Excellence – Stay Out of the Ditches

by | Nov 4, 2021

In this week’s video, former CEO of Tyson, Donnie Smith helps elevate our view of our everyday work. The line of thinking he talks through goes something like this:  

  • We ultimately work for God (Col. 3:23), 
  • God cares about results (Col. 3:23, 1 Cor. 10:31, Ecc. 9;10), 
  • God’s Spirit empowers us to do good work, 
  • And this impacts others and creates an opportunity to share Jesus. 

That line of thinking raises the dignity of our work, the expectations for our work, and the vision of what our work can accomplish, whatever our specific job. And that’s good news! 

But as I watched the video, I started thinking about this idea of excellence motivated by worship and noticed how easy it is to go about most of my day drifting towards one of two ditches: idolatry and idleness. 

There’s the ditch of idolatry, where the motivation in my heart is more about making a name for myself (i.e., building my own tower of Babel). I’m striving for excellence, but when I get down to the root of why it’s that I’m trying to prove something, earn something, become something that Christ has already given me.  

And there’s the ditch of idleness, where I’m working in a disconnected, just-get-through-it kind of way. Maybe my results are excellent, maybe they’re passable, but deep in my heart, I’m believing that there is somewhere better, more important, more life-giving than the place God has me and the work he has given me to do at this moment. 

If my experience is anything like yours, it seems like excellence is at first an issue of our heart. So how can we shape our hearts in a daily, practical way so that we work with excellence for the glory of God and love of neighbor? 

Here are two ideas to implement this week, one that orients your heart to God and one that orients your heart to others: 

  • Do a prayer on the hour. Nothing big, nothing obtrusive to the people around you. Just pause for a moment and pray, “God, I’m working for you. You are in control of everything, and you see fit to place me in this job at this time. Help me work with excellence out of love for you as a response to the grace and love you have given me.” 
  • Write down a few names of who your work impacts. If you’re an analyst, write down the names of the account managers who will use your work in their client calls. If you’re a plumber, write down the names of your last couple of customers. This will help you remember that the quality of your work has a direct impact on real people. 

And remember, there’s no pressure. You don’t have to earn or prove anything to God – he has already loved you more than you can possibly imagine. Live freely out of the love and grace he has given you in Christ and let the quality of your work be a witness to that incredible grace. 

P.S. I got the Idolatry / Idleness language from a great book called The Gospel at Work by Traeger and Gilbert. There are several good faith-and-work books out now (more than when I bought this one in 2014). I’d recommend it primarily for people looking to understand more on this topic of excellence – how to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.

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Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey is the Chief Operating Officer for Workmatters. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (2006, Economics and Political Science), and alumnus of Teach for America. He realized a passion for integrating faith and work while at Northstar Partnering Group (now Field Agent™) and subsequently co-founded the Workmatters Institute in 2010.