Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Live to Serve

Have you ever heard this line?
"Americans live to work and and Europeans work to live."
Whenever I hear this witticism, it is usually coming from an American (like me!) jealous of the amount of vacation and holidays Europeans get. I uttered this phrase myself many years ago when I felt stuck in my job. I worked at a global conglomerate where my French colleagues seemed to be on vacation half the year, nevermind their 35 hour work week if they happened to be working. I would sit in my cubicle in a suit and tie (just like Dilbert) and wish I was the guy outside cutting the grass. Of course, I wanted to keep my same salary and have access to the AC on really hot days.

Americans do work more and vacation less on average than Europeans, but my life versus work mentality was dysfunctional thinking. I had a very skewed notion of work during my late 20s and early 30s. The problem was compounded by the fact I really hated my job most of the time. I was paid less than I thought I was worth and uninterested in what I was doing. An odd combination. Perhaps if I'd put more passion into my profession my pay might have reflected my self-perceived worth.

Contributing to my angst was my association with a group of people reinforcing my thinking that my job was the problem. They said the cure was to get "financially free" in a MLM business. I bought into "the dream" of making a gob of money in MLM and telling my boss to "Take this Job and Shove It" like that old Johnny Paycheck song. I always wondered if Paycheck did tell his boss to shove it, did Paycheck lose his paycheck? (sorry, couldn't resist)

I was ripe for the picking with the MLM pitch because it was wrapped in American patriotism and Christianity, core values I already embraced. The money goggles blocked my truth vision, and it took me nearly a decade to discover the moral problems with MLM, but that's a another story for another blog entry. My focus with this note is the sacredness of work in the life of a believer.

Life isn't what happens when you're not working. Work is an integral part of life just like eating and sleeping. Work is a blessing. Unfortunately, work was tainted (like the rest of creation) in the Fall, but fundamentally work is good. This is much easier for me to say today because I love my job (most days), but it required a big shift in my thinking to get to this point.

First, I had to reject the greed thinking driven by the MLM hucksters. Next, I had to realize God desires his children do with excellence whatever they set their mind to accomplish. Third, I had to overcome the dysfunctional thinking that work is a curse rather than something affected by the curse. God gave Adam productive things to do before the Fall, so while work suffered from the curse God redeems work as part of the sanctification process.

I finally concluded the main purpose of an apprentice to Jesus is to love and serve God and other people, and I can do that wherever I happen to be working. In fact, work is the primary platform God gives us to live out His commandments. Lately, I've started seeing less of a distinction between the sacred and secular. Rather than compartmentalizing my life into "church work" and "secular work" I'm seeing all work as potentially good and even sacred when redeemed.

I'm a slow learner, or maybe I'm just stubborn -- probably both. God is patient with me, and I trust He is not done with me yet. But, when I began putting all this together, it blew away the false dichotomy of the "live to work versus work to live" thinking. Today, I believe all Christ followers live to serve. We can do that wherever we are in whatever we are doing, whether that is working a corporate job or working in a ministry. Unless your profession is illegal or unethical, bloom where you're planted. Do whatever it is that you do with an attitude of love and service to others, and God will change you from the inside out. At least that is what is happening with me. (It also helps if you don't believe the lie about money being the solution to all your problems.)

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