"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week 4: Work With All Your Heart, Part 1

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~Colossians 3:23

I imagine that most of us, in our work lives, fall somewhere between Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute of the television show, The Office, and Peter Gibbons of the movie, Office Space. Dwight describes himself this way: "D.W.I.G.H.T. Determined, Worker, Intense, Good Worker, Hard Worker, Terrific." Peter Gibbons, on the other hand, says, "It's not that I'm lazy, it's just that I don't care."

I'm a lawyer. For most of my life, I've been, if not a "terrific worker," certainly a "determined hard worker." When I decided to go to law school, I felt that God was calling me to it. In law school, I was excited about the law. I studied twelve to sixteen hours per day, seven days a week. The hard work paid off with good grades and great opportunities. After law school, I had two prestigious judicial clerkships and was then recruited by the Department of Justice to join the Attorney General's honors program. It was an amazing professional opportunity, but the job required a move to Washington, D.C., far away from family and friends in Illinois. My wife, Christina, and I agonized over the decision. We prayed about it. We thought about it. We talked with family about it. Finally, we decided to take the job, believing that it was God's will for us, but, at the same time, grieving over the move away from our family and dear friends. As we were in the midst of preparing for the move, the Justice Department called and offered me a position in Illinois. Without going into a lot of detail about how the Justice Department hires and assigns new attorneys, I can tell you that this offer was unprecedented. Christina and I considered it a true miracle. It was the best of both worlds---a job with the Justice Department within a few miles of where we both grew up. God's hand was surely in this. I started my new job with a high level of enthusiasm.

Five years later, I've lost my passion for the job and the law. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, because I dread another day in the office. I started out like Dwight Schrute, but I am becoming a Peter Gibbons. Two things have happened in the last five years that have changed my attitude about work. First, despite consistently excellent performance reviews, my salary has grown by only about one-percent (not per year, but total over five-years). Unfortunately, hard work isn't rewarded in my office, and I've let this discourage me. Second, the realities of the practice of law have set in. This part of the story is complicated; the short version is that Illinois is a very difficult place to do the kind of work that I do.

Here is my problem. The Apostle Paul did not say, "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, so long as your hard work is recognized with appropriate salary increases." He did not say, "whatever you do, work at with all your heart, so long as it's not too hard and you have a fair chance to succeed." We're just supposed to work hard at whatever we do, no matter what. And, why are we supposed to work with all our hearts? Not for the rewards that men can give; but because we will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. "It is the Lord Christ you are serving," says the Apostle Paul.

There is a depth of meaning and significance behind this command that I don't yet fully understand. This week, I want to do some practical things to respond to this command, like working harder at my job, arriving at the office earlier, and taking fewer breaks. I also want to study this command, pray about it and meditate on it.


  1. I just thought of some witty, smart alec responses to why you wouldn't want to work hard at your job. But that wouldn't spur you on your journey, so instead, I say, "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23)- fitting, I think, as you work to get away from mere talk and into the actin of the Word of God. And profit, doesn't mean a raise. Go, Nathan!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Nikki. I'm working like mad this week and probably driving my secretary crazy. I'm also praying for God to give me insight into what it means to work as if working for the Lord.