“…a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

“Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it” (Proverbs 15:17).

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

My wife Susan always makes great dinners, but I especially love it when the menu consists entirely of vegetables. The other night, we turned off the TV and sat down at the kitchen table for sweet potatoes, fried okra, and pinto beans. Incredibly satisfying! After the meal, despite having worked a long, full day in the office, Susan put up five pint jars of whole fig preserves made from the ripe fruit we picked off our huge tree out back. We ate some for breakfast the next morning on biscuits. Heaven!

Just as there’s something to be said for good home cooking (“nuthin’ fancy,” “hot, brown, and plenty of it” [“Cookie” in City Slickers]), so is there a great deal to commend humble work. I mean the sort celebrated and attempted by Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs.” Being the doorkeeper at the Temple.* Serving as a small church pastor or a campus minister.

Those featured in Rowe’s series aren’t the movers and shakers of this world, but they “make life possible for the rest of us,” as he says. The doorkeeper in the Temple was not part of the religious hierarchy, but his was the face of hospitality and welcome to worshippers. Small church pastors and campus ministers typically are not regarded as successful nor are they listened to like the vocal fat cat minister making six figures. But they care deeply for the few with whom they minister. Who knows how God may multiply their faithful gifts?

And consider that “honest labor” is called that for a reason. With more power and money come increased opportunities, pressures, and temptations to compromise one’s values, to lie/spin, to do whatever is necessary (ethical or not) to keep the position or the salary. Those on the lower rungs of the ladder (in the world’s terms) are most assuredly struggling financially, which brings great stress. But the church worker laboring in obscurity doesn’t have to worry about whether the next decision will split the denomination apart or undermine on a large scale the credibility of an institution. The humble worker is concerned about a great many things, but increasing the stockholders’ profits, restructuring the company or being indicted for fraud isn’t one of them.

A good, simple meal with the one you love and trust. Showing hospitality and giving mutual help. A satisfying day’s work that might bring aching muscles but leaves you with a clear conscience. Looking at yourself in the mirror and not being ashamed of the person looking back at you. Refusing to be enamored of the trappings of power and money that the world and the idolatrous Church value so highly. These are God’s gifts. Indeed, such is the way of life God commends, demonstrated in Jesus, crucified, but raised up and exalted to the right hand of God.

© 2008 by Tom Cheatham

*I’m aware that the text can also mean someone standing or sleeping on the threshold of the Temple, waiting to enter for worship, rather than someone doing a job.