Sacred Work

I was there at the invitation of my Haitian friend, Manno. Far off the dirt road, down a well-trodden foot path, I sat with a little group under some coconut trees in a lean-to of palm fronds. I was in the country to help and to teach. But I was about to be schooled.

This Sunday school class was for illiterate people, so the lesson was simply the rote memorization of a Bible verse. Manno called a phrase and the class repeated. It worked for me as I still recall that Creole verse. The text exhorts the believer to work in order to have means to help the needy. It slowly occurred to me that this band of believers didn’t see themselves as the recipient of anything from me; rather their work was to benefit the less fortunate, despite their own poverty. I was ashamed at my condescension.

God created us to be productive and creative, as we are made in his image. Work is a blessing to our families and others, and meets a need of our fellow man, even if indirectly. If you don’t believe work is a blessing, ask the one who needs a job. The Christian is motivated by working as though it is for the Lord himself (Col 3:23). As we combine that with diligence, ingenuity, and anticipation, the blessing is passed along.

Since work is a blessing from God, it is our sacred vocation, even if it’s not income-producing. If you consider what is wrong in the world around you, and how that intersects with your resources or interests, you have found your calling. God made people “to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). God placed you where you are for such a time as this. Os Guiness wrote, “Many followers of Jesus today have not begun to wrestle with the full dimensions of the truth of calling because they have not been stretched by the real challenges of today’s world and by the momentousness of the present hour.”

All who have been reconciled to Christ are given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). There is no distinction here between the clergy and laity, for all share this ministry. Your God-given work is to bring the love, hope, and mercy of Jesus into your world, even your job, and that work is nothing less than sacred.

Was that Sunday class sacred work to Manno? Sure. But just as sacred was his work at the poultry barn for the nearby hospital, as he displayed Christ in his joyful and indomitable way with his co-workers and passers-by. If this poor Haitian Christian can find purpose and meaning in his life’s work, you can too.


A discussion on mythology between two professors may not seem like a recipe for changing the literary world. Add a few more academics and you have The Inklings, which might have kept the world from experiencing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings but for his friendship with C.S. Lewis.

The Inklings were Oxford dons, including the aforementioned pair and Hugo Dyson among others, meeting regularly to discuss their work and other topics. Dyson railed profanely about Tolkien’s elves and refused to hear readings about them. But Lewis encouraged him to continue, and Tolkien cited Lewis for giving him perseverance for the monumental work. Perhaps this was turnabout, for years earlier, Tolkien’s quiet logic had encouraged Lewis to abandon his atheism for the joy of Christian faith, without which we would never have met Aslan, the king who was not safe, but good (The Chronicles of Narnia). Actually Dyson also helped persuade Lewis about Christ, so this was a tale of sincere friends, shared lives.

It’s too bad that you may not realize the value of friends until you need them. Sometimes the need is just to be heard, and assured that you aren’t the unlikeable failure you quite imagine. You come to trust such friends, which is why disloyalty hurts (Ps. 41:9). But show me friends who have weathered storms of adversity between them, and I’ll show you a stronger, more honest relationship. We’re so quick to throw things away, including people. Don’t.

The story of Job, perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, was about God dealing with a man who had friends who were well-intentioned but sometimes unhelpful. Here’s to the friend who is wise enough to know when to shut up and listen! And consider carefully what comes out of his mouth next.

In today’s culture coffee houses compete with pubs as a place “where everybody knows your name” (que ‘Cheers’ theme song!). They call out your delectable selection by name, a friendly touch. We just want to be known. We yearn for friends because an anonymous life is starved of the sustenance of relationship, of knowing and being known. Ultimately that yearning is fulfilled in relationship with God. Surprisingly, He has made himself available as a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Pr. 18:24). Jesus, God the Son, called his followers “friends” (Jn. 15:15). He lived life with them, served them, and lay down his life for them.

Friends Tolkien and Lewis might have changed the literary world by advancing mythology as a genre, but a far more profoundly world-changing event was God appearing in the flesh to reveal himself as a Friend, available to all comers. By faith Father Abraham became “God’s Friend” (Is. 41:8). Are you?