Paperwork OR Peoplework? You’re probably PARALYZING your productivity!

I was first asked the insidious question many years ago as a student in a leadership workshop: “Which are you?” I naively assumed it was a valid question, a thoughtful call for leadership categorization.

HGTV’s hit show insists their contestants “Love it OR List it.”

People are commonly either “dog people OR cat people.”

As a passionate coffee lover, I often encounter folks who are either “coffee lovers OR tea lovers.” I rarely meet someone who claims allegiance to both beverages. (And anyway, how could a tea lover also appreciate coffee? I say you’re either strong OR wimpy.)

So which are you? Tasks and details-oriented OR people-oriented and more contemplative?

Either-or thinking flows naturally in so many arenas of life. BUT when it comes to work life, I believe our productivity often suffers from such either-or attitudes and actions. We say things like:

“I thrive on relationships and time well-spent with others. C’mon, pour more coffee. Let’s chat, build trust, and bask in the process. But please, I don’t do the administrative stuff.” The result? There’s usually great talk with others, but little if anything actually gets produced.

Another coworker might declare, “Bring on the tasks, strategies, and lists. Divide and conquer! But please, oh please, don’t make me work with other people!” Such go-getter leaders insist: “I push, drive, and accomplish. I’m HIGH D, baby! That’s me. So cut the relational crap. Let’s just get ‘er done!” And what’s the outcome? Great accomplishments abound, but there’s usually a serious body count in the process. (Even if it’s not right away, the carnage happens over time.)

“Tasks and deets” OR “people and contemplation?” Workplace assessments, personality profiles, and job satisfaction surveys often force people into such categorical buckets.

What if God’s view is much more integrated? When we analyze three of Holy Scripture’s hallmark work scenes, we make a unique discovery.

Work Scene 1: In the biblical book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, we find a detailed, poetic, methodical list of day-by-day accomplishments. There is no doubt about it—God is orderly and very strategic in sequence. AND in this same report, humans and our subsequent relationships—both with God and one another—prove to be the apex of the Creation encounter (Gen 1:26-2:3). God’s work cannot be tightly filed into either-or folders. God does BOTH.

Work Scene 2: When instructions are given for the building of the Hebrew Tabernacle during the Israelites’ wilderness wandering (Exodus, chapters 25-30), the Lord supplied a serious task list. (Admit it, many of us have lost it right here, our best Bible read-thru momentum has gone up in flames. ZZZZZZ.) We dare not miss the beautiful reality that God’s tedious tabernacle details culminate with a passionate focus on the skilled craftsmen named Bezalel and Oholiab. It was God’s oh-so-personal impartation of his Spirit that empowered them to accomplish their tasks. God’s work cannot be tightly filed into either-or folders. God does BOTH.

Work Scene 3: The Gospel accounts reveal God’s Son, Jesus, working with similar modus operandi. Christ remarkably blended accomplishment of tasks, his focus on details with his priority for people and relational/contemplative cultivation (See Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 30-44 for Jesus’ both-and blend in this story. Five thousand+ people enjoy an amazing picnic!). The God-Man did both.

If you’re more of a task-oriented person, marvelous! Bridges would collapse without the engineers and code enforcers. Cars and trucks would not make it down the road one mile if we lacked auto designers and mechanics. You rock! Local and global economies would crash without the pencil pushers and number crunchers. God’s work in this world needs you. We need you and your penchant for spreadsheets and schematics. We applaud you!

And there are those of you who are all about the conversations, extended times of deeper contemplation, and fostering dynamic connections. You lunch meeting experts and relational gurus, thank you! You keep us caring, encouraging, feeling, healing, networking, learning, and growing. God’s work in this world needs you. We need you and your bent toward conversing and flourishing with others.

But over the years, I’ve observed: Most of the most effective leaders deliberately develop a skillful blend. They’ve learned to do the dance between details and people. They resist the bog-down and paralysis that often comes with either-or thinking. How can we do that in our own businesses and workplace leadership?

