I once heard that if you are working a job that you enjoy 80% of the time, you’ve hit the employment jackpot. Most people work jobs that don’t get close to that 80% satisfaction level, meaning that they are dissatisfied with their job more than 20% of the time. That might sound frustrating, to think that we so often don’t work jobs that have a higher experience of satisfaction. Shouldn’t we be satisfied with our jobs at least 90% of the time or more? Isn’t that the story we tell our kids? “You can be anything you want to be,” and thus we urge them seek to out and prepare for the career that will bring them joy and fulfillment. That way you won’t ever have to go to work, you will get to go to work; you’ll be looking forward to it, excited and fulfilled.
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, kids and students, but just about every job has elements that you will dislike, and usually is it more than 20% dissatisfaction. Think about a job sounds awful to you. I think of the dad from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Do you remember his job? He worked in a factory that manufactured toothpaste, and he twisted on the caps of toothpaste tubes. Could you imagine doing that for the rest of your life? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that kind of work. It has dignity. I am simply saying that it is okay if you don’t like your work.
But that’s a fairly extreme, fictional example. Let me give you a real one. My cousin’s family owns a local fruit distribution company, and I worked their part-time when I was in high school. One of the jobs I did was to grab bags of packaged apples as they came down the assembly line and put them in boxes. I had to lower them gingerly into the box so as not to bruise the apples. When the box was full, you would send it down the line where a taping machine would seal the box and eventually it would get loaded onto pallets for transportation to grocery stores. I worked with my cousin, and I’ll never forget him saying that the apple packing house motivated him to do well in school and college. Why? Because, especially as teenagers, it was very easy to get sick of apples. 30 years later, guess where my cousin works? You guessed it…he works for his family business! But he is not pulling bags of apples off the line and boxing them. He did go to college, get his degree, and now he is in management.
My point is that every job has elements you will dislike, but the passage we are studying this week, Colossians 3:22-4:1, reminds us that we Christians can have a renewed attitude about our jobs, even about the parts we dislike. How so?
The author of this passage, Paul, is writing nothing less than a redefinition of work, of serving, of participating in an organization, of school work, and of retirement. Think about the various reasons that you work. To earn money is obviously the big reason. Yours might be a part-time job while you are a student, and you are trying to earn some spending cash, or maybe save up for a car. Yours might be a job to pay tuition while you are going to college. Yours might be an adult job, your long-term career, where you are providing for your family, paying off debt, saving for the future. Those are all important reasons for work.
But there are other reasons for work, right? Could be that your parents tell you to clean your room or mow the grass. As an adult you work to get benefits like health insurance, to spend time with people, to contribute to society, to keep a business afloat, or best of all, to do something meaningful that you enjoy. Also all very important. I would submit to you that what Paul writes in Colossians 3:22-4:1 supercedes all of these important reasons for work. What Paul writes is this: “Work as unto the Lord.” How do we do that?
I think the 80% rule of work satisfaction, that I mentioned above, can help us Christians have that attitude of working as unto the Lord. I’ll say the 80% rule again. If you have a job that you like 80% of the time, you have hit the employment jackpot. This rule is so helpful because it reminds us that even the best jobs include 20% of the time doing work that is distasteful, frustrating, boring, or difficult. That’s not pessimistic. It is simply trying to be honest.
Frankly, speaking honestly, the 80% rule includes pastors too. I love my job, but not every part of it, and not all the time. Some weeks I sit in my office on Monday or Tuesday and think, “Ok, here we go, time to crank out another sermon.” I can start to doubt and wonder, “Is this all just a waste of time? What does it matter?” Because we all want to use our time in a meaningful way, right? So Christians, Paul reminds us, we work as unto to the Lord.
Think about the 80% rule with me, workers, students and retirees. Are you at 80% satisfaction? 90%. Higher? Or lower? Consider your reality. What Paul writes helps us to think differently about work. Work, Paul writes, is not simply an earthly reality. When we do our work as something that can be done as to the Lord, we view work as worship, and even as ministry. Have you ever thought about your work or school this way? Think about working as worship and ministry can transform your attitude about the parts of your job or school that you dislike!