I’ve often wondered why work is just so difficult some times. Despite the best intentions and efforts of the people around me, the work to be done always takes more effort than it should, is never produced as quickly as it could be, and the full potential of a given project never seems to be fully realized. When I take a moment to consider these short-comings, it leaves me rather frustrated with thoughts of what could have been if certain issues had not gotten in the way.
The truth of the matter is that these constant issues in our work are part of the consequences for Adam’s sin against God:
The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you
The biggest thorns and thistles we deal with at work typically fall into these categories: motivation, appropriate pay, politics, or management issues. Any one of these thorns can cause major problems, but our daily experience usually combines several of them together.
While Paul was instructing slaves on how they were to view and conduct their daily responsibilities, his directions are something that we can also apply as we deal with our own responsibilities:
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.
Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.
Did you notice how Paul addressed each one of our major thorn categories?
Issues with our own motivation really comes down to who we believe we’re responsible to. Are we working for our boss, our co-workers, or just trying to make some money to support our families? If that’s the case, remember that at some point, our boss, co-workers, or family will let us down. When that happens, our work will suffer because we’ll begin to believe that our efforts aren’t worthy of the person we’re working for. Instead, we need to remember that our daily work is something done for the Lord and not for men. We honor God and His reputation when we enthusiastically give our best in the task at hand.
Whether our earthly boss is fair or not, do we trust God to give good rewards? If anyone is going to be cutting checks, wouldn’t you want God to do it? Not only is he able to evaluate the finished product, but He knows all the details of how the project work was done…all the way down to the moment-by-moment motivation of the workers. Even if we don’t receive an immediate payoff for our efforts, we must keep in mind that we will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord and the quality of this reward is based upon what we accomplish and how we accomplished it.
One of our major thorns has to do with injustice and favoritism in the workplace. However, do we believe that the person who wrongs us will be held accountable by God? Our desire for fairness is real and justified. However, when office politics and favoritism muddies up a situation…do we trust God when He says He’ll take care of it? Even if we have to wait for Him to do so?
Lastly, we have all experienced the pains of ineffective, or even incompetent, management. Paul’s point here is that if we find ourselves in a position overseeing the work of others, it is imperative that we remain humble and do what is right by the people who work for us. After all, isn’t that how our Master in heaven treats us?
Thorns and thistles and painful labor will continue to be part of our daily lives until Jesus returns. Until then, whenever the issues are dragging us down, we just need to remember Who it is we’re truly working for.
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men