Laborare est orare; orare est laborare.

My Latin days come flooding into my memory: three years of verb tenses and vocabulary. Latin has a way of describing thoughts that make them instantly more profound. But in those years of high school translation, I never came across this phrase. It means To work is worship; to worship is work.

Author Linda Dillow asks an interesting question: “What is your work? Are you biding your time… until your dream job comes along?”

How we view work depends on our answer to three key questions:

1. How do I define success?

2. Do I see my work as significant?

3. Do I see some work as more sacred than other work?

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward for the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:23-24)

How have I defined success?

Success is very subjective. Personally, I’ve defined success in my mind as being the kind of woman who can do all and be all; a woman who has her degree, has worked outside her hometown for a time, or at least moved away. Don’t ask me where I got these notions – probably from some Ginnifer Goodwin movie. The truth of what God’s word says is very different:

A woman is successful if she:

– Does her work for God, the One for whom she works

– Does her work heartily, from her heart and from her soul

– Works to receive a reward, not a temporary reward such as money, but an eternal reward which will last forever

Do I see my work as significant?

I have worked many jobs where recording inventory, proofing ads, bussing tables, or changing diapers never gained me recognition or even a raise. It was part of my day’s work. And my attitude reflected the apathy with which I faced those tasks.

The revelation that God created work and that it can be used for worship was a bit of a shocker to me. Yes, I can still hear my dad’s voice echoing in childhood: “Work is good. God created work. He put Adam in the garden to tend it (Gen. 2).” But still – the concept that work glorifies God can be a hard one to accept.

During my time working at a pain treatment clinic, where the doctors believe in providing hope to the patients, there was a mission I could really latch on to; one motivating me to go to work and bring people joy. Serving and smiling was a form of worship to my God; the God that many patients don’t even know.

But there were other jobs where worshipping in work was extremely difficult and felt almost impossible. Jobs with bosses who could not be pleased, with unfair office politics, with “Christian” bosses who cared little for their employees’ welfare. In these seasons I have returned to that Colossians verse – I work for the Lord, not for men.

Now that I am a mom and business owner, my work looks very different. I have no boss, or I *am* the boss. Here, the challenge is to remember that – once again – I work for the Lord, not for myself or for the approval of others. In motherhood particularly I remind myself daily that this is WORK, and it is good.

I’ve found that inseriting my name into certain passages of Scripture really brings it home for me. Below is a great example.

“It is required of Phylicia and other Christian women that they be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2)

When we are faithful in our work, we find significance in God’s eyes.

Do I see some work as more sacred?

Is making coffee in the church kitchen more sacred than filling the pot in the patient’s waiting room?

I have often made a division between my Sunday work and my Monday work. What I do for the church I have always taken more joy in because I feel that God smiles upon it. I never took into consideration that all of my life belongs to God, which means my work week as well.

Sometimes – no, often – I’m slow on the draw.

God smiles on every form of worship, and if my work is worship, and I do it well and with Him in mind, He smiles on that too. Doesn’t that make everything so much more significant and sacred? For me it may be scheduling; for others, feeding little children. Whatever it is, all is for the glory of the Lord.

Laborare est Orare

‘Laborare est orare’

Sang a monk of ancient time;

Sang it at his early matin,

Sang it at the vesper chime.

‘Work is worship’;

God, my brothers,

Takes our toils for homage sweet

And accepts as signs of worship

Well worn hands and wearied feet.

‘Laborare est orare’

Watchword of the old divine,

Let us take it for our motto

Serving in this later time.

Work is worship; toil! Is sacred;

Let this thought our zeal inspire,

Every deed done well and bravely

Burns with sacrificial fire.

Thomas W. Hanford


Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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