In this episode, we continue looking at the six different perspectives on everyday life, leaning into perspectives two through six. If we adopt these perspectives, it will transform how we view faithfulness, how we steward our lives, and how our character is shaped and developed. Doing excellent internal work opens doors for us to influence the world around us. The epic journey of life is about both about how we steward our own lives and how we impact the lives of those around us.
All the work that Christians do is sacred
Well, the second perspective, there’s no such thing as a secular vocation if the work is done with an eye to pleasing God.
There’s no distinction between sacred and secular. This notion that our work or our parenting or our work with neighbors, the things outside the church, has some lesser value than the things in the church, it’s just not biblical.
In his same article Sayers writes these strong words. And she wrote probably—I don’t know when she wrote this essay, but I would guess it’s something on the order of 60 years ago or so. [Published in 1942.] And so England’s probably about 50 years ahead of us in the progress we’re going down, so it’s probably pretty appropriate to today.
In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion. But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?
…It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work.
And I would just add that this applies to every other thing we do too, whether it’s a local community club or civic engagement in politics or just doing some kind of neighborhood watch or club with our friends, working out with a group of friends and what do you guys do—bootcamp. All these things are vocational work that we can do “as unto the Lord.”
For many of us, a huge part of the two-minute ride is in the workplace, and Martin Luther added his two cents to this. He said, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk.” I started with this quote. “Not because she may sing a Christian hymn she sweeps, but because God loves cleans floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
And one of the things we can do is think of being faithful in the routine as being an apprentice for being a heroic servant-king.
If you’ve been an employer, or if you’ve employed someone, maybe even a handyman in your house, do you care if they pay attention to the small details? “Oh, I just forgot to lock up tonight. That’s a small thing.” “Oh, I just forgot to turn the water off. Sorry it flooded.” Very small things can make very big impacts.
Being faithful in small things shapes our character
Well the third perspective is to recognize the excellence of doing the seemingly mundane builds godly character.
You know, it’s not so much in life what we do but who we become.
If we go back to Romans 8, we can look at this famous verse in 29 which says,
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,
This is our destiny, to be conformed to the image of the son. I happen to think it will happen to all of us. But to the extent it takes place in this world by faith and we’re conformed by faith, the rewards are immense.
There’s this verse that says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” [1 Corinthians 2:9.], those who do what we God asks us to do.
There’s this unimaginable thing that God wants to give to us if we will be conformed to the image of Christ by faith.
British pastor F. B. Meyer says this: “So the incidents of daily life may be commonplace in the extreme, but on them, as the material foundation, we may build the unseen but everlasting fabric of noble and beautiful character.”
You know Jesus spent six times longer as a carpenter than as a rabbi. Who knows how many plows he fixed or stone works that he did, whatever his job was; and at age thirty, when he began his earthly ministry, the first words he heard from his father were, “You’re my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased.”
Could we interpret that to say, “Man, you’ve been a great carpenter!”? I don’t think it’s that unreasonable.
Luke 2:52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
We can think about Dorothy Sayers’ statement again, “No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter shop at Nazareth.”
Being faithful in small things shapes who we become. It’s the accumulation of these details that determines what kind of player we are. If we have these great habits, then when the crunch time comes, sometimes it’s seen.
Little things are big things
Well, the fourth perspective that we can look at is that big things are determined by small things.
Here we might stay with this athletic theme, but go back to the Greeks because Paul used the notion of the Greek Olympic Games fairly often. He talks in 1 Corinthians 9 about winning crowns. If you finished the race, you win a crown.
Well the Greek Olympic Games were worked this way: In order to be in the games, you had to be a native-born Greek. So first, you have to be in the family, just like we have to be in the family. You’ve got to be born again first before we can win the reward of the inheritance.
But from then on, it’s mostly a matter of a person’s choice. You have to be nominated and then they have to go to training. Everybody comes to training.
The rule in the Greek Olympic Games was if you break one rule, you’re disqualified.
When Paul says, man, I’m running the race but because I don’t want to be disqualified, actually, in the context of 1 Corinthians 9, he’s being criticized for not being paid for his work. And it seems like the criticism is, well, he’s just an amateur. If he were a real apostle, he would be being paid.
And he says, I could be paid like anyone else and bring along a believing wife like Peter does. The reason I’m not paid is twofold: one, I think this works better. And the second thing is I’m kind of concerned about abusing my authority. I know myself, and I know I tend to take advantage of my authority so I’m not going to risk it because I don’t want to be disqualified from winning the race!
He understood, as an athlete, that he had a weakness for hamburgers so he wouldn’t go near the hamburger store because if you don’t eat the fruit and nuts and whatever for the training diet, and you go have a hamburger, you’re done.
It’s interesting. One of the training rules was you can’t loaf. They had marshals watching the training; and if you started loafing, you’re out. This training—I can’t remember the Greek word pronunciation (well, I never knew it in the first place). I won’t even try. We get our word agony from it because it’s hard work.
But to the Greeks, it was awesome because the harder the job the more glory you could win. And what they got was this little wreath that would perish. And Paul said they receive something perishable; we, something imperishable that will never fade away. And it all happens from small things.