  • Push back against your own either-or thinking. You’re seriously limiting your own potential and the productivity of your business when you willingly decide it has to be either-or. Instead, embrace attitudes and daily patterns that involve both strategic tasks AND loving conversations with people. Dare to embrace this bolder, image-of-God reality. You CAN do both!
  • Don’t aim for perfect balance in this crucial leadership choice. Balance is a ridiculous pursuit. Instead, shoot for a God-like blend, skillfully choosing between people and tasks as opportunities emerge. Since the Lord is our ultimate example of a creative leader and flourishing worker, let’s dare to cultivate such a tasks-people blend in our workplace approaches.
  • If you’re more task-oriented, deliberately schedule more people time. Hans Finzel warns us about “putting paperwork before peoplework.” (The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, chapter 2) When you create greater margin for relational cultivation and reflective contemplation, you’ll likely see an exponential increase in your quality of connectedness with others and subsequent productivity in teamwork.
  • People sometimes ask me how I get so much done while being strongly relational in my approach. I smile and tell them my secret weapon. I make aggressive task lists. Now because I personally bristle at the thought of being too task-oriented, I label my uber-full weekly list as “OPPORTUNITIES this Week.” (You’re probably chuckling and calling me out: “Okay, Pletch is crazy—just playing a semantics game.” But hey, it works for me. Really!) And the silver bullet is this: My “OPPORTUNITIES” list always includes more people with whom I’m aiming to connect, equip, and cultivate.

What have you found best helps you push back the either-or approach and more fully live out God’s beautiful blend of details and people?  

Make Something

Wind and the wintry mix were pounding our roof as I awoke. (‘Must confess, the little kid deep inside me said, “Ah, the storm did indeed arrive.”) After a foray outside with Brody, our golden retriever, I began the joyous task of carefully stripping newspaper, strategically clumping kindling, and then lighting the flame. Within moments, my boys were gathered around, basking in the glow.

I’m struck with the integral connection between holy interruptions in our regular schedules—these God-appointed disturbances, like snowstorms—and the opportunity to make something. We learn of the God who oh-so-creatively makes things in Genesis 1. Many years later, Jesus reminded his critics that his Father is always working (John 5:16-18). So I’m challenged today with the opportunity.

I can make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. I sense the Lord’s promptings today. “John, whatever you do during this storm, you must make something.” Just perhaps, we might each hear his whisper carried on the winds and driving flakes of snow. Build the fire and keep it burning all day. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. Make french toast—and bacon, and eggs, and waffles. Go all out. Throw on your warmest snow clothes and go make memories—even just thirty minutes worth—with your kids. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this wintry blast.)

So, why not make something? You get the idea.

Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing God’s intentions for our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are made by our all-wise Father, for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (check out Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.

Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours. Now go make something!

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.

Oscar Gaffes and Extra Grace for the Workplace

oscars

Monday morning workspace—AKA Starbucks—was abuzz with incredulity. My laptop open plus notepad and pen, I was attempting to gain some early traction for the week’s tasks. Typically, I block out background chatter quite easily, but this morning’s customer interaction was unique and humorously redundant. Recurring commentary went something like this. “Can you believe what happened at the Oscars? How in the world did they screw that up? It’s astounding!” The statements were being made with more than an edge of glee—such a marvelous public debacle by the twin titans of movie industry and academy.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presented “La La Land” as the winner of the best picture award. Applause and celebration began on stage. However, jubilation quickly ended when one of the “La La Land” winners pointed out that “Moonlight” had won the Oscar instead. Amid the confusion, Beatty attempted to explain that he opened the envelope and read a card that said “Emma Stone and La La Land.” He had indeed paused because of it. “I wasn’t trying to be funny,” Beatty explained. “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins ascended the stage in stunned amazement and received the award.

Banter among my fellow coffee drinkers was ripe with shock and a cloud of judgmental amazement. Really?! How could a group of highly skilled, overpaid, and oh-so-talented people actually commit such a blunder? And of course, there were chuckles over oh-so-easy, knee-jerk comparisons to Steve Harvey’s botched announcement of the wrong Miss Universe 2015. Even the Starbucks baristas joined the jeers at such apparent incompetence.

On the one hand, it’s human nature to be stunned and have a good laugh over such incredible mistakes. Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh at another’s expense? But I am readily reminded of two healthy lessons that can come our way when processing the missteps, mistakes, and all-out flops that often happen in our own workplaces.

Burst Your Bubble

There are times when having our collective bubble burst is actually helpful in recalibrating our over-inflated hubris. R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung have observed:

“Pride permeates the modern workplace. Like the air we breathe, pride is absorbed into our celebrity culture, corporations, and self-image. This workplace sin often masquerades as ambition, confidence, and chutzpah. It makes us unwilling to listen to or acknowledge any painful truths about ourselves.” Stevens and Ung further explain that workplace pride is frequently “killing us but we don’t know it.”

