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  • Writer's pictureDominique McKay

The Hired Hand

Serving God with Gladness

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” – John 10:11-13

In the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway’s character is working at a fashion magazine as an assistant to a high-profile editor played by Meryl Streep. In one scene, she laments about the heavy workload she is carrying and says to a coworker, “I would just like a little credit for the fact that I’m killing myself trying.” Her coworker quickly quips, “You are not trying. You’re whining.”

For anyone who has worked in a high-stakes position with a bad boss, the sentiment is extremely familiar. It’s normal to want our work acknowledged and respected by those around us. But at what point does our desire for acknowledgement move us away from the sacrificial work ethic Christians are called to and into a posture of doing things for self-focused gain?

In John 10, Christ begins the familiar passage where he describes himself as a “good shepherd.” He contrasts his own character with that of the “hired hand” who doesn’t love the sheep who are under their care. He emphasizes the fact that the one who is hired isn’t actually invested in shepherding and is ultimately only there to get paid. When a bit of adversity, risk, or danger comes, the hired hand flees.

A part of Christ's purpose in this storytelling is to warn his followers about those who seek to take advantage of God’s people for their own gain. In similar ways, we can look at the work God has called us to do in our own lives and ask ourselves, are we serving him with the posture of a shepherd or merely a hired hand? 

When a workplace isn’t great, we often shift into pursuing work as a means to an end — whether that be securing our necessities in life or advancing ourselves to higher positions. Like the hired hand in John 10, we’re not caring for the places God has called us to. Too often our trying turns to whining, and when adversity hits us, we jump ship.

What would it take for us to shift our perspectives and begin to see the places God calls us to the way that Christ viewed his own work?

In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul writes, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If we’ve been called “according to [God’s] purpose,” we have a God-sized mission we are called to be active participants in wherever God might place us.

Earlier in that same passage, Paul writes that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, so we know that even in the midst of hardships, which include bad bosses, coworkers who don’t support us, and financial constraints — the Holy Spirit is there (Romans 8:26-17). He continues to intercede on our behalf even when we don’t have the words to articulate the ways in which we are struggling.

When we have an understanding that everything is in God’s hands, purpose, and timing, we can look at the challenging workplaces God calls us to with new eyes. We can serve him with gladness and rest in the assurance that the work we are doing has a purpose beyond the present. 

By our submission to God's will in the midst of difficulties, we can learn to stop measuring success through the lens of how others view us, and instead measure success through the lens of our faithfulness to God’s calling.

Dominique McKay is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.


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