In God’s eyes, our work should be an expression of our worship.
God wants us to submit every area of our lives to Christ’s lordship. As a Christian, you don’t belong to yourself any longer. Christ is your master—twice over! God created us, and then, in Christ, He redeemed us (1 Corinthians 6:20). In everything, we must consciously seek to please and glorify God—but in our work life, we often push God to the periphery. We need to change that!
When we view our work through the lens of Scripture we will experience a refreshing sense of dignity and meaning in our work, we’ll have a renewed commitment to pursue a lifestyle of ethical distinction on the job, and we’ll develop a new appreciation for the many ways that the Bible speaks powerfully to issues in the workplace. This is called building a “biblical theology of work”—synthesizing what the Bible teaches about work, and then living in light of what we learn. We are going to discover that work has inherent value—it is inherently worth doing. In fact, God is himself a worker.
When God first is introduced to us in the opening pages of the Bible, we find him creating the heavens and the earth. Genesis 2:2 calls this creative activity “work.” In John 5:17 Jesus said his Father is still working! Colossians 1:16-17 says that Jesus is working to sustain creation. God also works to meet the needs of his creatures (Psalm 104:10–15). Philippians 2:12-13 tells us that God is sovereignly working in our lives to make us more like Christ. You get the point—God is a worker, and therefore “work”, at least as a concept, must have inherent value.
Since God is a worker, and we are created in his image, we might expect that we would be workers too. And that is precisely what the Bible teaches (Genesis 1:26–29). In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:13 calls this work “a gift of God”. When is the last time you thought of your job as a good gift from God? Well it is, and we need to begin to think of it that way. It is not until you don’t have a job for a while that you begin to see this. When you work, you are doing something that is very Godlike. But not only did God create us to be workers, he has called us to be his co-workers; he wants us to assist Him in doing what he wants done.
In Genesis 2:8–15 we see his first partnership with us: God planted the garden and then he left man to cultivate it. We might think it’s prestigious to be a partner in a legal or medical practice, but in no way do they compare to the privilege we have of partnering with God in doing what he wants done! That God would choose to use us to advance his purposes in the world is an incredible privilege. Begin to believe at a deep level that work is a gift from God; God honors us by making us co-laborers with Him (Psalm 8:3–8).
All legitimate work is an extension of God’s work and is therefore good. By legitimate work I mean work that is both legal and moral. (So, whereas medicine is a legitimate form of work, when that craft is employed by the abortionist it is illegitimate, because it does not advance what God wants done in the world.) But because of sin, much of man’s work fails to completely fulfill God’s intentions. For example, we all need affordable clothing, and thus we need clothing manufacturers. But I don’t believe that God smiles upon the deplorable conditions in some sweatshops. The same often is true in the electronics industry as well.
Finally, the connection between the work we do and the work God wants done isn’t always obvious. In the helping professions—medicine, counseling, teaching, and other such professions—it often is easy to see how our work is something God’s wants done. But how about truck drivers and cashiers, and forklift operators? How about bank tellers and sanitation workers? Do jobs like these contribute to the work God wants done in the world?
Well, first of all we need to ask: What is it that God wants done in the world? God has given us many clues to help us answer this very important question. “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “ (Matthew 22:37–39). Anything that advances love of God and of others is something that God wants done in the world. Through work we serve people, meet our own needs and those of our family, we earn money to give to others, and we love God. If your job fulfills these purposes, you can be certain that what you are doing is inherently significant and has God’s blessing.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- This week I want you to think about what you do for a living. Do you think that your job qualifies as “legitimate work” in God’s eyes? Why or why not?
- List some specific ways that you believe your work contributes to something that God wants done in the world.
- How would seeing yourself as a co-worker with God enhance your sense of dignity as a worker? How might really believing this change your attitude and behavior on the job?
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)