One of my favorite lines from Marin Luther’s “I Have A Dream” speech always challenges me. He said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'” Each time I hear that or read it, it pushed me to make sure that I’m doing things to the best of my ability or not. A bad boss or a job I don’t like shouldn’t keep me from doing my job well. Whatever God has given me to do at that time is what He needs me to do my best at.
Paul wrote something similar in Romans 12:6. It says, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well” (NLT). We each have different gifts and different responsibilities given to us by God. Paul goes on to say that if you have the gift of prophesy, then do it with as much faith as God has given you. If you are called to serve others, then do it well. If you are to encourage others, be encouraging. He lists multiple in this passage and after each one, he encourages us to use it to the best of our ability and to use it in love. We don’t need to compare ourselves to each other because we’ve been given unique gifts to fit our life and the people we’ve been called to serve.
He starts to conclude his thoughts on this in verse 11 by saying, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Whether you like your gifts or where God has placed you right now, you should be working hard and enthusiastically as unto the Lord. When we do our jobs or activities for a person, we can let our attitude towards them affect our performance. When we do it unto the Lord with our whole heart, then excellence becomes a natural byproduct. We must remember that our work ethic represents Him as well. What we do and how well we do it is a reflection of Him because we bear His name. So whatever you’re called to do right now, do it as Michelangelo painted, Beethoven played and Shakespeare wrote. Do it with all your might and enthusiastically unto the Lord.
Not long after a baby is born, we begin to condition them to do things for someone else. When they eat from a spoon, we clap and cheer them on. When they roll over, we cheer. We record their first steps as we applaud their efforts. The list goes on and on with each milestone. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate these things or that we shouldn’t encourage our kids. People need both of those things. However, from the moment we’re born, we’re taught to do things for applause. When we don’t get it, we think we’ve done something wrong or maybe they didn’t notice what we did. So we try to get someone’s attention and do it again so we will be recognized for what we’ve done.
Paul recognized this need for approval and how it can affect our work if we don’t get it. In Colossians 3:23 he penned, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” (AMP). Sometimes, if we’re doing something we know we won’t get recognized for or think that no one is watching, we don’t give it our best effort. Paul reminds us here that no matter what we do, we shouldn’t be doing it for man’s approval or recognition. It should be done as if we were doing it for the Lord because ultimately it is. Anything man rewards us with is temporary.
When Jesus was in the Temple watching people give, there were those who made a big show of their giving. There was also a widow who quietly gave all she had. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a person who prayed louder than others thanking God they weren’t like those other people. He pointed out that they were seeking the recognition of man, and while they got it, they wouldn’t be getting God’s recognition because they weren’t after it. He pointed out the sinner who wouldn’t lift their head and praised them. In both of these cases, Jesus was pointing out that we should be seeking God’s approval and doing things for Him instead of men. Remember, man looks at our outward appearance, but God is looking at our heart. Whatever, you have to do today, whether big or small, do it well and do it for God’s approval and you will be fulfilled.