If I had the option, I wouldn’t clean or do laundry or pull weeds, because those aren’t “high-priority” in my life. Unfortunately, setting priorities doesn’t mean that I only do the activities I like. Many young people entering the workforce become disillusioned because their first jobs seem meaningless. But every job, no matter how menial, can be meaningful with the right attitude.
God can infuse meaning and ministry into the smallest work. When I grocery shop, I am serving my family. When I am stuffing envelopes at a nonprofit, I am serving the people who are served by the organization. The way to make thankless tasks meaningful is to think of the people on the other end of them. Meaningful work is a choice, an attitude.
I can choose or lose the opportunity to find meaning in my work. I worked at Baskin-Robbins briefly in high school—I literally worked two shifts. When I was mopping the floor, I huffed, “I have over a 4.0 GPA! I don’t want to mop.” And I quit shortly after my shift ended. Looking back, I am embarrassed by my arrogance. I could have learned how to serve people, how to do a good job even if it seems unimportant. Instead, I thought I was above the work. A couple of decades later, I can clearly see that the problem was my attitude, not the job. Life is full of thankless tasks that must be done.
But what about the drudgery?
I’ll be honest: some tasks are just kind of terrible to complete. I simply do not like to clean toilets or mop the floor or cook an endless cycle of meals that end up on the just-mopped floor. It is not fun or fulfilling to me. Every job I’ve ever held had tasks I didn’t like—three-hour-long meetings are not my idea of fun. So when I face drudgery, I must reframe the work. It’s a decision, a habit to cultivate.
Jesus says that the most important commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-31 NLT). I am accepting the role I’m in—whether that is a family role or a job title—and I am committing to take care of it. To love the people I work with and for and near.
Jesus-followers have the opportunity to be bitter and have a chip on their shoulders in regards to work. Or we can work with dignity and acknowledge that by working differently, finding meaning in the smallest tasks, we can share the gospel. Work provides a daily opportunity to love our neighbors—not by what we say, but by what we do.