There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
This morning’s short passage offers two startling truths.
First, while it’s natural to say that we are drafting an email, delivering a presentation, or waiting tables, it is actually God who is working through us. “In all of [us]…it is the same God at work” (verse 6).
Second, because it is God who works through us, all work has dignity and meaning. This can be easy to forget in our culture which looks to work as the primary card in our never-ending game of one-upmanship.
A comical example of this is found in the movie Meet the Parents. Pam is introducing her fiance Greg to her family. First, she introduces Dr. Bob, followed by “the world-famous plastic surgeon, Dr. Larry.” Someone mentions that Greg is also in medicine. Amused, Dr. Larry asks Greg which field he’s in. When Greg replies, “Nursing,” the room explodes in laughter. “That’s good. No really, what field?” Dr. Larry insists. “Nursing,” Greg replies. Realizing he’s serious, the room falls into an awkward silence as the obvious disdain for the “lesser” profession has been laid bare.
Because God works through us, all work—from doctors to nurses to hospital custodians—has dignity and worth.
We don’t just see this in 1 Corinthians. As Tim Keller points out, “…in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God.” Furthermore, in Genesis 2, we see God instructing Adam to do the “manual labor” of gardening (verse 15) and the “knowledge work” of naming animals (verse 19).
Now I hear what you’re thinking: Jordan, I get this. I believe in the dignity of all work. While we might know these truths intellectually, the cultural forces that fight against these truths are incredibly strong, which is why we need these reminders.
I use the word “we” intentionally here, as I need to be reminded of these truths myself. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have said they wanted to be garbage women or cashiers and I have tried to steer their imaginations to being astronauts or entrepreneurs. Oh, how kids reveal the sin and idols of our hearts!
My point isn’t that we and our kids shouldn’t explore the best, most unique opportunities we have to serve God and the world. My point is that deep inside many of our hearts there is an unspoken stigma against some types of work. The biblical truths we’ve explored today cut right through that stigma. All work has dignity and can be used by God to accomplish his purposes in the world!