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Michael Scott and a fresh perspective on work.
The hit television series The Office is described as, “an American mockumentary sitcom that depicts the everyday work lives of office employees at the Scranton, PA branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.”
This description doesn’t even scratch the surface. The Office is so much more.
It’s Jim and Pam. Its Dwight and Angela. It’s Stanley, Ryan, Toby, and Andy. Each character has their own unique qualities, and none is more endearing than the world’s best boss.
Everybody loves Michael Scott.
He’s not the most conventional boss and certainly not the most politically correct. His strategies often backfire, he has a tendency to get frustrated with his employees (especially Toby), and he often says things he later regrets.
But he’s easy to forgive. He’s easy to love.
Michael would do anything for his employees.
The Office is more like a family and less like a group of individual workers. In one episode called Health Care Michael quips,
“The most sacred thing I do is care and provide for my workers, my family. I give them money. I give them food. Not directly, but through the money. I heal them.”
The line is for laughs, but Michael is sincere. This is how he sees himself.
In another episode when asked if he had a special someone, he turns to the camera and says,
“Do I have a special someone? Well, yeah of course. A bunch of ’em. My employees.”
Michael looks forward to going to work. I suppose you could say his work is his calling. This is not true for most.
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Four Ways of Approaching Work
I recently read a little book called The Future is Bivocational where the author listed four ways people often approach their work.
1. Work as Cursed
The first perspective is that work is cursed. In this view work is a necessary evil.
Work seen through this lens becomes a requirement for survival. It is hard, tedious, and often fruitless. This idea springs from a passage in Genesis 3:17 which reads,
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat food from it all the days of your life.”
This was not God’s original design.
Prior to the Fall, God created work to have great purpose and joy. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God blessed humanity by putting them in the Garden of Eden to work it and care for it. Work was intended to be a blessing.
We should fight to redeem work from the curse, rising above the fray when it becomes difficult or hard.
2. Work as Income
This view is not as pessimistic as the first, but is often a utilitarian and joyless perspective on vocation. While the Bible affirms the idea of being paid for our work (1 Timothy 5:18 and elsewhere), this does not mean that work is simply a means to an end, a hurdle to overcome, or a gateway to something better.
I remember talking with a friend a few years ago about his work at a local construction site and asked if he enjoyed what he was doing.
“Enjoy it? No, I hate it”, he replied. “Then why do you do it”? I responded. “Well”, he said, “The money’s good, the holidays are good, and I have flexible weekends”.
This is the perspective of many. Work as Income puts the focus on income over calling and retirement over fruitful service.
This view can cause people to miss easy opportunities to serve. This leads to a third perspective.
3. Work as Service
Rather than viewing work as negative or utilitarian, this view sees work as a service to others.
My wife recently started a new job as a Speech Language Pathologist in our local school district. Her decision was motivated less by Work as Income and more by Work as Service. She wants to serve the kids in our local schools.
Whether you are working construction, hanging drywall, teaching students, or managing staff, you are contributing to society.
To quote Michael Scott,
“Now, you may look around and see two groups here. White collar, blue collar. But I don’t see it that way. And you know why not? Because I am collar-blind.”
Regardless of the work we do, everything has an element of service to others. But work is even more.
4. Work as Worship
This perspective fully integrates our vocation with our walk with God. In this view, we position ourselves to find joy and meaning in our work and glorify God in the process. This was His original design.
Work was designed to be lived in partnership with God.
Colossians 3:23 reiterates this idea,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord, not for human masters”.
We work for the Lord in response to his calling on our lives. The ancient Hebrews blended these concepts and used the word avodah for both “work” and “worship”.
Landscaping, teaching, driving a truck, preaching a sermon, and leading a small group can all be acts of worship. They can also be self-centered and self-gratifying.
It depends on our perspective.
In sociology, there are often three places referred to when it comes to social surroundings.
The first place is the home.
The second place is our work.
“While the first place is most important, the second is where many people spend the majority of their waking hours.”
What if you re-envisioned your place of employment as a place of worship? Rather than a necessary evil, a place to make more money, or even a place of service, what if your office or work site became your calling and was completed in partnership with God?
What if you saw yourself as a Marketplace Multiplier?
Groundswell recently partnered with a growing movement called Marketplace Multipliers to provide coaching and training for women and men to live as disciple makers in their workplace (to listen to a podcast explaining this training, click here)!
The mission of Marketplace Multipliers is stated below.
“ To equip all Christians to integrate their faith and influence their workplace by making disciples and unleashing the kingdom of God wherever they are.
To that end, I want to point you to two resources-
First, for pastors and leaders who desire to mobilize your people to multiply their influence in the workplace, we have created a simple Starter Kit (click here) that provides training and resourcing for Marketplace Multipliers. There is also a bonus session for starting a new chapter.
Second, if you are working in the marketplace and want to learn how to integrate your vocation with mission, I would recommend the book Marketplace Multipliers for purchase. This book highlights stories of men and women making a significant impact in the marketplace.
I close with another great line from Michael Scott.
“They say on your deathbed you will never wish you spent more time at the office — but I will.”
When we view work as worship and when your marketplace becomes a mission field, this line takes a more serious tone.
May God give us a fresh perspective on our work.