But what can we do in the face of such deadly pride? They prescribe humility as the cure, a character trait best developed by cultivating a serve-others approach.[1]

Christ Jesus’ attitudes and actions supply exemplary patterns for our workplace interactions (Philippians 2:1-11). There’s something healthy about re-sizing of ego, the sudden reminder: “Let’s not take ourselves TOO seriously.” And we can benefit from the gift of remembering, “We ARE here to look out for others’ interests, not just our own agenda. We are here to serve.”

EGR

A mildly sarcastic, simple, secret statement—at least until right now—has been part of our office culture for several years. We have learned there are times it’s helpful to hear someone remind you when facing a fellow employee’s sudden blunder or experiencing an especially frustrating moment, or perhaps encountering an extra-trying individual. We simply say three letters to one another, with a quirky grin. “EGR.” If one of my colleagues says it to me, I automatically know she or he is reminding me. “Careful how you respond, Pletch. EXTRA GRACE REQUIRED.”

Stephen Graves queries: “Is grace really something that can live in a fierce business-like culture or is it only part of the DNA of soft-side not-for-profits? What happens in an organization when someone fails to live up to expectations? . . . A company with a cutthroat attitude and low tolerance for failure will likely threaten poor work reviews, disciplinary action, or firing. A company with a culture of grace, on the other hand, will more likely try to understand what’s going on in a person’s life. It will recognize that it’s okay to fail sometimes. It will try to help people through rough patches so that they can return to a higher level of productivity and contribution to the company.”[2]

EGR. Extra Grace Required.

When someone “reads the wrong winner” in your workplace today, let laughter, judgment, and frustration more quickly step aside.

Let humility and grace take the stage.

 

[1] Taking Your Soul To Work, by R. Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung. pp. 17-20.

[2]The Gospel Goes to Work, by Dr. Stephen R. Graves. p. 114.

Joy at Work

Here’s a quick excerpt from my new book, Henry’s Christmas: A Story for Discovering God’s Joyous Work at Advent. ENJOY this chapter!

Back on the road, Zach was driving extra-cautious. After the incident last week, he couldn’t help but feel a bit apprehensive maneuvering through such a mix of sleet and freezing rain. He turned the knob on Henry’s old retro radio and started scanning. This required an old-fashioned, tiny turn of the knob instead of auto-scan.

“Better see if we can catch a weather update,” Zach explained. All he could find was Christmas music, so he landed the dial on one of Philly’s easy listening, pop stations.

“I find Noni’s proper manner and careful words to be so mysteriously captivating. What did you think of her?” Mags asked.

“She’s fine—very fine. It’s the great grandson I can’t stand.” Now it was out there, and not an ounce of question dangled in Mags’ mind regarding what Zach might think of him.

Mags feigned a smile. “Now, Zachary, have a little charity. He’s really not all that bad a fellow. I think you need to give him some time. Perhaps he’ll grow on you.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Zach realized that he’d said too much. “But then even mold can grow on you.” He chuckled at his own wit but started quickly recalculating. “Anyway, his great grandmother’s description about joy was certainly intriguing. I’ve never thought about joy as a deep choice of gladness, rooted in God’s gracious work in and through us. And it just makes sense that such an attitude change is exactly what your dad is experiencing.”

“Yes, I think you’re right, Zach.” They both noticed that the wintry mix had begun to lessen in intensity. The traffic was moving at a bit steadier pace. Henry was handling the road famously.

“What’s amazing is also what Noni said about joy being contagious. It’s been true in my own life. Because your dad’s overall tone has been more joyful, my week has been more positive and productive. And this thought hits me, Mags.” Zach was speaking with excitement in his voice. “Joy is mentioned by Apostle Paul as one of the Holy Spirit’s fruits—one of those outcomes, a byproduct of living a Christ-honoring, loving, kingdom-oriented life.”

“That’s a sweet connection, awesome strands of truth weaving together,” Mags concurred. “And something else. Think about this! Oh wow—” She said it with that just-connected-the-dots, eureka tone in her voice. “Joy to the World. It’s possibly the foremost, seriously famous Christmas carol of all time.”

“Yep, great point, Mags.” Zach was nodding and still gripping the wheel very tight.

“But contemplate several of the key lines.” Mags softly sang: Let earth, receive her King…. No more let sin and sorrow roam, nor thorns, infest the ground…. He comes to make his blessing known…. far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” As she was singing it, Zach realized that she had inched her way across Henry’s bench seat. They were almost shoulder-to-shoulder again.

