(Note: This article was posted on the Coram Deo blog.)
Who are invisible workers, you ask?
These are the people who work behind the scenes, quietly doing what needs to get done. They do not normally deal directly with the public. They are often taken for granted, overlooked, and not rewarded for their efforts. Here are some examples: those who stock shelves, do research, answer phones, mop floors, prepare food, build sets, sort mail, assemble products, or reestablish the computer network. I would be remiss if I did not mention the hard work of mothers and fathers.
Let me share a few thoughts about the significance of the invisible worker and how God sees their work. Next, I will address those who believe they belong to this special group, and then those who may encounter them occasionally. I might have a message of hope for these quiet professionals.
The intrinsic value of work
The earliest references about work in the book of Genesis show us that because God is a worker, all legitimate work has intrinsic value. The implication is that because work is valuable to God, what I do is of value, and what you do is also of value. All human work that adds to shalom is good.
Michael Wittmer, in Becoming Worldly Saints shares this insight regarding the value of work: “God created Adam and Eve in his image, empowering them to expand the boundary of Eden until the entire world flourished under their loving care.” What we do all day contributes to that expansion.
A word of encouragement for those whose work is invisible to most
To those who fall into this broad category, please listen: God works in, with, and through you to bring order out of chaos in your small but not insignificant workspace. Your valued contributions are an answer to someone’s prayer. The things that you make, organize, or plan for your employer make this world a better place. God provides through you. You love your neighbor by your work.
(Note: Thanks to a reader on my Immanuel Labor Facebook page who responded after this article was posted that “they are the most important people in the workforce”. I replied with an insight that is worth sharing here: “I see them as parts of the body that may not be visible, but are absolutely necessary. If they stopped doing what they were designed to do, the entire body would shut down.” (See 1 Cor. 12:21-25.))
A word of exhortation for those who see the invisible worker
By definition, these workers may be hard for us to see. When you do see them, have you taken the time to let them know their work truly matters to God? Have you told the guy who mops the floor at the hospital that his work is part of an answer to prayer for the healing of your family member? (I invite you to read an article I wrote that highlights the various workers that God uses to heal.)
I trust that some will take this short collection of ideas and do something with it. If you see your own work differently, I hope that it leads you to work harder at what you do because it matters. If you see the work of others in a new light, I pray that you take the courage to cheer them on in love.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 40 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty and now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He has written 160 articles on faith and work topics on this blog since 2015. More than 70 articles have been posted or published 140 times on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.