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As unto the Lord

In the hierarchy of chores, porch sweeping ranked among the lowliest, and none of the children wanted the assignment. In the morning sunshine but out of the range of the breeze, the porch stretched long and wide across the front of the 1897 orphanage.

Sarah, a small child of eight or nine, lived under the line of vision of most people. But she was not quiet; she romped the playground with her friends, laughing as the wind played with her hair and tossing it back from her eyes, running ever faster toward the swings at the corner beneath the pecan trees. She was tiny but her strength both physically and mentally made her a formidable teammate in Red Rover matches; captains knew to choose her quickly. Even so, the orphan girl was overlooked by casual observers.

When time came for passing out chores, sweeping the porch often fell to Sarah –– it was a least-liked chore. The broom left trails of dirt and dust. So, the sweeper had to be diligent to achieve the matron’s desired result.

One August morning, the cottage matron happened to pass by as Sarah was sweeping. No one was near, but Sarah’s mouth moved constantly as she went about her work –– curiosity drew the matron closer. A quick glance took in the very clean path the child cut as she moved rhythmically about her job. Obviously, Sarah would not need to go back a second time with her broom; her careful work showed her attention, and the matron could not help but smile when she heard Sarah’s words. With each sweep of the broom, Sarah repeated, “As unto the Lord, as unto the Lord” in a slow sing-song that kept time with the broom’s motion.

The matron did not need to wonder at the care going into this lowly chore –– Sarah had a holy focus. Her attitude changed the menial task into a gift of service. Sweeping became Sarah’s offering. No small wonder that the porch looked best when Sarah did the job.

Recently, I took a few days and retreated to the mountains. The solitude forced me to disconnect from the hundreds of things bidding for my attention every day. Not being distracted,I became keenly aware of my surroundings.

My awareness of the silence, of the birds’ morning chorus, and of the comings and goings of others as I sat in solitude was heightened. I watched those serving at the retreat center as they went about doing chores. One task appeared no more important than another. The work was common, but to the staff, it was not menial work. All work was done with a God honoring attitude.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about work. He did not rank the importance of the jobs they did. Instead, Paul said that “whatever” the chore –– big or small –– “work at it with all your heart.” He undergirds the idea that work is to be done with integrity, humility and love.

Paul teaches that as believers, the work we do is not done for people –– those who have authority over us or who can reward or even punish us. But we are to work “as though you were working for the Lord.”

My dad underscored these teachings when he drilled into me, “Whatever you do, do it well.” He taught that a job is not complete until you have given 110%. He was determined to satisfy the ones that mattered most when he left his job every evening – himself and the Lord.

We will work to make a living more than 100,000 hours of our lives. The “how” in which we do our work is what gives it true significance. Doing our jobs “as unto the Lord” makes it holy work. And when our personal job description includes honoring God, the impact on the lives around us is tangible. People can come into our homes and see we follow Jesus. They can go with us to church and worship with us.

May our work be holy as unto the Lord.

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