The problem with work these days is [wait for it] nobody really loves it.
The beginning of an essay penned by Bob Black in 1985, The Abolition of Work, best describes this sentiment: “No one should ever work. Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.”
There are many reasons why we don’t like their jobs. We hate our bosses. Our work is too stressful. The customers are mean. It is not what we “dream about doing.” It is predictable and uninspiring. We’d much rather be vacationing.
This mindset is prevalent among Christians as well. Christians can often times wonder if their work is of any value to God, because there seems to be the general feeling that only ministry as a pastor or missionary is the great calling while other types of “secular work” does not earn any brownie points in heaven. When we make this unbiblical “secular” and “sacred” divide in vocation, our work suffers. And that is the last thing our society needs. This is why we need a renewed understanding of the merits of vocation and how that fits into God’s purposes for mankind, both here and into eternity.
Vocation finds its basis in the character of God. God is a God who works. He has been working throughout eternity, has worked in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:1-15), and works to this day to sustain the world (John 5:17). He works now to create a home for Christians in heaven (John 14:2-3). The world is a testimony to the creative genius of the Lord (Psalm 19). God does not work because He has to. God works because it is an expression of His eternal character. God works and creates things for the glory of His name (Psalm 19; Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, work is not evil.
Because God works, we are to wired to work as well. Because we are made in the image of God, we reflect His character, a major part of which is the responsibility to use our creativity, strength, and talents to serve God and to advance His creative agenda for the world. Genesis 1:26 states: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Work gives us a sense of productivity, purpose, and dignity. That is why Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” To refuse to work is to deprive ourselves of dignity and worth, and to go against what we were created for.
Work has not always been a burden. Before the curse entered the world, work was a source of joy for Adam and Eve. It was the avenue by which they lived out their life’s purpose, as God told them to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” (Genesis 2:28). In other words, Adam and Eve were instructed to work in the world to create its culture. But the introduction of sin made physical labor hard and dreadful, and corrupted our character so that we easily become lazy and fearful (Genesis 3:17-18).
Because work is a vital part of God’s kingdom and is something believers will do for all eternity in the new earth, our work matters. It is not only “ministry jobs” that God looks favorably upon, but all other vocations that benefit humanity, such as being a physician, attorney, electrician, engineer, manager, teacher, janitor, and Uber driver. The Lord has molded us all in different ways, granting us different talents and inclinations, so that we enter into specific vocations to serve others around us and to contribute to the culture and well being of our city.
It is a good time to have renewed passion in your work! Since 40-60 hours a week are devoted to your vocation, this area of your life should not be treated lightly or brushed off as unimportant or unrelated aspect of God’s kingdom purposes.
There are 7 good reasons why we should care about our work:
1. Work was ordained by God since the beginning of time. This is already evident in our previous discussion. We reflect the image of God through our work by caring for and subduing the earth as described in Genesis 1:28. Because God works and appoints us to do the same, we should take our responsibility to work (and to work well!) seriously.
2. Work is not bad, but good. Work is a gift from God to bring us a sense of satisfaction, purpose, and dignity (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). When we stop working, we lose both joy and direction. The painfulness or misery of certain jobs is not an indicator that work is inherently bad; only that it is affected by the curse. We have a choice to either persevere in it or move onto another vocation that better suits our talents.
3. Work advances God’s cultural mandate. Work not only provides us with a living to pay the bills and put food on the table, but it helps our society flourish. It provides a quality of life for those whom you serve through your vocation. The world is a melting pot of various activities that make up the economy of life, a reality which will be evident in the new earth as well.
4. Work is a reflection of our submission to Jesus Christ. As Christians we serve our Lord and Savior in all that we do. God commands us to obey our parents, obey the government, obey our church leaders, and of course, obey our masters (or in this modern case, employers). Any deed you do cannot be done merely to please a human boss, but you should be willing to do things even when your boss is not looking. Why? Because the Lord is your first boss.
5. Work is an opportunity to reflect God’s excellence. God expresses His work to the utmost caliber in all that He does. The design of the world reflects the beauty, order, and creativity of God. In similar fashion, we should also put our 110% in all that we do (Ephesians 6:6-7). Improving the quality of your work, your product, and your interaction with co-laborers will make the workplace all the better, and will greatly add to the economy of life.
6. Work brings glory to God. All work – except that which is illegal, sinful, and unbiblical – is honorable and pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). There is no divide between sacred and secular work. All work is God’s work in the world. What we do from Mondays-Fridays (or in some cases, Saturdays) is not detached from our activities on Sundays. What we learn on Sundays needs to be lived out on weekdays as the application and continuation of our ministry on the Lord’s Day.
7. Work is an opportunity for witness. Work is the means by which you can be salt and light to those around you (Matthew 5:16). This can open an opportunity to evangelize non-Christians in the workplace. Being a witness involves not only doing your work with excellence, but excelling in your moral conduct and finding appropriate times to share the gospel with unbelievers. This is in keeping with the Great Commission set forth for Christians in Matthew 28:18-20.
Many more principles can be gleaned from Scripture regarding work, but a proper approach to work must always be grounded in the gospel. The good news of Christianity is that God has come to save sinners from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. By dying on the cross as the substitute for the eternal punishment we deserve for our sins against God, Jesus turned the Father’s wrath away from believers. Those who repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior are forgiven of their sins and made righteous. The end result of that salvation is eternity with God in the new earth (Revelation 21-22) – a place that is devoid of sin’s curse and thrives with a new economy where work is excellent and meaningful.
God invites us to participate with Him in the kingdom rebuilding project. This means developing the skills, character, and plan to do now on earth what we will do for all eternity. What we do now is a preview and a testimony to others of God’s coming kingdom. That is why work is important.
Steve Cha is the teaching pastor of Grace City LA.