Remember what it felt like when you got your first real job? My entrance into the world of work began when the owner of the local Texaco service station, who was also my high school English teacher’s husband, agreed to hire me as a “service station attendant”. Showing up for my first day on the job was like nothing I had felt before. It was a weird combination of anxious uncertainty, excitement, fear of messing up and getting fired, and the strange sense that I was entering a whole new phase of life. I had a real job! I was now a “working man” and was becoming a functioning part of the retail business world. And the best part was that my contributions were not being given away for nothing. The owner would have to train me to use all the equipment and cough up the hefty sum of $.75 an hour.
Livin’ the Dream ~
At that rate, I could end up with $30 or more every week! That was a significant increase over the few bucks I could glean here and there doing random yard work and farm chores. It would keep gas and oil in the ‘54 Mercury refugee from a junkyard that my uncle was helping me resurrect. It would also leave enough to cover a ticket to the drive-in movie on Saturday night and even finance a box of popcorn and a Coke or two. Being employed was gonna to be great!
All I had to do to earn my $.75 an hour was watch for people pulling up to the pumps, run out to their car (literally), pump their gas, clean their windshield, check their oil, collect their money, run back inside and deposit it in the cash register, and then run back with their receipt and change. When I wasn’t pumping gas, there would be cars to wash, oil changes, and grease jobs to do, and tires to be repaired and installed. Sweeping out the service bay, keeping the restrooms clean, dealing with the trash, and selling snack crackers filled in any gaps in activity. But I was no longer just a high school student. I had a green shirt and a hat with a red Texaco star on it, and I was somebody.
Two Intolerable Things ~
Being an “employee” had benefits, but it came with responsibilities, too. I was expected to show up on time when I was scheduled to be there, and when I “clocked in”, any personal agenda had to be put on hold until quitting time. There were lots of little rules to be followed about how things were to be done, but two things were intolerable . . . not showing up, and not doing what I was being paid to do. That’s simply how work “works”.
We’re all familiar with what it’s like to have a job. We’re aware of the usual challenges associated with life as an employee and the many adjustments often needed in order to balance personal preferences and the duties we’ve agreed to perform for our employer. Unfortunately, we easily and naturally look at serving God through a completely different lens. There are distinctions, no doubt, but what if we looked at our relationship with God through the lens of our role as an employee? I learned a few lessons on my first job that could have a substantial impact on our spiritual wellbeing:
- Lesson One: I was there by choice. Employment was not something I manipulated the owner into offering me, and no one forced me to accept the position. I wanted the job because I needed the benefits.
- Lesson Two: Do what the job requires, like it or not. I didn’t enjoy most of the tasks I had to do, but then, doing the job was the requirement. Whether I enjoyed them or not was irrelevant. I sometimes had to take the caps off hot radiators to check the antifreeze, and I hated that because there was always a risk of getting burned by the steam. Fixing flat tires was hard, and I was constantly mashing my fingers with the old machine we had to use. But I didn’t apply for the job because I thought it would be easy and relaxing. I applied because it was the best option I had and I wanted the benefits.
- Lesson Three: Do it the way the owner wants it done. Sometimes I thought I could do things in a better way than the owner wanted it done, but he reminded me that it was his business at stake, not mine. Sometimes he reprimanded me for doing something in a way that He didn’t like, but he did it to protect his reputation, and to make me a better example of his business practices.
- Lesson Four: Dirt is bad for business. I didn’t like having to clean up the restrooms and take care of the trash, but the owner reminded me that dirty things are dangerous, and that cleanliness helps people feel safe and comfortable. We didn’t charge extra for keeping things clean, and I wasn’t paid more for getting rid of the dirt. Being clean was just expected.
- Lesson Five: If you don’t show up, you lose all the perks. The job had lots of expectations, but none of them mattered if I didn’t show up. Everything was predicated on me “clocking in” when it was time to get in gear and go to work.
Attitude Adjustments ~
I couldn’t have kept even that little service station job if I only showed up once a week and left after an hour or two. Unfortunately, we’re often guilty of “serving the Lord” with attitudes and behaviors we would never think of applying to any of the jobs we’ve held in the business world. We tend to forget that we’re part of God’s family business, and there are duties that we’re expected to perform because of who we are and where He has placed us. Jesus told a story that may sound strange to us in our narcissistic, everything’s about me, culture, but it’s time we looked at it again:
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable [i.e. nothing special–nothing added] servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (Luke 17:7–10 NKJV)
Jesus isn’t teaching that servants aren’t valuable or that their work isn’t appreciated. He is simply saying that we shouldn’t expect to be lavished with praise for doing what we should be expected to do anyway. But showing up for work and carrying out the duties we agreed to do doesn’t make us spiritual heroes. Jesus asked a question at another point that all of us should consider in this regard. He said:
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46 NKJV)
I wonder what the impact on our morally corrupt culture would be if all of us approached our role as followers of Jesus with the same basic considerations we give our jobs and the other bosses we serve. We’re scheduled to show up “today”, and it’s time for us to clock in, roll up our sleeves, and get about the Owner’s business.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “As we serve the Lord, we’re often found guilty of forgetting that we’re part of God’s family business, and there are duties that we’re ‘expected’ to perform because of who we are and where He has placed us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We shouldn’t expect to be lavished with praise for doing what we should be expected to do anyway. Just showing up for work and carrying out the duties we agreed to do doesn’t make us spiritual heroes.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “What would the impact on our morally corrupt culture be if all of us approached our role as followers of Jesus with the same basic considerations we give our jobs? We’re scheduled to show up “today”, and it’s time to get about the Owner’s business.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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