J. Marshall Jenkins

Author, Therapist, Spiritual Director

Saints at Work

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

The meek live their faith in loving obedience to God even when it defies common sense. Conventional wisdom compartmentalizes life and tries to leave God at home when we go to work.  But God refuses domestication.  The meek understand that and always walk with God, even at work.

In a comment on the September 22 post, “Humble Gratitude,” Patty shared how a supermarket cashier once touched her deeply with needed kindness as she checked out. That reminded me of another cashier and a similar saint to whose stories I referred in my book, A Wakeful Faith, as I commented on another book:

Gregory F. Augustine Pierce edited a collection of essays by lay Christians entitled, Of Human Hands.  In these chapters, the contributors discuss the spirituality of their work… 

Virtually all contributors pointed to relationships on the job as the most consistent source of spirituality in their careers. Two contributors struck me especially with their ethic of love…  Maxine Dennis, the cashier, wrote an essay entitled, “Compassion Is the Most Vital Tool of My Trade.”  She described how she uses “observation and perception” to sense the customers’ mood and needs of the moment, and she responds accordingly with a kind expression or remark, even with the way she bags the groceries.[1]

1-IMG_5284Rose Mary Hart, the letter carrier, feels grateful for her job stability because it enables her to establish a relationship of trust with the people whom she serves and with whom she works. She sees how the regularity of her brief visits makes a difference to the people in the community, especially the shut-ins.  Conversation about faith flows naturally with everyone in her work life.  Speaking out for justice, appropriate evangelizing, and pastoral care fill her work days with a rich abundance that most pastors would envy.[2]

Maxine Dennis and Rose Mary Hart re-enact Jesus’ acts in the upper room which reveal the kingdom of God in our midst… When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he showed them the humble servant leadership that characterizes the kingdom. Similarly, when Maxine Dennis bags groceries with compassionate attention to the mood and needs of the customer, she reveals the kingdom.  Jesus shared a meal with his disciples.  Similarly, when Rose Mary Hart delivers mail to a shut-in, going out of the way to share the hospitality of a personal greeting, she reveals the kingdom.

At work, we can find the kingdom in such small, inconspicuous places. If we open our eyes and awaken, we can see the Maxine Dennises and Rose Mary Harts in our midst, offering their unique holy communion in their labor.  If we follow their example and see our work tasks, however small, as opportunities to serve and reveal God’s reign, the doing will help us see the kingdom all the more clearly.[3]


[1] Maxine F. Dennis, “Compassion is the Most Vital Tool of My Trade,” in Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, ed., Of Human Hands: A Reader in the Spirituality of Work. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg/ACTA, 1991), 49-51.

[2]Rose Mary Hart, “The Power and Presence of God Is Guiding My Way,” in Pierce, Of Human Hands, 81-85.

[3] J. Marshall Jenkins, A Wakeful Faith: Spiritual Practice in the Real World. (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2000), pp. 122-123..

J. Marshall Jenkins

About J. Marshall Jenkins

J. Marshall Jenkins is an author, psychotherapist, teacher, and spiritual director. For several years he has been writing on the Beatitudes for people in emotional pain, publishing biweekly here on his Beatitudes Blog at http://www.jmarshalljenkins.com. His newest book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Hope with the Beatitudes, is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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