The Fruits of our Labor

One of the things that is sometimes difficult for us is that we often cannot see what impacts our efforts to proclaim the Gospel have on others. Whether it is something formal like teaching a religious education class or giving a retreat, or a more informal encounter with another, we wonder if the seeds we planted will take root.

I’ve been trying to clean out old files in both my UST office and my home study (a project proceeding at a tortiose-like pace). One of the things I came across was a story originally published in Christianity Today, titled, The Parable of the Janitor and the CEO. It tells of two men who worked for the same company. The janitor did his lowly job as well as he could. When people asked him why he worked so hard, he reponsed that he was “doing this work for Jesus and for Him it has to be good.” And with all who wished to listen, he shared the story of his relationship with Christ. Meanwhile the CEO climbed the ladder of corporate success, joined all the right clubs and organizations and had very little time for God.

As probably comes as no big surprise in a story of this type, both men die the same day and are brought before Jesus “to give an account of what he had done with his life.” The CEO goes first and is told by Jesus that he “labored long and hard, but unwisely,” gaining the good, but missing the best.

When the janitor goes before Jesus, he sees crowds of joyful, jubilant people coming to welcome him. When he points out to Jesus that he recognizes only a few and asks who the others are, Jesus responds, “those you recognize are the ones you told of my love. The others are those they told.”

As I reflected on the parable, two lessons emerge. One is that the fact that we can’t see the fruits of our labors doesn’t mean they are not there. Many will benefit from our efforts to proclaim the Gospel whom we will never know. But I think the more important lesson I take from this is that we are called to do what we do out of love for Jesus – we do it because as disciples we can’t do anything else. What happens through our efforts is in God’s hands. If we are faithful to our calling, we don’t need to worry about the result.

You can read the entirety of the Parable of the Janitor and the CEO here.