I learned about work as a young boy. Growing up in a farming community outside Baltimore, I saw my father and grandfather hard at work in their respective trades. Grandfather Lehmann was a carpenter during the day and a farmer when he returned home. Soon after finishing high school my father entered the plumbing trade. Within a few years he managed his own plumbing business. Both men built their own homes. Each knew what it meant to work long days. These men were colorful examples of the attractions and rewards of work. I found their display of physical strength and skill with tools intoxicating.
When I was nine, Grandfather Lehmann allowed me to take a turn plowing the field with his Massey Ferguson tractor. What a privilege, I thought, to engage in the activity of men! During adolescence my father let me work with one of his mechanical crews as a "gofer." What is a gofer? A gofer stood near one of the plumbers and when he needed a tool, a piece of pipe, or something else from the truck, he would "go for" it. What a boring job! As time went on I learned skills which made the work more interesting. Often it was very demanding and hard. Sometimes I spent days digging ditches to lay sewer pipe, or I crawled around suffocating attics in the midsummer heat. But in addition to being in the company of men who knew the meaning of work, I got paid! It was not very much at first, but it was real money!
By the age of 18 I had learned not only some basic skills but also a definite view of work. I never paused, at that time, to consider the perspective I had developed regarding my day's activities. However, a philosophy of work had emerged.
Many years have passed since those childhood days. Eventually I finished my education and entered the ministry. As a pastor I spent time with friends whose occupations represented careers and the variety of work that exists in business, medicine, education, government and law enforcement. Some were executives, others politicians, judges, secretaries, or administrative assistants. Some friends worked in the military, and others were carpenters or mechanics. They represented both "white" and "blue-collar" work. Many had taken positions or jobs based upon their desired careers. Others had taken particular positions because those had been the only jobs offered to them.
We all need some form of employment in order to support families and ourselves. Most of us do not have the option of doing whatever we want with our time. Work is a necessity. Our lives, and even our self-images and identities, are directly impacted by our careers. If we lose a job and have difficulty finding a new one, we may experience some degree of hopelessness and depression. Few things have a greater impact upon life than our work.
Many Christians never have thought about work from a biblical perspective. Although our hearts belong to Christ, too often our minds are held captive by the world. Our experiences and education tend to come from a secular viewpoint, especially regarding work. What does it mean to have a biblical perspective of work and the workplace? Do you understand the "glory of God" in your work? Do you pridefully boast (to yourself or others) about what you have accomplished? Do you think that church and home are the places to be Christian, but that work is secular and separate from your faith?
What may be good work to the world may be nothing more than "filthy rags" in God's sight. If it's "all about me," and God's glory isn't seen in my work, I haven't met the biblical standard of excellence:
"...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (I Peter 4:11b ESV)
The standard for the Christian when it comes to work is set forth in I Peter 1:
"but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." (v.15 ESV)
As you proceed in this book on excellence in work, I hope you will see that the Christian standard of excellence calls us to holiness and gives God alone all the glory for every good thing He enables us to do in each and every area of our lives.