by Demi Prentiss
The good people at Made to Flourish insist that work matters to God, and they push churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom. A few months ago I read a recent blog post on Made to Flourish’s site by Courtney Reissig. (It’s excerpted here, and well worth your taking time to read the entire post.) I was reminded of an evening prayer (BCP p. 134 ) that asks God to “watch over those … who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil.” [italics mine]
Work that takes place outside the church – and especially work that is done by laity and isn’t rewarded by a satisfying paycheck – is often unrecognized in the life of our congregations. We say, “Stewardship is everything we do after we say ‘I believe,’” and yet we often overlook our fellow stewards – the “image bearers” who show us God in action, all around us in our daily lives. Reissig, who looks particularly at work that takes place in the home, asks us to think differently:
When you ate your breakfast this morning, did you think about the person who bought the groceries that made your morning possible? What about your clean clothes or mowed yard — did you notice the person who did those things? Maybe you are that person, but maybe you are married to that person. Regardless of who did the work, the reality is that there are many unseen things that happen throughout our days that keep our lives going. There are ordinary things that we do, that often go unnoticed, but that does not remove the value they bring to our lives.
Our homes, churches, communities, and neighborhoods are upheld by hidden, ordinary work. And in a society that often places value on work based on compensation, not contribution, I want to reframe the work conversation and bring it back to what God intended work to be about — bearing his image to a watching world.
One of the primary reasons I wrote Glory in the Ordinary is because I believe all work (paid and unpaid) brings glory to God. God made us to work. He works and we reflect him in our work in the world that he made. But I also know I’m a product of a culture that places value on certain types of work, namely paid or higher paid work. I don’t do a lot of paid work in a given day. Your churches are filled with people like me. Our days consist of just as much work as your spouse or friend who works in the marketplace, but for the most part people don’t see what we do. The impact of our work is long-term, so it’s hard to quantify how it contributes anything good to society (unless you measure in years, not days or weeks).
It’s important work. It’s needed work. It is also hidden work, and my hope in this conversation is that it sheds some light on all the unseen joys, struggles, and complexities that encompass the work of the home….
….Society is served by this hidden work. We marvel at a delicious meal, a beautiful landscape, a sparkling floor, or well-decorated home and sometimes forget that image bearers worked to make it all possible. We are bathed, chauffeured, fed, comforted, and cared for by fellow image bearers from infancy to death, and it’s beautiful in God’s eyes. It’s loving his world.
This is my hope for our conversation: As you serve the people in your churches, you will honor the work of the home as a vital contribution to the world God has made. God created us to work. And in the Lord, no ordinary work is ever completed in vain (1 Cor 15:58).