“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
– Proverbs 11:25
Following the great London fire in 1666, the famed architect Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral that had been destroyed by the fire. One day Wren was walking around and noticed a couple of bricklayers high upon a scaffold. “What are you doing up there?” he yelled. The first responded that he was laying bricks so he could feed his family. But the other exclaimed, “I am a cathedral builder, and I am rebuilding this great cathedral to The Almighty.”
It occurred to me in revisiting this real-life parable that if this project was so important it could only be entrusted to one of the world’s greatest architects, it stands to reason that the work itself could only be entrusted to artisans and craftsmen who were tops in their field as well. In other words, those two bricklayers were no common laborers, they were the best money could buy, men who graduated at the head of their class from the bricklayer academy. If both were excellent at what they did, had the same skill level and produced the same high-quality results, and even earned the same pay, how is it one seemed to have a different purpose in his work than the other? And did it even matter?
Having worked in a sales organization for many years, much like the famous architect, I often observed the same disparity among salespeople who had comparable education, knowledge, and ability. Some worked only for the commissions they earned. Others, though, worked to serve their clients. Why did one have a different purpose in work than the other, I often wondered? And did it even matter?
The Proverb assures us that “A generous man will prosper,” and those who work to serve others are by nature generous people. But let’s be honest. We all know plenty of thoughtless, greedy, self-centered people who are prosperous. Except the Proverb does not end there. It goes on to explain that “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” So, I can’t help but believe the cathedral-builder-bricklayer, even though he earned the same paycheck, went home at night more fulfilled than the other guy. Nor do I believe God created any of us to just be a bricklayer, or a salesperson, or an architect; rather each of us is called to a higher purpose in whatever our endeavors.