Work as Worship: The Tale of Two Motives

by | Aug 16, 2018 | Articles, Faith and Work, Resources

I was a musician in a prior life. A music pastor actually.

It was a beautiful season of life, a season where I was able to leverage gifts for the piano, music composition, and arranging that I had been cultivating since I was a little boy. It was also a season where I had much better hair, but that’s a story for another time.

I still play semi-regularly at church even though I’ve long since laid down the leadership mantle. I was scheduled this past Sunday in fact, and found myself behind the familiar black and white keys expressing worship in my most instinctive way. We were halfway through an anthemic song that featured heavy piano and the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention.


My heart had wandered from pointing people to Jesus to wondering what people were thinking of me.

That was a pretty sweet lick I just landed.

I wonder if they’ve got me featured prominently in the front of house mix?

Do my kids’ think their dad is pretty cool playing up here like this?

In a nanosecond, my worship went from God to self, back toward God then in toward me. It was as if my soul was short-circuiting, caught between the signal of two different radio stations vying for broadcast dominance. I was doing the exact same thing for two completely different and opposing reasons, one second fulfilling my created purpose in glorifying God, and the next second succumbing to my sinful counterfeit and obsessing over self. It was so clear to me in that moment.

This is the battle we fight each day in every aspect of our lives. As believers in a fallen world, we were designed to glorify the Creator, but our sinful flesh so easily finds satisfaction in the self-identity, in self-salvation, in its own manufactured gods. We can unconsciously flip this switch from one breath to the next not even realizing our hearts have strayed until we wake up in our full-blown idolatrous stupor.

“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24)

It’s easy to see this spiritual schizophrenia in the context above, from an elevated stage behind a musical instrument with your silhouette illuminated by all the moving lights. But the truth is, all of us fight this sinful short-circuiting every day in every aspect of our lives.

Including our everyday work.

Our Work

I can make the exact same recommendation in a staff meeting for the betterment of the organization or to make myself look smart in front of my co-workers. Same comment, two different motivations.

I can reach out to a struggling staff member out of genuine care and concern for their wellbeing or because I want to leverage their goodwill for my own future agenda and interoffice power. Same action, two different motivations.

I can complete my monthly reports with excellence because that honors God or because I’m sucking up to my boss for personal gain. Same product, two different motivations.

I can start a business to serve people, meet a need, and add value to the world, or to make a name for myself and attempt to be my own savior. Same startup, two different motivations.

I can do my work to the glory of my God or for the glorification of myself. The exact same work with two completely different objects of affection. One outward focused, one naval-gazing.

Work As Worship

We will find the most satisfaction in our work when our work has truly become our worship. That’s because our day-jobs are actually a divine opportunity to fulfill the Great Commandment – to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.

Not as easy as it sounds? I get it. Left to it’s own devices, my heart seems to short-circuit from one moment to the next. Apart from grace I have no hope of living out of my created design.

Thank God for Jesus.

Let’s finish that verse from above:

“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25)

We were made for worship, and I don’t mean from a platform behind a musical instrument. We are in our sweet spot when our lives are giving glory to God – in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in our everyday work.

Erik Cooper

After starting his career in the business world, Erik spent 12 years in full-time ministry, both on staff at a large suburban church and as a church planter in a downtown urban context. In addition to his role at The Stone Table, he also serves as the Vice President of Community Reinvestment Foundation, a nonprofit real estate company that provides high-quality affordable housing all over Indiana while investing its profits into missions through The Stone Table.

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