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Working without Fanfare


Alex is an electrical engineer at a midsize company in the Midwest. Like a lot of people, sometimes he enjoys the projects that come his way and sometimes he doesn’t, but he’s always competent and willing to go the extra mile to deliver excellent value to his employer. What Alex doesn’t do is talk about the extra mile. He’s not a big talker in the first place, and self-promotion just isn’t a natural part of his personality. Yet he has colleagues who often make mention of their successes and are more likely to get promotions.

Many people, if not most, have faced some version of this predicament in the context of their work lives. Battalions of executive assistants sally forth every day to provide critical support to bosses who get all the credit. Janitors show up after the day shift has left the building and leave before anyone has a face to put with their emptied wastebaskets and vacuumed floors. New parents toil on behalf of tiny masters who don’t even speak yet, much less offer words of thanks or praise.

But take heart. Matthew 6 reminds us that God sees everything and His esteem is to be mostly highly valued. The context of this passage is works of “righteousness,” and Jesus talks specifically about charity, prayer, and fasting. But there are clear implications for many spheres of life. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (v. 5). Jesus does not deny that there are rewards to be had for such behavior, but these perks are temporal and ultimately unsatisfying.

Apply the Word

Even when bosses or colleagues overlook our labor, God notices us. He is the ultimate arbiter of success, and His version of success might be different from what we imagine. And while we don’t need to be show-offs in either church or the workplace, we can always go to God in prayer no matter where we are to pour out our hearts to Him.

BY Lisa Ann Cockrel

Lisa Ann Cockrel graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2000. She has worked in publishing with Christian magazines, including MOODY magazine and Today's Christian Woman, and now works as an editor for Brazos Press and Baker Academic, part of the Baker Publishing Group. She lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she is actively involved with faith and culture projects. Her writing has been published in Christianity Today, Outreach, and Faithful Reader, among others.

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