The Power of Perspective

Lessons from the Three Brick Layers

You know what they say, perspective is everything, but I suppose that depends on how you look at it! One thing is certain, there is great power in perspective. Our viewpoint shapes our thoughts, decisions, actions, and ultimately, our feelings.

I was recently reminded of the parable of the three bricklayers as an illustration that knowing our purpose brings our life’s motivations to our work, which ultimately brings our work to life. The story finds its roots in the real experience of Christopher Wren, an architect commissioned to rebuild St Paul’s Cathedral in London after the fire of 1666 destroyed it. The story goes that five years into the immense project he posed a simple question to three brick layers. “What are you doing?” he asked. The first replied, “I am a brick layer. I am working hard to feed my family.”  Brick laying was his job. The second offered, “I am a builder. I am building walls.” Brick laying was his occupation.  The third answered, “I am a cathedral builder. I am building the house of God.” Brick laying was his calling. For all three, the physical task was the same, their work was noble and important, but their perspectives were vastly different.

Many of us have experienced jobs that put food on the table but lack a sense of satisfaction. If we are fortunate enough to experience a position that both provides our daily meaning as well as our daily bread, we are blessed indeed.  To have a job that taps into our God-given passions and talents is to have both recognition and cash.  However, for those of us who have discovered the power of perspective, we may be the most blessed of all.  You see, we can take any job and turn it into a calling when we recognize that our purpose is fulfilled wherever God places us at a given moment in time.

Consider the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If a man is ‘called’ to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Yes, my friends, there is power in perspective. It changes attitudes. It takes a mom from diaper changer and nose wiper to chief mentor. It takes a cashier from dollar taker and change maker to life changer. It makes a lifeguard a soul saver. Work is such a big part of our lives and finding some meaning in it can be so powerful. It takes a paycheck and gives it purpose. It transforms every job into an opportunity to be a kingdom builder instead of just a brick layer. It takes whatever bricks are in our hands and uses them to build the Kingdom of God.

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