A Job That Matters: Taking the Image of God to Work

Four years. That’s how long I’d been preparing for ministry. Countless hours wrestling with theology, meditating on God’s word, and developing my ministry skills. Now I was almost done with my degree, and I was ready for some real ministry. Preaching the gospel, changing lives. Something significant.

image of God at work

Instead I was working forty hours a week at Office Depot. And I hated it.

Every morning I’d roll over, hit snooze as many times as possible, and dream about what life would be like when I finally had a job that mattered.

I’m a bit of an introvert. That means I’m usually happiest when I’m sitting alone in my office with just my books to keep me company. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I like them better when they’re somewhere else. And that can be a problem if you’re working at an office supplies store. According to my manager, not only did I have to speak to the customers, but I had to do it a lot. And, to make matters worse, I had to be nice as well. Talk about draining. I’d eagerly wait for my lunch break just so I could go off by myself for a few minutes.

But the worst was knowing that none of this really mattered. Who cares if the staplers are lined up properly? And does helping a person find the right box of pens have any eternal significance? There was real ministry waiting to be done, and I just spent the last hour hauling boxes from the back room to make sure the paper shelves were fully stocked.

I needed the paycheck. But I wanted more. I wanted a job that mattered.

How tragic. I wish that I could go back and spend just one hour talking to my younger self. That’s all it would take to cast a vision for what it means to be made in the image of God and why that matters in the everyday world. God created us to be his “idols,” the ones through whom he would manifest his glorious presence in this world he has created. And he commanded us to multiply and spread everywhere so that the whole planet would be filled with his presence through his image bearers. That is our task, our calling, our  vocation. Image of God.

And it’s a vocation that permeates everything we do.

Imagine what a difference it might have made for my younger self if I could have slipped out of bed each morning, strapped on the back-support belt we all had to wear, slipped my black Sharpie into my breast pocket, looked at myself in the mirror and said,

Image of God.

Called by God to be one of his people through whom he would manifest his glorious presence in his creation. And that includes Office Depot.

Today I will live into that amazing vocation.

To be honest, I still would have hated my job. I just wasn’t cut out for working at Office Depot. And I still would have looked forward to a day when I could work at something that used my gifts and passions more effectively. But it would have made all the difference in how I viewed the time I spent there.

I wanted a job that mattered. Image of God. Can it get any more significant than that?

[We’ve been exploring what it means to be made in the image of God. In the first half of our series, we focused on what “image of God” means in the Bible. Now we’re turning our attention to whether the image of God matters in the everyday world. The short answer is yes. The long answer will take a little more time. Follow along.]



15 Responses to “A Job That Matters: Taking the Image of God to Work”

  1. DLE September 20, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    Came here from Challies.com…

    You wrote: “To be honest, I still would have hated my job. I just wasn’t cut out for working at Office Depot. And I still would have looked forward to a day when I could work at something that used my gifts and passions more effectively. But it would have made all the difference in how I viewed the time I spent there.”

    Many Christians are in this position and have been for years. They are wondering when God is going to work on their behalf to get them into work that utilizes the talents God gave them. But then years and decades go by and that person wakes up one day and finds that in this adversarial economy, it’s too late to do anything about it. Many people are stuck in this trap, but despite its prevalence, it’s not one we Christians talk about much. Life isn’t very long, and nothing seems more difficult to overcome than being stuck in a career you can’t seem to escape.

    • Marc Cortez September 20, 2012 at 5:19 am #

      Thanks for stopping by! And I often think of my dad in this context. He worked most of his life in jobs that he hated. But they were the best jobs he could find and he was actually very good at them. I wish he’d had the opportunity to do something that was a better fit for him, and I know that he wanted that too. But as you point out, that isn’t how things work for a lot of people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring more, as long as we learn to live out our vocation where we are now.

      • Jack Vosteen September 20, 2012 at 6:00 am #

        Hate is such a strong word. The pure joy and love of life should always be the compass point as one makes their way along the path to sanctification.

        Just as the world can know that there is a god, yet not know that God; so may a Christian struggle so much with living and all it entails, that they forget the total awe of life itself: the thrill of every breath and the beauty of every heartbeat.

  2. Kim Petzinger September 20, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    How is it that we are God’s “idols?”

  3. Steve Cornell September 20, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    Thank you for sharing this honest reflection. It seems to me that it is not only a needed emphasis now but will become more so in the days ahead. Nothing has shaped my theology more than deep reflection on the implications of the Imago Dei, our fall from it and restoration to it (or to Him!).

    Thanks again,

    Steve Cornell

  4. Dominick Santore September 20, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Great word… Could have used that a “full head of hair” ago.. i was speaking about this with someone very recently.. It’s nice when God blesses you with a job you want to do.. but sometimes he blesses you with a job.. There seems to be a focus on the “what are you doing for the Lord” that makes just working and living your life daily to glorify Him almost suspect of your salvation. Christ transforms our thinking not doing things because we should.. because we are christians.. if we do things “because we are Christians” and not out of a desire to serve the Lord out of a grateful heart to me is no different than some of the Israelites repenting after God’s judgments.. There was always a remnant that followed Him, but the rest are doing it “because”.. Hope that makes sense…

  5. MikeInIowa September 20, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    A former pastor and I were having this discussion one morning as we were headed off to clean carpet in a very large public building. We both had been questioning our current call in life and wondered when God might intervene. We had both asked ourselves the question “Is this it?” Later as weeks passed by and doing some reading and thinking on this subject it came to me…Who am I to put my significance in such high regard? Yes, I may be underemployed (cultural term!) or even unemployed or maybe my health is not perfect.
    But I let my sinfulness as well as what my culture taught me in regard to my significance guide my thinking. We are so fortuneate to have a God that knows what is best for us at the time as well as live in a very wealthy country. Who are we but men and women? Think of the very insignificant peasant who milked cows and cut hay all day and died of plague at an early age and is forgotten. We could go on with examples like this all day. I agree with you Marc!! What a privelege to walk as His image bearer whatever we do! We only need to do our best, worship Him and be His hands for others whatever, whenever and whereever we find ourselves.

  6. Dominick Santore September 20, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    If this were facebook.. I would’ve have “liked” that!

  7. Héctor September 20, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Vine también desde Challies.com. Soy de El Salvador. Me capturó su sinceridad. Analizo mi vida laboral y muchas veces he llegado a pensar que Dios en el futuro me tiene algo “grande” para el Reino de Dios, cuando la “grandeza” se encuentra todos los días justo frente a mis narices y es del tamaño de una pantalla de computadora. Gracias por enseñarnos que tengo que reflejar la imagen de Dios incluso en el trabajo más monotono.

    • Marc Cortez September 20, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Thanks Hector! I don’t trust my Spanish enough to respond properly, but I love the language of God’s “great” being right in front of us the whole time, and how easy that is to miss. Great comment.

  8. Tom September 21, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    I hear you brother. Work can be a great ministry though. A great way to get a witnessing conversation started can be at break time by something as simple as the coffee mug your using. Get a coffee/travel mug that has the whole verse of John 3:16 on it. Its a good way to confess Christ before men. Get items like these at: http://www.cafepress.com/bibleverseshirtsandgifts


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