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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Another tremendous analogy that truly made me think about how I’m serving God every day. Blessings, Ron!
Thanks so much, Martha. When I think about how much more faithful I’ve been at times in carrying out the duties my employers have delegated to me than I’ve been toward the things the Lord Jesus delegated to me, I am deeply convicted. What a blessing it is to know that while our work matters, it’s not a means of earning His love or purchasing grace. We may not be as productive as we’d like sometimes, but we’re still His children and still a part of the “family business.” God bless you for the ways you make it clear who you serve.
Mr. Ron; while pondering your insightful post as I was out finishing up the morning chores, a thought struck me that I just feel needs to be shared with your many other readers. That though is, “What are you waiting for?” After mowing part of my yard yesterday afternoon (before the rains return), I realized that my nine inches of grass (mostly Bermuda and Dahlisgrass in the front yard, sort of like my pastures) looked more like a mowed hay pasture. So what does any farmer do? You grab the pitchfork and you start pitching the cut grass into the back of your UTV. While cut grass isn’t a heavy load to pitch, doing a swath six-foot wide and four inches deep, at over 300-foot long takes a little time. Five hours for this old farmer. I finally had to quit at 8:30 as it was getting dark and while I had more to do, I had very little “Do” left in me. I know you’ve been there my friend. As I was thinking about cutting my back yard and doing the same thing again today, I realized the urgency of getting the job done. As you know, feeding fresh cut grass to cattle is a treat for them, but the keyword this is “fresh.” After six to eight hours, the cut grass begins to ferment and “turn.” If that happens, feeding it to ruminant animals can make them sick, especially calves. So if you can’t do the task well within that time limit, then you need to let the grass sit and dry out, becoming hay. Now hay is fine to feed my cows, but it doesn’t have nearly the protein and energy as fresh grass (cut or standing). So every farmer knows, “If you’re going to feed clean grass clippings, do it now to get the most benefit from it.” That same rule applies to our Christian walk. Don’t put off doing what God has called you to do now! The longer you put it off, the less effective you’ll be. Thanks for letting me share sir. God’s blessings to you and your lovely bride Ms. Diane.
I absolutely love the insights you come up with, J.D. This one needs to be.a post all its own, and I’m not kidding about that. It’s the first thing Diane said when she saw it. There is so much wisdom in the principle of taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us when He presents them to us. Delay sometimes costs us blessing or strengthening nourishment and sometimes it can lead to losses that are devastating. One of my favorite teachers loves to say that our task is not to go digging for God’s truth. Our job is to be open to Him and He will reveal it. Interesting that none of the prophets “found” the Word of God. They all say that “the Word of God came” to them. I think that happens to you regularly at the ranch. You’re open to Him, and He shows up and those of us who read and hear about it are continually enriched. Thanks for the stimulating thoughts, and I look forward to reading the finished blog post that you just started.
OMGoodness. I knew we had a lot in common, but I sure never knew you know what it means to “Trust Your Car to the Man Who Wears the Star” too. LOL My adopted dad’s was at the north end of town. I too remember him saying, “Slow down! You don’t have to run every time that bell rings. They’ll wait.” We don’t see much “service with a smile” these days do we my friend? To be honest, I was mostly smiling at the pretty ladies who would come in wearing those mini skirts and eyelashes. I’ve never cleaned windshields so clean in my life as I did back in the 70s. And you’re right, the hard part was doing the chores no one else wanted. I used to always tease that my older brother (by a few years) was a prima donna, because he got to work on the fancy and fast cars, while I was always the guy blowing brake dust and beating out kingpins and ball joints. LOL
Great analogy between our worldly jobs and our spiritual job as Christians. We must show up and put in a full week if we expect to reap the benefits we want and need. Well said sir. God’s law of sowing and reaping is one of those natural laws that apply to all aspects of our lives isn’t it? God’s blessings sir.
This one had me laughing our loud, J.D. It was such fun to picture you cleaning those windshields, working so hard to be sure all the streaks were gone out of some of the special ones. It felt so good to hear about your time being one of the guys who were “wearing the star.” Diane and I already felt connected to you guys, but this revelation threw a few sprinkles on the donut. I’m thankful for the lessons I learned in those days, though. think the early jobs we held helped to instill some things in those of us who had them that are missing from today’s culture. We definitely had duties to perform in those days, and the idea of duty that began with pumping gas eventually led you to take an oath and commit yourself to a role where carrying out your duties could have cost you your life. Thanks for a really uplifting time of reflection followed by a sobering sense of gratitude i knowing that that you’re out there demonstrating what it means to serve. God bless you for being clocked in and doing your part in making God’s “family business” profitable.