“Wow!” Zach exclaimed. “Several ideas are zinging my way. Here’s the kingdom anticipation all over again, much like Doc Ben and I were talking about in the church café. The King has arrived, so his kingdom has been inaugurated. Of course, it’s not fully here yet. There’s so much more to come! But it has begun.”

“I think I’m following, but you’re saying it like there’s more,” Mags coaxed him.

“Yes, here’s more of that impetus, a big-time motivation to reverse the curse. Doc Ben insists that it’s not simply a matter of Christ himself having come to create such a curse-reversing effect. Yes, the Father’s planning and sending of his son is certainly exceptional work. But as his kingdom citizens, it’s also now our role to work to accomplish royal new things that reverse the curse. We can be—we should be—bringing greater joy to the world as we actively lead in endeavors and serve others.”

“Oh, boy, I’m getting it!” Mags exclaimed. “I’m wondering how I’ve missed this all along.”

“Ah, don’t feel bad, Mags. We’ve all missed it. We readily enjoy the Christmas tunes, which are great, but we seldom slow down enough to actually process the biblical messages that can be seen in the lyrics.”

“So if we play this out, more people can experience this genuine, deep joy when you design really good buildings, and I care for pets and their owners with exceptional service. Right?” Mags was checking her trail of thinking. Zach was nodding and smiling.

“And the curse is reversed—more joy spreads across the world—as researchers discover new treatments for disease, as entrepreneurial farmers develop bright, eco-sensitive methods of producing even more food for the hungry world, and as teachers cultivate young minds.” Zach was on a roll.

“Of course, don’t forget, great car guys reverse the curse and bring a lot of joy when they turn wrenches, repair, and restore vehicles. Can you imagine our world today without the likes of a Henry?” Mags patted the dash, as if she were petting her favorite canine. Zach shook his head and rolled his eyes.

joyinwork-henry-ford

“It is rather amazing,” Zach reflected, “to realize that every Christmas season puts up a great big sign—a virtual billboard, really—reminding us of how the King has arrived, and we can be busy doing kingly, joy-filled, world-changing work as citizens in the kingdom.”

Ironically, in that very moment, Josh Groban’s version of Joy to the World began playing on Henry’s classic, silver-knob radio. “Okay, what are the chances of that? Is that cool or what?” Mags chimed in enthusiastically. “Gives me goose bumps!”

“Odds are actually pretty strong that someone’s rendition of that song would be played during our hour-long trek out of the city, when you consider that after all, it IS Christmastime, Mags.” It was Zach’s extra-realistic sarcasm, at his finest.

“Okay, you don’t have to be such a killjoy, Zachary David. You, ever the rational, uber-analytical, would of course insist on ruining my moment.” She smirked and pushed away from him just enough to slug him in the arm. But then she moved even closer and put her head on his shoulder for the final stretch of the journey back to Valley Forge. In that moment, Zach concluded without a doubt that this evening was ending with immense joy.

There’s still time to get your copy of the full story, Henry’s Christmas—including reflection questions! It can be purchased through Amazon, CrossLink Publishing, Hearts and Minds Bookstore, and other favorite booksellers. For inquiries on purchasing multiple copies at a quantity discount for a class, small group, or gift bundle, please contact me directly at johnp@manorchurch.org. Big blessings & joy for your season!

henryandmug

 

 

Brave and Beautiful Work with Words

Sara Bareilles’ hit song “Brave” boldly proclaims: “You can be amazing, you can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug . . . Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.”

Sara’s lyrics provocatively remind us of the power of our words to accomplish some things rather wonderful. This should not surprise us when we consider that our Creator, the first and foremost worker, originally labored with skillful words. Genesis 1 paints a masterful picture of God’s extraordinary, skillful design of the world and humans. Marvelous to remember, his primary modus operandi was his word.

“And God said . . .” is the leading phrase. And at the culmination, on the sixth day, he created humans to reflect his very image.

My own hermeneutical training encourages me to understand this section of Sacred Writ as a blend of literal, historical account conveyed with beautiful, poetic utterance. Hence, God’s own work with words joins with the subsequent work of human writing, producing a powerful picture of words at work!

As an author and speaker in the twenty-first century, I am terrifyingly tasked with trafficking in words. Consequently, I can deeply resonate with Bareilles’ sentiments. There are times my words may be a weapon; other times, a drug. And many days, they fall out as just sloppy and floppy, rather harmless, hopeless, and ho-hum.

