I have two inspiring stories to share with you this week about people using their gifts to serve God at work.
One story involves a pair of rich industrialists who used their wealth and power to try to better the lives and the working conditions of their employees. The other story is about a gravedigger.
You read that right. He digs graves. For God.
Everard Hall is a professional gravedigger. It’s a job he takes a lot of pride in, and one he’s been doing every day for over fifty years.
In Maine, where the ground is frozen solid for several months a year (and you thought your job was unforgiving, huh?)
An NPR radio story about Mr. Hall caught my attention this week, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. So many things about his story are interesting (like, for instance, why there’s a special need for gravediggers like Mr. Hall in freezing cold places like Maine), but what really impacted me was how his faith shone through. As the piece was coming to a close, the reporter asked the 70-year-old how long he planned to keep up his work. His answer gave me chills:
“God knows, I don’t know. He knows. I’m here to do his job. I’m working for the Lord. He gives me the strength to do the work that I do. I’ve got a God-given talent: I’m a gravedigger.”
Contrast Mr. Hall with George and Richard Cadbury, who, in their early twenties, together inherited a small confectionery business from their father. Together, the brothers painstakingly built the business into a veritable empire. For God.
The Cadbury family were devout Quakers, who first started selling chocolates as an alternative to alcohol. As profits bloomed, they sought to improve the conditions of their workforce. They built a custom factory town in the countryside, complete with gardens, parks, recreation areas, and quality homes for their employees, sometimes at their own personal expense. They offered company bible studies, pensions for retired workers (unheard of at the time), days off (again, revolutionary for the time), and staff medical services. To this day, the town they developed in the late 1800’s is considered one of the nicest places to live in England.
In short, the Cadbury brothers accomplished a lot. Our gravedigger Mr. Hall, on the other hand, boasts humbler accomplishments. What struck me about these two stories though, is just how much the men seem to have in common in the way that they approach work.
Mr. Hall and the Cadburies each did what they could with what God gave them.
They did what they could. (Mr. Hall, in fact, is still doing it).
No more, and no less.
How much time do you spend worrying about what you should be doing? Or what you might accomplish? Or about what others expect from you?
There’s certainly a time and a place for thinking big. But it’s great to be reminded that in a world that demands flashy accomplishments and impossibly polished images, God offers a different standard. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to do it all. Simply do what you can with what He gave you.
Before you breathe too big a sigh of relief, think carefully about that statement.
Yes, it’s incredibly freeing. But there’s a level of accountability there too.
Sometimes it means taking risks with your resources that others might not take.
Sometimes it means taking on the job that no one wants, with humility and honor.
God created you. He uniquely equipped you with certain gifts and resources. He knows exactly what you are capable of. And He may use you in ways that you can’t possibly know or even understand. Because, as Dr. Denison put it, “when we do what we can do, God does what we cannot.”
Even if work is frustrating or demoralizing (or downright dirty!) God may be using you to bless others around you. There’s a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that I’ve always loved. I used it in Work, Love, Pray when I talk about sharing Christ at work, but it’s just as applicable in this sense: Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.
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What does “doing what you can do” mean for you?