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

By Marc Cortez

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.

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.]

Marc Cortez is Dean of Western Seminary and can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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