“It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, white-washing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives Him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in His hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should.” St. Ignatius Loyola in Spiritual Exercises, as read in The Quotidian Mysteries
One of the things that gets me going, that will launch me to the top of my soapbox, that will actually draw me into a heated discussion, is this topic of work and worship. I’ve read quite a bit on this topic (this book has an excellent summary of this history of how modern Christianity ended up with the dichotomy between work and worship) and am saddened, baffled, and angered at the gulf that many Christians think exists between what is holy and what is not. What is even more disconcerting is how this worldview has subtly permeated even the so-called “sacred” realms of Christian work (I use the term “sacred” in quotes because I clearly believe that all activity can be holy, but want to define these arenas with its common-day labels), especially the one in which we participate: missions.
There was a big to-do this week as a new system was rolled out for tracking how our staff serve in the kitchen. By the way, it’s always the kitchen. Poor, poor, kitchen. For some reason the staff on our campus see that place as the worst form of work and beg off that chore as frequently as possible. As someone who loves so many aspects of the kitchen, I have to watch that I don’t become offended by how other people treat that ministry with disdain or indifference. Yes, I do have a unique affinity for that place but at the same time, don’t people realize where all that food comes from that you stuff in your mouth three times a day??? Sigh.
Any-whoo…when staff saw that there was a new level of accountability in regards to their participation in the kitchen, sparks started to fly. No, that’s putting it lightly. Bombs. Missiles. Full on nuclear warfare. It took most of the week for a few key leaders to work through all the backlash and complaints and excuses that were launched their way. There was fall out. There was shrapnel. Hopefully, though, we are moving forward and this new system – which is a great solution but, as always, is not the master – will help our community grow to where it should be with serving in the kitchen.
Of course we all have full schedules and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the good things that we want to do. Yet why is it that a ‘job’ like lunch clean up or dinner prep gets the last rung on the ladder, the last slot on the time card? My theory is that many people see it as task that is far removed from the actual ministry that could be done during that time. Teaching underprivileged kids how to read? Interceding for unreached people groups? Meeting with pastors to coordinate a community outreach? Driving to pick up a visiting group of students? Yes, those activities are worthwhile investments of a missionary’s time, but chopping carrots? Come on now, there’s got to be someone else to do that work, right?!!? Us missionaries have more important…daresay… holy things to do.
And there’s the rub. Serving in the kitchen is not holy. It’s not ministry. It’s not a calling. So, as a missionary, there’s a subtle line of justification that can be tossed around which justifies blowing off a ninety minute commitment twice a month because you have better, bigger, and more holy things to do.
But you don’t.
“God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should.”
Do I mean to give God glory when I wash dishes or open cans of tuna or mop the dining hall? If so, then I am worshipping Him. I am in ministry. The very moment I slip the apron over my head I enter into a place of holiness and reverence. I may not like doing it, but it can still be worship. Wipe those tables. Stir those beans. Season the rice and dry the dishes. Join the angels in worship and remember to fill the salt shaker, too.