The Case of the Disappearing Painter

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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"Now where has my painter gone?" the man wondered as he looked out the window. He'd hired a college student to paint his garage. He'd done this kind of thing before, as he was always glad to give a little work to someone trying to earn his way through school. Now that he was getting older and was no longer quite so steady on a ladder himself, it was a real help to him too.

The man was paying by the hour. He knew that young people sometimes needed help developing a good work ethic, so he had been glancing out the window from time to time to make sure his painter stayed on the job. He'd been gratified to see him work steadily throughout the morning, diligently scraping off any chipped or peeling paint before applying a new coat. The student had said he was an experienced house painter, and observation seemed to confirm this.

But now, in the middle of the afternoon, the student was nowhere to be seen. The man kept checking regularly, but only after a couple of hours did the student finally reappear and continue painting the garage.

Late in the afternoon the student finished the job. He came in and submitted a statement of his hours. It was for an entire day's work. Did he think he could fool an old man?

His employer delicately broached the subject of honest accounting.

"For a while," he began, "I couldn't see you out there working."

The student looked puzzled, so his employer continued. "You were gone for a couple of hours, in the afternoon. You know I can't pay you for time when you weren't on the job."

Finally the student understood. "If you couldn't see me, it must have been because I was behind the garage," he explained.

"What were you doing there?"

"Painting the back wall," he stated matter-of-factly. "I had to spend a lot of time cleaning off dirt and cobwebs so they wouldn't mix with the paint. And it was a pretty tight squeeze, since the wall of the neighbor's garage is right behind it. That's probably why you couldn't see me for so long."

The man was amazed. "I've hired a number of people to paint for me over the years," he commented, "but you're the first one who's ever painted the back wall of my garage. Why did you do that, when no one can see it?"

The student had no answer. He shifted silently for a moment. He seemed to be trying to figure out why anyone wouldn't have painted the back wall.

Then the man understood. He recalled that this young man shared his Christian faith and asked, reassuringly, "Was it because you knew God could see it?"

Relieved, the student answered, "Yes, I'm sure that was why."

"Well then," the man concluded, "you're a very thorough worker. I asked you to paint my garage, and that's what you did—every inch of it! I'm very pleased to have a garage that's so clean and freshly painted, even where only God can see."

He paid the student a full day's wages.

As this true story illustrates, sometimes the excellence of our work will be apparent only to God. The little touches that make the difference between “good enough” and excellent will not always be noticed by our employer or by our coworkers. But the Bible tells us to give our employers our best anyway, “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one of you for whatever good you do” (Eph. 6:5-8).

When we use our abilities to do our very best, even if no one else sees, we give God pleasure and glory. And that's always a good day's work.