by Stacy Jackson
Have you heard the story of the three bricklayers? Preachers often use it to illustrate the different ways we view work.
The first bricklayer works hard making money to serve his family. His work primarily provides money to enable him to serve others. The second bricklayer is thankful for the opportunity to use his God-given skills to serve others. That is, he sees his use of talents as an offering to God. Finally, the third bricklayer recognizes that he is building the foundation for a cathedral in honor of God.
This is an encouraging illustration as we all look for ways to integrate our faith through our work. However, it is incomplete. Interestingly, all three illustrations address changes in the bricklayer but not necessarily in the brick laying. Can the bricklayer change without specific changes to his work? How might a high calling influence the broader processes of bricklaying, construction, or architecture? Does the high calling to work imply the work itself must also change?
I asked Calvin Jen, founder of A.M.D.G. Architects, about the high calling of architecture and construction. His firm is described as “dedicated to pursuing architecture that delivers lasting value, usefulness, and delight.” The very title of his firm—A.M.D.G.—derives from a Latin saying meaning “to the greater glory of God.”
I was curious about his calling to design and build churches, homes, banks, and schools. Similar to the three bricklayers, Calvin Jen commented on the importance of hard work, his use of God-given abilities, and his commitment to others. However, he spent most of his time describing the ongoing work of his calling. He described how his faith required he transform his approach to business development, design, pricing, customer relationships, and the role of stewardship in creating space for others.
His descriptions became as complex and difficult as the entirety of his work. His high calling was not just a superficial attitude adjustment. He made very specific changes in his assumptions, motives, and practice as a business owner and architect. His work in architecture and construction is different. Not only does he accept that his work is a calling, he approaches specific tasks with a different strategy. And sometimes it isn’t enough to just change his strategy. Sometimes he must change the tasks that make up his work. Calvin is quick to share where he has fallen short and how far he still must go to realize his high calling. Like all of us, his transformation is a continuing process.
Our entire world needs transformation. Of course, our high calling must include good work practices like diligence; purposeful outcomes; and service to family, customers, and employers. However, work is more than just a path to excellence. The high calling to work is a call to transform our organizations, our jobs, and our responsibilities. It is a call to consider how industries such as banking, consulting, education, and manufacturing must change. It is also a call to explore a right view of strategic planning, marketing, finance, sales, and various other valuable roles. Our work cannot remain the same when we recognize its eternal purpose. Once we realize the high calling of our work, the real work begins.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally shared at TheHighCalling.org.