Have you ever watched somebody at work closely? I mean, somebody really engaged in their work?
Right now, I’m sitting on an airplane, and across from me is a young man, explaining a Keynote presentation on his work for Exxon mobil. Hands animated, hat turned backward (must be off the clock), and utterly fascinated with geology and the contours of the earth’s surface. It’s as if he’s not just explaining his work – but something about himself.
And here comes the Southwest airlines stewardess. She is serving us drinks – coke, juice, Fat Tire. Patiently taking orders, kindly responding to requests, balancing liquid on a moving jet liner. Her eyes look tired. But she smiles. And I smile back, and thank her for her work. I think to myself – our culture has few jobs more obviously fulfilling the role of a servant than that of a server. I sip my cold drink, grateful. She glides down the aisle.
Behind me, a heavy set man with glasses, slightly balding, reads his magazine. I can’t quite tell what it is, but he is engrossed. Whatever he is reading, it is a part of him. His mind is absorbing some information, knowledge, fundamental to his work. His being and his work are one.
Work, to these people, is not the source of their dignity. This comes from simply being made in the image of the Creator. But it is a basic expression of their dignity. It forms the social relationships that we call civilization. It gives us the order to work together as the human family to provide for one another’s needs – and wants. Work is the overflow of culture, and in many ways, it is culture. Work fills our days, engrosses our minds, worries our hearts, yet stimulates our imaginations. When work is dull, we are less than human. When it is exciting, it can become such a bright morning star, we are tempted to worship it as a god.
The Christian must come into the world and direct the world to a God who works, and a God who rests. And as we rest, and worship, our work can be funneled, like a river, to stream of refreshment for ourselves and our neighbors. The simplest of activities can communicate a gentle beauty.
The Gospel is not work. Indeed, when work is the Gospel, life is destroyed. No, the Gospel is the story of the life, death, resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And when the Gospel animates and enlivens work, the world becomes almost magical.
Look. The magic even animates his excited explanations of fossil fuel exploration, over a glowing Apple computer, with hand gestures and inflected, anticipatory voice tones to complete stranger on an airplane.