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Your Best or Enough?

I have been employed in a job since I was 14. I have worked for 21 employers through the years, doing a wide variety of jobs: teaching swimming lessons to preschoolers, driving a delivery truck, harvesting crops, security patrol, library services, museum tours, and outside sales. Even in my ministry career I have trained mission teams, led worship, written scripts, led student ministries, and pastored. But in all the jobs and roles, I have only had two bosses that I struggled to follow and honor. I have had a string of good, fair, appropriate bosses. I can only think of one job where I didn’t give my best. I had days when I did really good work, but in that one job, I thought I did only “enough.”

Looking back on that pattern, I wanted to give my best, but when I only wanted to do enough, it was because of my attitude toward my boss, and I made a strategic error in that attitude. I was confused about whom I served. I saw my role as small, and my desire to please as even smaller. But in all those other jobs, I admired my bosses and wanted to honor them, meet their expectations, and win their good opinion. Their opinion mattered to me. I wanted Ken to see how much I cared about the little kids in my care. I wanted David to entrust the extremely expensive equipment to my care. I wanted my pastors to see my desire to make a difference. I wanted the attorney to respect my work ethic.

Paul wrote to the early church about work on several occasions, but on one occasion he talked about the biggest motivator for doing our best rather than settling for “enough.” Slavery in the 1st century was often personally indentured for the purpose of paying debts, gaining shelter and food, or learning trades. Contrasting sharply with the African slave trade that was such an abomination, slaves could earn their freedom through their work. So, when Paul wrote to those who were slaves, he was writing to those who were followers of Jesus, and, in many ways, it paralleled working today. This is what he encouraged:

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. “

Work is hard. On some days we hate it and on other days we’re grateful for it. But we often see a boss as a reason to give less than our best. Paul tells us that we have another for whom we’re working. Even when an earthly boss may seem unworthy of our best, Jesus is always worth our best. We represent HIM in everything we do.

That perspective changed things for me. I hope it encourages you on days when your work life is hard.

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