I am oh-so-grateful for the supportive, endorsing words of five different friends, oh-so-kindly supplying a thumbs-up for my recent book Henry’s Christmas: A Story for Discovering God’s Joyous Work at Advent.

 henryschristmaslargefront

I’ll be featuring their comments in several upcoming posts, but I’ll share Chris Horst’s right now to get us started:

“The bookcases of most leaders are full of books on faith, work, and charity. But few of these books are as fun to read as Henry’s Christmas. In this festive tale, John Pletcher explores life’s most important questions—and our deepest longings—through the lens of a story. This spirited book is a fresh and engaging guide to the Advent season.”

—Chris Horst Vice President of Development, HOPE International, author of Mission Drift, and founder of dadcraft

chris-horstGreat thanks, Chris, for such a hearty endorsement! Reminiscing, I recall eight words, written atop a term paper’s final page during my senior year of college. The prof simply penned: “This is good writing! God can use you!” The day I read those words, they sank deep and did something very solid in my soul, spurring me to be brave, to dare to traffic in words.

Personal app: How will your words accomplish very good work today? How will you encourage someone, express gratitude, or verbally share something beautiful, bold, and brave?

 

 

 

Why Don’t More Christians Take their Spiritual Gifts to Work?

garagemechanicgifts

It’s my fault.

The seasoned attorney stared me in the eye, stretched his fingers and tapped his very large hand in a declarative pose over the oak table. He boldly stated, “Right here—every day—THIS is my ministry!”

I was twenty-seven years old, serving my first pastorate, and seeking legal counsel on property that our church was purchasing. Highly respected across the community, this accomplished lawyer was aiming to build common ground with me, a “man of the cloth.” Ironically and foolishly, I bristled inside. After all, pastors want people to be ALL-IN for the “real kingdom work” at the church building and the church’s activities. I’ll admit it. We are largely to blame. We pastor-types think (and too often do and say) things that foolishly communicate, “People should downplay their day jobs and up-play their efforts at church in all the other free hours.”

That’s the way I used to think. Two decades later, I now realize how skewed my own thinking was and how desperately we’ve missed practicing the priesthood of all believers. Subtly or not-so-subtly, church leaders communicate that our special, Christ-given abilities should only be relegated to Sunday services, ministries within churchy walls, and officially church-sanctioned missions in the community or ‘round the globe.

Grant it, these days we heartily spout off: “WE ARE the church. We should BE the church everyday.” Such statements are a good start, well, sort of. Unfortunately, this still remains largely lip service. Could we dare to change this? If it’s true that we ARE the church everyday, let’s take seriously these three postures for taking our spiritual gifts to work:

Take a fresh look at your own gifts.

Ask trusted friends, “Where do you sense my daily strengths reveal God’s work in and through me?” “Where would you say that I’m really good at what I do?” You can also use a simple diagnostic tool (check out www.manorchurch.org/gifts). Then talk about your results with friends to gain their feedback.

Take stock of your everyday roles and responsibilities.

Ask yourself, how might I employ my God-given gifts all day long, in all I do in my role? If you have administrative gifts, ask yourself, “How might I recognize and rely on the Holy Spirit for even stronger functionality.” If you have special gifts of helping/serving, “How might my gifts further fuel my capacity to make a real serving difference this week with clients out in my field.” Or, “How can I best bless car owners who bring their vehicles to my garage?” If you possess leadership gifts, “What will it look like for me to catalyze people around God’s deeper and wider purposes for flourishing?”

Tap into the intentional, relational side of employing your gifts.

The Apostle Paul clarifies that our gifts are very deliberately given “for the common good of others” (1 Cor 12:7). So let’s dare to ask, “How might my gifts/abilities more seriously reach and bless others for Christ? How can I speak encouragement? How can I both be and share the Good News with coworkers? How can I lead stronger so as to shape my company’s corporate culture in ways that more tremendously reflect Christ?”

Why don’t more Christians take their spiritual gifts to work? I will take the blame. Yes, looking back at that talk-tough hour around the attorney’s table twenty years ago, I received way more than real estate legal counsel. I now realize that I was treated to a dynamic clinic on holistic, kingdom work from a far more robust perspective. I wish I could go back and exclaim, “HUGE thanks, Sir, for being on mission at work—what a way to use your gifts for God’s glory!”

