How do you make shoes to the glory of God? Martin Luther was once asked by a faithful cobbler: “How can I be a Christian shoemaker?” Perhaps he was expecting a grand, spiritual sounding answer but Luther simply replied: “Make a quality shoe and sell it at a reasonable price”. The answer seems simple but it is actually a profound statement about the inherent dignity of all work.
God + Work Wednesdays are addressing how we can serve God through our daily work – especially if we are not vocational ministers. Often people are lead to believe that some work is less valuable to God than other, more religious, vocations. The truth is that work out in “the world” can often serve God in ways “churchy work” could never do. Previously, I addressed how our work can serve God by furthering social justice and by making opportunities for evangelism.* But if those were the only ways to serve God than many of us would be at a loss. Here’s why:
What about the work itself? Many jobs are not directly tied to “making the world a better place”. What if you are a craftsman or labourer of some kind? Likewise, many jobs don’t naturally make a way for easy evangelism. What if you work alone? Or from home? And neither of these previous ways address the matter of the work itself but rather the opportunities that work carves out. Does God have a purpose for the work itself? Here’s where Martin Luther comes in. He believed deeply in the spiritual value of each and every job. When he expounded Psalm 147, he showed how God provides for the world but He does through the work of ordinary people.** This means that every worker that provides people with shoes, food, banking, enjoyment, shelter, security, and so on, is a agent of the God Who Provides. In essence, God will give you shoes but He uses a shoemaker to do it. This may seem like an simple idea but it is incredibly freeing. Here’s why:
-It means God uses everyone’s work to provide and care for the world He has made.
-that means that every type of work has dignity and carries with it God’s purposes.
-that means that everyone’s work matters!***
-that, in turn, means God is served when we do our jobs well.
-that means that it is right and good to enjoy a job well done.
It common to take pleasure in completing a task or doing good work. This is is only fitting because the actual work of our hands is something that God has called us to do. This is can be an encouragement to us no matter what our profession. In the words of Paul: 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
* I’m elaborating the list of ways to serve God that Tim Keller provides in his wonderful book, Every Good Endeavor (page 22). It is a volume about how God relates to our work and how our work can relate to God.
** Check out Every Good Endeavor, page 68.
*** Gross exceptions obviously do apply. Hitmen and pornographers, for example, are exempt from this type of dignity!