I have been thinking about work a lot lately – I’m blessed to be in a job that is both stimulating and fulfilling, which is something that I don’t take for granted. But it is not my work that I have been thinking of exactly, it is more about praise for the work we have done and our need to be appreciated. Do we do the things we are meant to do well because we want people’s praise or do we do it well because it is our job? Whether it is house work, homework or work work it is lovely to be appreciated, but is that our motivating factor? Are we like small children running around doing our jobs and shouting, “Ta Da” at the end, waiting for the applause? I was challenged when I found this Australian paraphrase of Luke 17 in an email last week:
Think about this: If you employed a full-time servant, you expect him to do what you pay him for, don’t you? If he comes in from a day working your land or shearing your sheep, you are not going to tell him to put his feet up while you run his bath and fix his dinner are you? Instead you will tell him to take his boots off, fix your supper, and wait on your table until your meal is over. After that, you’ll let him knock off and fix his own meal. You don’t pin a medal on him for just doing what he’s paid for, do you?
So remember that it is the same with you. When you have done what is required of you, don’t go expecting anyone to put your name up in lights. Instead say, “We are nothing special; we were just doing our job,” and leave it at that. Luke 17:10
While appreciation and recognition are lovely as well as being fantastic for work morale the question needs to be asked should we expect commendation for doing what is really just our job. Realistically many people have unappreciative bosses, spouses and children who are either too busy or too stressed out to notice our need of praise. If we let that impact the way we work we begin to feel like our job is under appreciated and perhaps worthless instead of taking the simple pleasure in a job well done. I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to be praised and commended but I must be on my guard that it does not become my motivation for doing things.
Over the weekend I read Max Lucado’s books ‘Out Live Your Life’. He has a fascinating chapter on Ananias and Sapphira asking why was the punishment so harsh for them lying about the amount of money they gave to the church (Acts 5). He concluded that Ananias and Sapphira were motivated by being seen and commended for doing something good rather than by doing good itself.
Lucado says: “Bottom line: don’t make a theatre production of your faith. “Watch me! Watch me!” is a call used on the playground, not in God’s Kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. (Pg 93: Out Live Your Life)
Lord, help me to take pleasure in a job well done and satisfaction in knowing that you have seen it, even if no one is there to clap for me.