One of my favorite sitcoms was the long-running series on CBS Everybody Loves Raymond. It was a delightful comedy of a successful sportswriter and family man, Ray Barone, who has to manage both with his dysfunctional parents who live across the street. The family dynamics were entertaining to say the least, which is why the series was so well-received over the course of its nine season run.
At the conclusion of the last day of filming, Ray Barone’s character, the comedian Ray Romano, spoke to the studio audience before whom each episode was taped for broadcast. During the time, Romano reflected on his past as a struggling comedian who had become one of the highest paid actors on television, as well as on his future. In particular, Romano read a note his brother had stuck in his luggage the day he moved from New York to Hollywood nine years earlier. The note contained a quote from the Gospels, where Jesus had asked his disciples, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” As Romano read the note to the audience, he looked up with tear-stained eyes and told the audience, “It’s been a wonderful run, but now I’m going to work on my soul.”
I think many of us can appreciate Romano’s reasoning. We can get so locked in on climbing the economic and social ladder that we fail to pay attention to the one thing that matters most–our very soul. How much better if we could do both, attend to our work, while attending to our souls?
Some years ago, I came across a series of questions that invite us to do just that. The author is unknown, but his (or her) wisdom is compelling. The questions go as such: “Is your labor a job or a ministry? If you’re doing it because no one else will, it’s a job. If you’re doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry. If you’re doing it just well enough to get by, it’s a job. If you’re doing it to the best of your ability, it’s a ministry. If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it was just a job. But if you stay with it even when no one seemed to have noticed, it was a ministry. If you do it because you are convinced it needs to get done, it’s ministry. It’s hard to get excited about a job. It’s almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.”
I think this perspective is most needed in a day when, according to statistics, the average American young person could expect up to seven job changes in his or her lifetime, none of them necessarily related to a “smooth” career track. If impermanence and flux are the order of the day, then how much more important is it to have an outlook that transcends mere promotions, accolades, and bonuses? There has to be something more fulfilling than those metrics.
On this Labor Day weekend as many will be taking a break from the everyday grind, I invite you to consider how serving the Lord in the process of your work can offer you that level of fulfillment. Then, your labor will be a true “profession,” a profession of faith, and a way to live out God’s calling that blesses you richly (in terms of those things that matter most of all) and enables you in the process to be a blessing as well.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through