Ask anyone what should characterize a Christian’s life and you will likely hear a list that includes items such as prayer, love, forgiveness, worship, compassion, and mercy. How many would consider work to be an essential part of the Christian’s life?
In his bestselling book Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller opens his discussion of work and vocation by reminding his readers that God has been working from the beginning of time:
The Bible begins talking about work as soon as it begins talking about anything—that is how important and basic it is. The author of the book of Genesis describes God’s creation of the world as work … And then he shows us human beings working in paradise. This view of work—connected with divine, orderly creation and human purpose—is distinct among the great faiths and belief systems of the world.
Because God is a God of work, Christians should never regard labor and work as a result of sin or part of the curse of the fallen world. In the Word of God, Christians find a call, not to a life of ease but to a life of good, hard work.
One man whose life demonstrated this simple reality was a Carmelite lay brother in the mid-1600’s named Brother Lawrence. During his life at the monastery in Paris, it was his task to work in the kitchen and to repair the sandals of the monks. He was no religious expert, but even in his menial duties, Brother Lawrence saw his daily work as a part of God’s work.
Brother Lawrence’s teachings and aspects of his life are recorded in the brief book The Practice of the Presence of God. The book talks about Brother Lawrence’s faith demonstrated in his work:
In his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God, and with prayer, upon all occasions, for His grace to do his work well, he found everything easy during the fifteen years that he had been employed there. … He was more united to God in his outward employments than when he left them for his devotion in retirement.
In Brother Lawrence’s life of work, modern Christians can learn three things.
1. Christians should not separate their work from their faith, no matter what their work is.
Brother Lawrence said, “Our sanctification [does] not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own.”
Maybe a Christian finds himself or herself in a line of work that does not lend itself to ministry or spreading the gospel. His or her work is no less holy to God. The Christian belongs to God, and so does his labor. If the pots and pans of God’s people are holy (Zechariah 14:20), how much more the daily work of their hands?
2. Christians can honor and love God even in the smallest of actions.
“It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God,” said Brother Lawrence.
How many little things do Christians do throughout the day, with no thought of thankfulness or duty to God? Brother Lawrence serves as a reminder to live out the command given in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
3. The work of the Christian is full of the presence of God
“Let [the Christian] then think of God the most he can,” Brother Lawrence encouraged, “let him accustom himself, by degrees, to this small but holy exercise; nobody [around him] perceives it, and nothing is easier that to repeat often in the day these little internal adorations.”
Christians must keep themselves grounded in God, finding His presence in their work. It's about “little internal adorations,” as Brother Lawrence described, intentionally setting the mind and heart to dedicate all work for the love of God. We cannot do this perfectly, but this is a discipline for our benefit and to glorify the God of work in our individual lives while the world watches.