The Bible gives another very, I think, very deliberate picture of greatness, and it’s this notion of a cup of cold water in his name.
Now if you’ve been to Israel, you go to some of these cities, you will get to go into a cistern. Maybe, you might walk down 50 or 100 steps to get to the water level, and that’s where you would have to go if you wanted cold water; or maybe there’s a well, and you have to go and hoist down the bucket and then hoist it back up.
Not a not a task that requires a lot of training or a lot of skill—most anybody could do it—but yet one of considerable trouble, and a task that’s considered a task only for the women. It would be beneath a man to do this in that culture.
But what Jesus says is if you give a cup of cold water to someone in my name, that is greatness.
Little things are big things.
When we are faithful in these small things, we are doing something that God considers great, and man doesn’t. What we have to do is have the eyes of faith to see that God’s perspective is best.
There’s a book still in print about Brother Lawrence. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this guy. He was a monk that lived in the Middle Ages. He didn’t go into the monastery until he was in his 50s, and he actually wasn’t even a monk; he was a kitchen worker. And there are these reflections on conversations with Brother Lawrence. He didn’t even write a book. People wrote books about their conversations with him.
And what he learned to do was do his kitchen work in communion with God, not as an “if-I-do-this-work-then-I-can-go-be-with-God-in-private; but, as I do these pots and pans—which he hated, by the way. He did not like kitchen work. It’s just what they had for him to do—As I do this, I’m experiencing the presence of God, and I’m walking with God as I do these things.
And his joy in daily tasks caused people to come from all around to want to ask, how do you do this? And 500 years later, we still have books in print about these reflections with Brother Lawrence, just because he learned to practice the presence of God doing mundane tasks. It’s a big deal.
We’re judged by what we do with what we have
The fifth perspective: We’re judged by what we do with what we have been entrusted, not by what we would have done with what we didn’t have.
There’s this old and bad joke about a pastor and Farmer Brown. And the pastor comes to Farmer Brown and says, “Farmer Brown, if you had 50 cows, would you have 20 of them to the Lord?”
“Pastor, you know if I had 50 cows, I would give 20 of them to the Lord.”
“Well, Farmer Brown, if you had 30 cows, would you give 10 of them to the Lord?”
“Pastor, you know if I had 30 cows, I would give 10 of them to the Lord.”
“Farmer Brown, if you had 20 cows, would you give 5 of them to the Lord?”
“Oh come on, pastor! You know I have 20 cows.”
I warned you it wasn’t that great of a joke.
But this is what we tend to do: If I had, then I would. Well, that’s not what God looks for. To whom much is given much is expected. The corollary to that is to whom little is given, little is expected.
But look at the poor widow who did the widow’s mite. And Jesus saw her put her mites in the treasury and said that woman gave more than all these rich guys because she gave all she had. She could have sat around saying I only have this small portion. When I have more, then I will give more. But she did with what she had. Little was expected, but that little was considered the greatest.
Well, one of the things we can be challenged on this is the time you have now, not what you will have when you retire; the resources you have now, not the resources you’ll have when your big investment comes in. How are you being faithful with those things now? That’s why God cares about, not what men think but what God thinks.
There’s also the reality that if you’re in America, you’re in the upper 1% of wealth in the world, pretty much almost no matter who you are. So we’ve been entrusted with much materially. Unfortunately, we have a spiritual deficiency all around. There’s a lot of people that need investment.
Excellent work opens doors for influence
And the final perspective is the excellence of work often opens unique doors to opportunities of influence.
We actually see this in our company all the time, and I’m sure this is normal. When we have an employee that is really faithful in small things, which we will often do—we’ll take someone who really has got the credentials to be in a pretty high-level job and put them in what is considered a low-level job and see how they approach it. And if they approach it as though it’s beneath them, then we don’t usually move that person along. We usually move them along to some other company. But if that person digs in and gives it everything they’ve got, we say that’s the kind of heart we want to promote.
Well if we do that in our little company how much more would our creator want to do that, wouldn’t he?
Do you see a man who excels in his work? Solomon says.
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men. Proverbs 22.
We never know what doors may open because of our job, doing the very best of our ability. It’s not up to us to decide that. But we do know that whatever we do heartily to be seen by God, not before men, is building up pleasure in God’s heart, and he wants to give us this reward of the inheritance.
So this two-minute ride, our two-minute Snow White Adventure Ride that’s our life, where God wants us to be the hero, he wants us to live among dwarves, dwarfed humanity, in this scary forest of a world where there’s lots of bad things that happen to us, and he wants us to do so cheerfully because greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world. And he wants us to be faithful in what we can do. He doesn’t want us to be faithful in what we wish we could do.
And in doing so, it’s just like Michelangelo with one of his great sculptures. One little chisel at a time, God is chiseling away the part of us that does not look like Christ.
So next, I’m going to do the third kind of terrain which is the mountaintops. The valleys are an opportunity for us to know God by faith in a way that oftentimes we can’t learn any other way, and God doesn’t want us to miss out on that opportunity at all. The mundane plains are the place where we can really grow our character because it takes real eyes of faith to see that what men do not value God values. But, oftentimes, the mountaintop is the very hardest to overcome because when we have everything going for us, we tend to forget reality. We start thinking we’re actually in control.