classic of classics and a movie I remember clearly from my childhood, was made nearly 80 years ago just staggers the mind. By the way … NO I was not around when the movie was originally released.
When I consider how memorable a movie Snow White is, I have to admit I struggle to recount the story line definitively. I have zero trouble, though, remembering a portion of the movie that I’d be willing to bet you too will remember … and I bet once it enters your mind it’ll be stuck there all day. You’re welcome. 😎
“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s home from work we go. [whistle]” Oh, that’s good stuff. There is many a day, as I’m doing my 60-mile drive home, that I think of that song and sing it in my head and smile. It reminds me of the type of attitude I should have as I work … a good, positive one, focused on giving my best effort. And to think that the song was by a bunch of dwarfs who worked in a mine. If they can be joyful in their work, it should be simple for us.
I thought of the joy at work that is expressed in “Heigh-ho” as I was reading this week through Ephesians 6, Philippians 1-4, and Colossians 1-2. It struck me as I read Ephesians 6:7-8 …
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
That short section of scripture packs a mighty punch. It’s a small number of words, but not a small impact. It’s a simple concept that brings a complex reaction many times. Why? “If you worked where I work …” “You don’t have to work with MY boss.” “The place is a pit.” “Nobody likes working there.” “The people there are cutthroat.” There are a multitude of reasons why our work place conjures up adjectives far from the meaning of “joy.” Some would say that “joy” is the antithesis of “work.”
However, as we can see from Paul’s instruction above, we’re supposed to work with “enthusiasm” which I’d suggest is synonymous with “joy.” How in the world, some might ask, is that possible? I’d bet we could all take vacation to Hawaii or Cabo San Lucas with “enthusiasm.” But work with “enthusiasm?” Seriously?
How do we work with “enthusiasm?” Fortunately for us, Paul provides the answer. We are to work “as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” That’s it! That’s the secret! If only I thought about it and committed to it as often as I should. How about you?
So, what does it look like to work “for the Lord rather than for people?” First off, let’s get an appropriate understanding of what “work” is. The Greek word for “work” is ergon (ergon), from which we get “energy.” It means, “anything done, or to be done; a deed, work, action.” Tying that together with “energy,” we can conclude that when we’re told to work as though we’re working for the Lord, it means that anything we do to exert energy should be thought of as doing it for God. Anything? Anything.
Anything includes our activities at work, whatever that might be. It matters not if you’re the “big boss” or if you’re the lowest person on the totem pole in a seemingly impact-less job. It means you’re working for God whether you are doing manual labor or thorough engineering analysis. It includes you whether or not you think you’re unbelievably underpaid, or you make a good living and feel fairly compensated.
Anything also includes working as a volunteer, whether for a philanthropic organization or at church. It means you don’t “downshift” into a lower gear of effort just because you’re not getting paid, or because you believe they should appreciate you just showing up. It means you’re volunteering (and working) for God. It even includes when we’re “busy” at play. Or even “busy” at rest. No matter what we do, we’re to do it as if we were doing it directly for the Lord. Considering there are a variety of other passages that provide the same instruction (e.g., Colossians 3:23), it must be important to God.
All of that sounds great, but if my job really does stink, how do I work with enthusiasm? How do I work as if I’m working for God when God wouldn’t act like my boss does or like my coworkers do? That’s just it. Remember, if God is our (real) boss, then He is who we really should care about. If your boss is a complete nincompoop, God isn’t, so work for God and in the process you’ll be working in a God-honoring way toward your boss. Two things happen, you bless God, and your boss benefits from a great worker … and may turn around as a result. But even if not, God is the boss and He is who we should please through our work.
Now again, this is not just about work. As I mentioned above, the command to “work” as though we were doing it for God applies to any way that we exert effort. No matter what we do, work or otherwise, we’re to do it with enthusiasm and we’re supposed to do it for God. If we did … how would that change our attitude toward the everyday things we do? What’s it like to think about God in our mundane, dull moments? How do we “work” like we’re working for God in the unseen things?
Honestly, it’s simple. It’s a choice. Choose to look at your boss, look at your coworkers, look at your customers, look at your vendors … and choose to see Jesus. HE is who we work for. Yeah, I know none of those constituents ARE Jesus and probably don’t ACT like Jesus. But choose to see Jesus anyway. When we do that, I suspect the reminder that we’re actually working for Him will be all the more vivid.
I say this all, knowing fully that it’s difficult. In fact it’s a personal struggle I’ve been praying through lately, and that Helen’s praying for me through it in the same way. That’s why I know it’s more about changing what we see and choosing to see Jesus in our work and as our boss. Once we do that, and envision Him being at work, on the job, onsite, with us, I’m guessing it’ll be easier to sing “Heigh-ho” when we think about the fact that Jesus is the reason we’re singing it. I also think, just like the rest of the dwarfs, our employees and others around us might just join in on the singing. It’s worth a try.
Soli Deo gloria!