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We Are Producers

I have a sign in my office that says the word PRODUCER on it. Each letter stands for a different quality I expect from my staff (Personable, Relational, Others first, Defined, United, Compassionate, Efficient, and Reliable). At first, when I introduced this concept, some people were put off by the term “producer,” thinking that I expected them to be performance-oriented machines, but when I explained a different application of the term, their perspectives changed.

When you think of a producer, I told them, think of a movie producer. Yes, do think of someone who completes a project, keeps it on schedule, and does it with consistent quality and efficiency. But also think of someone who casts vision, who takes ownership of the project, who puts a piece of themselves in every detail, and who takes responsibility for not only the things that go well, but also for the failures of the project and of the team.

In Genesis 2:15 (and alluded to throughout the creation story), it says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” We were created to work. It’s part of the reason we were created, to care for the rest of creation, but it’s also part of the reason God made the rest of creation—to give us something to do—to give us purpose.

God knew that, being made in His likeness, we would find fulfillment in our work. He knew that we would find joy in fulfilling our purpose, and so He created us with purpose, to care for creation, to be producers of creation—to put our vision into it, to take ownership of it, to put a piece of ourselves in it, to take responsibility for it.

God created us to enjoy our work. As He enjoys His creation and said, “it is good” (and of us, “it is very good”), and as He took time to enjoy His creation (see Genesis 3:8), God wants us to enjoy our work as well. And so He gives us each a job that is a perfect fit with our skills, our desires, and the vision He’s given us, so that we can be thoroughly satisfied in doing that which we were made to do.

But some of us are so far from “that which we were made to do” that we’re completely miserable in our work. Still others are following the will of God for their lives, but their wrong motives and lack of trust are their source of misery. Of course, our original source of misery is sin. It was when we took on the knowledge of good and evil that pain entered our lives, and in Genesis 3:17-19 God curses our labor, saying, “through painful toil . . . [and] by the sweat of your brow,” you will work the land until you die.

And I’m not convinced that this is as much a punishment as it is the reality of what we do to ourselves with this knowledge of good and evil that we acquired. How much of our pain in work comes because of our own expectations of ourselves, pushing ourselves so hard to accomplish more and more and more? How much of it comes from trying to please others to avoid the pain of rejection? How much of it comes from working extra hours to avoid dealing with the pain that creeps in when we’re lying around, not doing anything? How much of it comes from us trying so hard to fill the void in our lives that is caused by our separation from God—the void we try to fill with busyness, with worldly possessions, with food, with an adrenaline rush?

Our misery in work is of our own doing. Our “painful toil” is our own effort to make up for the evil we brought upon this world. But we were created to work, and we were created to enjoy it.

I get so much satisfaction out of a good day’s work, especially when I finish a project and can sit back to enjoy and admire my creation (like God, on the seventh day). I enjoy it when after a speaking engagement, or after months of praying with and encouraging people through tough issues, someone comes up to me and tells me how much it impacted their life and drew them closer to God. I love it when I do a project around the house (like fixing a leaky faucet, or building a deck, or painting a room, or mowing the lawn), and I feel tired and sweaty and sore afterward, but I can look at what I’ve done and enjoy the accomplishment of it. I can enjoy what I’ve created, and it gives me satisfaction, probably not too much unlike God’s satisfaction when He made the universe, and when He made you and me (though I’m sure to a much lesser extent).

On the other hand, however, I don’t always enjoy my purpose. There are parts I love and parts I don’t, and there are times when the parts that are usually enjoyable are absolutely miserable, just like there are times when the miserable parts are full of joy, peace, and satisfaction. But because those times can switch like that, I know that my pleasure and my misery are not rooted in my work by itself, but rather in my motives and in my trust.

When I start doing things for the wrong reasons (like to build my own kingdom, to make a name for myself, to feed my own sense of identity, or to stay so busy that I can avoid dealing with more important issues, like my family and my health), then my job becomes a chore. But when I am doing what I do for the Lord, and when I trust in Him even when things don’t make sense—like when the finances aren’t there or when He asks me to step outside my comfort zone—that’s when I find peace. That’s when I find comfort. That’s when I find joy and strength and life through my work.

I mentioned before that you can be a slave working for your master but never be allowed to enter His house. All the work will get done, but you won’t share in the master’s joy and blessing because you lack relationship, and because you’re doing the job out of necessity or obligation. But when you work as a son or as a friend, you do it out of love. The job becomes your own, and you share in the vision and purpose (big picture) of your work. You also share in the blessing of your work with your Father and Friend, because all that He has is yours, and He cares more for you than for your labor (see Luke 15:11-32). Ultimately, you become not just a stagehand, but a producer in the biggest story ever told.

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