The Gift of Work

An invitation to kingdom building

by Deidre Riggs

Mom, can you help me out? Would you dry the dishes?”

As soon as she asks me, I can feel resistance rising on the inside. I don’t like drying dishes. Drying dishes may be my least favorite chore in all the world. Next to raking leaves.

I try to be a grown-up about it. I dawdle around the kitchen for a bit, not really acknowledging her question. It feels like role-reversal.

“Mom?” she is asking me again. “Would you rather wash?”

I would. I would rather wash. “Yes,” I say to my grown-up daughter. “I would rather wash.”

“You like washing better than drying?” she asks me.

I do. I’d prefer to wash the dishes, if it’s dishes that need doing. I’d rather have my hands in the warm water, the scent of dish detergent wrapped around my head. But I pick up a towel, and I start drying the clean, warm dishes my daughter hands me or places on the countertop beside the sink when she is done rinsing them under the stream from the faucet.

We get to join God in the work of kingdom-building and of loving God and others well.

Alexandra, my daughter, has been baking—co-creating with God, whose image resides deep inside and coaxes creativity out of her. The measuring and stirring and blending and mixing have resulted in a casserole dish filled to the brim with coffee cake batter, and now the oven warms my right hip as I stand beside it with a clean glass bowl in one hand, and a dish towel in the other.

Standing at that stove, just moments before, my daughter poured the batter from one mixing bowl into the casserole dish, and then she spooned batter from another glass mixing bowl on top of the batter in the casserole dish. The batter from the second bowl was darker, flavored with maple and vanilla, and when Alexandra took a knife and cut the top layer of batter through the second layer of batter in the casserole dish, the two combined themselves in patterned swirls.

Standing at the stove, cutting one batter into the other, my daughter had giggled a bit.

“What’s funny” I had asked.

“It’s just so pretty,” she’d answered me. And it was.

What Alexandra felt on the inside of her as she created art from flour and butter and eggs and sugar, is so very close to what God felt when kneeling down or bending over and scooping a handful of clay from the earth to fashion her. And you. And me.

When God first looked at you, I imagine God giggled just a bit and said, “Wow! Just so pretty!”

Then God placed you here to get to know God and to love God and to help God let the world know how much God loves them, too. God invited you to join in the work of redeeming and restoring the world. Sometimes that work looks like mixing coffee cake batter into swirls in a casserole dish, and sometimes that work looks like drying the dishes.

In the end, though, we all get cake. And we get to stand together in the kitchen with warm water running from the faucet and swirly batter baking in the oven. We get to join God in the work of kingdom-building and of loving God and others well.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” Paul wrote (Colossians 3:17). No matter the nature of the work you do—whether art or accounting, activism or architecture—the work of your hands is an act of worship. All work is sacred. Holy. It is the extension of the character of God in us. I told my daughter all of this, when she stood by the stove and giggled for joy at the beauty of batter. And then, I promptly forgot it when it came time for someone to dry the dishes.

You too?

We are tempted to rank the projects God invites us to, and we give more weight and glory to some chores than to others. I want the jobs that make me giggle because I find joy more quickly there. But standing beside my daughter at the sink that night, drying the dishes she’d made clean, I slowly settled into the rhythm of the task and the conversation and the scent of maple vanilla coffee cake in the stove at my right hip. And God met me there, in the folds of the yellow-striped dish towel I held in my hands.

Do you think of work as drudgery? Do you give more value to some chores than to others? What would happen if you saw even the most menial tasks as an opportunity to partner with God in the work of building God’s kingdom here on earth?

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