Blog - Grasping Vocation
Bringing Your Work to JesusWednesday, March 14, 2012
In a world of 7 billion, what difference can your work make? You’ve probably heard the story of the man who challenged a boy throwing stranded starfish from the beach back into the ocean. In effect, the man asked, Why bother? Miles of beach. Millions of starfish. What difference are you making? The boy stooped down, picked up another starfish, pitched it into the sea, and said, "I made a difference to that one.”
How can our puny effort even dent the world’s enormous need? Sometimes the work we do may seem like chipping away at Mt. Everest with a snow shovel. Like emptying the ocean with a coffee cup. Or like carving faces in Mt. Rushmore with a fingernail file. The fictional starfish story may inspire. But a true biblical event has far more to offer.
Andrew, Peter’s brother, must have felt this kind of insignificance as he looked first at the sea of hungry faces and then at the boy’s two-fish, five-loaf lunch. Although he put the question to Jesus, the answer seemed obvious: "What are these for so many people?” (Jn. 6:9b, NASB). We, of course, now know the rest of the story—something Andrew did not know at that moment.
But pause to consider what that boy’s meal represents. If not Peter, James, or John, then someone in the same business had gone to work one day and netted those slippery fish from the sea. Someone worked to gut them. Someone else—perhaps the boy’s mother—fried or baked them. Long before that, some farmer had plowed a field, scattered some seeds, and harvested the wheat. Part of the crop went to a miller who ground it into flour. Then, likely the lad’s mom again, baked it into loaves and packed them along with the fish into a lunch. So that young man’s meal stands for human work. But in spite of all the hands involved, what was that among so many?
Judging by what God had done centuries earlier for a hungry mass of people in the desert, Jesus presumably could have bypassed that pitifully inadequate human work and called down cartloads of bread from heaven. But he did not. Instead, he said, "Bring them here to me” (Matt. 14:18). In essence he was saying, bring me the combined effects of human work. As insufficient as the work is in light of the hungry thousands, entrust it into my hands. Let me magnify it to match the need.
And even after he had multiplied the results of ordinary human labor, Jesus did not deliver it to the dads, moms, and children himself. Instead, he put the now-banquet-sized food supply back into the hands of his disciples who did the work of transporting and serving it.
Next time you’re tempted to think your work is too small to matter— to people or to God—remember what happened to the fruits of everyday labor in Galilee more than 2,000 years ago. In and of itself, your work is clearly not enough. But listen carefully. Jesus is still inviting you, "Bring it here to me.”
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).