We are the church every day, so let’s take our spiritual gifts to work!

attorney—gifts at work?

 

 

How Can Earthquakes and “Zombies” Motivate Our Daily Work?

resurrectionlight

It’s a plaguing question that haunts us all.

Does my daily work actually have any lasting, eternal value? (Let’s keep it real. We all ask this from time to time.)

And let me complicate the issue with one further annoying question: Might the Easter season hold clues or help us in any way answer this question of our daily work’s meaning and motivation?

First, let’s be clear. We are including the everyday, down-to-earth stuff like landscaping, making cereal, spreading manure, and running repetitive, tedious lab tests. Yes, the messy, sometimes bloody, dirty stuff. Most of us are quick to assign some greater, lasting value to arenas like teaching children, caring for patients, preaching sermons, creating works of art, or leading a not-for-profit. But what about changing diapers, changing oil at the garage, changing hair color in the salon, or changing light bulbs in a warehouse? ‘Just want to be clear. The question is pertinent for every task, especially and including this often mind-numbing, mundane stuff.

Next, it’s important to grasp work’s original ideal. Work was originally portrayed in God’s grand story as very earthy, dirty, creative, tactile, and marvelously full of worship. Genesis 1 presents God as the original earth-worker. The first man was formed from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). The LORD called and commissioned humans to “rule and reign” in his image (Gen 1:26-28). In Genesis 2:15, he assigned Adam “to work” and “take care” of the garden. This same word for work, when surveyed across the broader scope of Scripture, conveys rich ideas of working in various fields, serving in a full mix of arenas, and even worshiping.

Thus, work and work’s outcomes were blessed and beautiful. However, humanity’s rebellion and the resulting curse sent everything topsy-turvy, horrifically including human work (Gen 3:17-19). Here is at least part of why we now find work tedious, exhausting and sweaty, extra-conflicted by relational stress, and all-too-often perplexing. Yes, we readily encounter daily work as unfulfilling.

SO, what in the world does Easter have to do with our quest for greater motivation and meaning? Tucked in Matthew’s account are two potentially puzzling, curious events. Matthew 27:51b-53 recounts

“The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.”

earthquake-cracks?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Why do earthquakes and zombie-like people appear as Jesus is dying? Consider this. Jesus’ gruesome, glorious death evokes an immediate response for the previously cursed creation. Earth quakes. Rocks split. Tombs break open as dusty bodies with brittle bones rejoin (compare Ezekiel 37). New spirit enters long-dead heroes of the Hebrew faith. Eventually, once Christ is raised, these holy “walking dead” come into the holy city, Jerusalem, and appear to many people. This had to feel stunningly apocalyptic.

If your head is spinning with curiosity, ponder the potentially divine reason. God was seriously showing off, displaying a preview, early signs of what is yet to come. Dodson and Watson explain: “Tied to the bodily resurrection is also the idea that the world will be renewed and restored to its state of wholeness as a garden paradise . . . it involves the renewal of what has been destroyed—cities, the land, and all of creation (Isaiah 60; Ezekiel 36) . . . The end of the world would bring about a resurrected creation.”[1] What breaks open at Christ’s death and resurrection is like a movie preview supplying glimpses into scenes that will fully flood the screen at the culmination of history in Christ’s final victory (1 Corinthians 15).

Darrell Cosden posits: “That this salvation of the natural world includes our work follows logically. Work, which has further shaped nature, is now just as much a part of nature as what God made originally . . . we must conclude from this biblical material that our work experiences salvation along with us.”[2] Thus, Cosden links such consummation of Christ’s resurrection, our human resurrections, and the subsequent redemption of Creation (Romans 8) with eventual redemption of our work and work’s outcomes.

As present-day workers, we can find far-reaching hope! Even our most mundane, treacherous tasks—like plowing endless expanses of field, making the umpteenth sales call, or engaging in one more boring board meeting—might actually hold eternal value. When done to serve the Lord Christ, for the good of others, such rough and tumble, everyday, earthy jobs can actually bring him great glory and end up emerging as work that’s included in the shocking, death-defying, restored New Creation at Christ’s triumphant return. No wonder the Apostle Paul closed 1 Corinthians 15 by saying: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

With such earthshaking potential for holy renewal, let’s get motivated in today’s work—with greater enthusiasm—and all for his glory!

[1]Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson. Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014, p. 24.

[2]Darrell Cosden, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. UK: Paternoster, 2006, p. 71.