I have experienced grief in my life because I abhorred the mundane. I want to read Chrysostom, not clean my desk. I want to study Isaiah, not take out the trash. I want to listen analytically to Mozart, not shovel the walk. I want to debate theology with a pastor friend, not play Trouble for the umpteenth time with my six-year-old. I want to preach sermons, not file papers. I’ll travel to the heart of Africa to hand out a gospel tract before I’ll get the oil changed in my car. I want anything as long as it is not mundane. And thus I prove the rebellion of my heart, the delusion of my proud mind.
Greatness, destiny, purpose, and success can never be utterly segregated from the mundane, because the mundane is the will of God. “The Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Working and keeping a garden? Routine and mundane. The ideal woman in Proverbs 31 is a homemaker, spinning wool, folding linen. That too is mundane. Yet Adam was perfect. And the woman of Proverbs 31 is valued far above rubies. Man and woman share mundanity.
The servant of the Lord is sometimes perplexed by the particular challenge of prioritization that is his because of his vocation. He’s invested in the metaphysical and yet he must wipe his child’s bottom. Should he take two hours to file papers and clean the garage or spend those two hours in extra prayer and study? He knows that there is real and necessary value in extra time in the Word. It shows in his preaching. But he has to mow the lawn. He must attend the social function.
Some rebel. They ignore the mundane. Or they hate it. They piously reassure themselves of the nobility of their chosen occupation. After all, not everyone is willing to wade through the works of Augustine in search of nuggets of wisdom to be assimilated then disseminated to the Body for its edification. Raking the leaves can wait. They become pastoral absent-minded professors: brilliant in their preferred field and useless everywhere else. But their preferred field is not an ignoble choice. It is, in fact, a good thing. It is, confusingly, also their duty. But fallen men, including pastors, have always resisted that duty which is most likely to humble them. The godly student of the Word must also sweep his sidewalk just like the uneducated, booze-drinking worldling next door.
It is God who determines the worth of anything. It is God who determines the value of any job. Providence puts one man in the Oval Office, another on the back of a garbage truck. Providence gives one man both pulpit responsibilities and gutter maintenance in his home. Faith embraces the Oval Office, the garbage truck, the pulpit, and the gutters as a holy duty. The servant of God shows his real strength of character when he cleans out his car with as much joy as when he ascends to the pulpit.
The value of our work will ultimately be proved when we arrive in Glory. There we will suddenly realize that mundanity and spirituality were inextricably bound up within each other. That the real proof of faith was most often in the contented disposition of God’s child who yielded to Sovereignty by diligently balancing the checkbook and, in happy submission, plunged the toilet. We will discover that the changing of diapers was a work of gold. Building skyscrapers was nothing more than wood, hay, and stubble.
*This is a version of an article I wrote in 2006.