Work as for the Lord

In late 2020, I attended a cesarean birth with my client and her husband. An unexpected complication led to a quick drive to the hospital and a long wait for surgery. As a birth doula, during a c-section I am typically seated near the head of my client, next to her birth partner. I provide moral support for the pair and a hand to squeeze for anyone who needs it. Only inches away on the other side of a sterile curtain, a team of doctors and nurses do their specialized work with fine-tuned precision. From my vantage point, I see only a sea of blue backs and caps. Voices are low, and each person knows exactly where to stand and how to move around the crowded space. Every step is planned and executed, gears turning smoothly in a living machine.

Typically, the anesthesiologist is the only person on our side of the curtain. That early morning surgery was no different, but this time, the man who managed the patient’s anesthesia would leave a lasting impact on me. 

A Perfect Encounter

Hours before we were taken back to the OR, my client and her husband passed the time by creating a careful playlist, a mix of uplifting and sentimental favorites that would be the soundtrack of an unforgettable moment, the birth of their child. A few of their choices were Christian worship songs, and I smiled as I noticed the common faith that I didn’t know we shared. My client noted that I had mentioned “church” in one of our conversations, and the knowledge that I was a believer gave her peace and made her not worry about her song choices surprising me. 

As the selection of music played during the surgery, the anesthesiologist busily did his work. He adjusted dials and gauges here and there, monitored vital signs, shared a few lighthearted jokes, and frequently asked how my client was feeling. A new song selection rang out, and the blessed name of Jesus suddenly filled the room. The anesthesiologist paused and said with a smile, “I approve of this song choice!” He began to sing along under his breath. In his quiet way, he made his belief known, and with those words, he invited himself into the moment. In the most unexpected of places, the four of us had an unanticipated encounter with fellow believers and engaged in a short but heartfelt moment of worship.

Work in a Secular World

According to a study conducted by Barna Group and released in 20181, Christians increasingly reject a “spiritual hierarchy” of employment (for example, the idea that the job of a pastor is more important than that of an accountant). Instead, modern American Christians are more likely to blur the line between secular and sacred work as they embrace a sense of vocation in all work, a belief that various forms of employment outside of traditional ministry can be callings for which God has specifically equipped a person.

Even with a growing sense of vocation among us, many Christians also recognize that outward expressions of faith are often unwelcome in secular workplaces. Teachers in public schools and secular universities could face reprimand for openly preaching the gospel in class. A doctor or lawyer may be frowned upon for giving his or her Christian testimony in a conversation with a patient or client. As an entrepreneur, I have the right to share my spiritual faith, but I am also keenly aware that a major component of my work is to set an expectant family at ease during an intimate and often challenging experience. I must “read the room” with wisdom and care, and introducing details of my personal life is not always the best way to do my job well. 

All Work is for the Lord

Must Christian employees feel constantly at odds between God’s call upon their lives and the expectations of the world? How can a believer work for the Lord under the constraints of a secular environment?

First, take heart in knowing that evangelizing and sharing Scripture are not the only ways in which Christians do their work for the Lord. These are small components in a much larger picture. Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” The word heartily points to industriousness, working with vigor and steadfastness. This word points to consistency and effort. All of these qualities speak to attitude and approach rather than specific tasks. Additionally, we see that our work is done for the Lord. Our purpose should be attached to the Lord’s pleasure, not merely the opinions of our clientele and superiors. Verse 24 continues, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Here we are pushed to look past wordly benchmarks that might be measures of man’s success, and instead, we are meant to look to the Lord for our reward.

Colossians 1:10 reads, “you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Here we see, again, that the manner in which we conduct our work matters to God and is a reflection of who we are in him. In the fruit we produce and the growth we display, we are honoring him. In the workplace, any of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) contribute to a positive environment and build healthier relationships. Certainly, a display of patience could diffuse a tense interaction or a demonstration of self-control could lead to productive teamwork despite heightened emotions. As so often happens, God’s word speaks to the greater spiritual good but does not fail us in the practical matters of living and working in this world.

Opportunities

I hope that the anesthesiologist can be an encouragement to all of us. This medical professional performed his job with excellence. I have no doubt he provides medical care of the highest quality for every patient on his docket, regardless of the music they choose in the operating room. Yet, he selected a subtle comment in a perfect moment to provide comfort and camaraderie, to serve the Lord with his words and actions, while never compromising the expectations of his position. I was moved in that moment, and I immediately thought of the potential opportunities I have in my work to express the truth of the gospel in a world that needs it.

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  1. Quoted in Study: American Christians Are Erasing the Divide Between ‘Sacred’ and ‘Secular’ Jobs, The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, September 25, 2018.
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Erica Goehring
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