Work is a part of everything God provides for mankind to give us fulfillment. God gives us jobs, and he also gives us the abilities and gifts necessary to accomplish them. As stewards of what God has given, we are to carry out our responsibilities with humility and faithfulness. Our work is significant because it is part of the greater work of Christ in the world today.
God loves our total being, and he’s interested in everything we do. That includes our work—what we do to make a living.
With the possible exception of sleeping, our jobs usually take up more of our time than anything else. It’s wrong to believe that such an important activity is not a part of our relationship with God. A perspective like that only hinders our spiritual growth.
The correct perspective is, of course, the biblical perspective. Each of us must develop our own convictions about our job and the specific problems that come with it, but certain broad principles from Scripture can give us the right attitudes as we seek to live for Christ each day where we work.
Let’s look at these verses from the first chapter of Genesis:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
God put man in charge of the earth, and of the beautiful garden he had created. That is, God gave man a job. God provided him with all he needed for a meaningful existence, and part of that provision was work. He did not leave man without something to do.
Work was God’s idea, not man’s. It was a part of all that would give man fulfillment. Do we see our jobs that way?
I once went to do some business at an insurance company, and while I was talking with one of the clerks someone handed her an envelope. By her show of enthusiasm I guessed at once that it was her monthly pay. Impulsively she took a peek inside the envelope, then smiled at me and said with unusual candor, “This is the only reason I come to work.”
Too many people today see their work like that—merely as a necessary evil. They do not enjoy what they do. Many workers battle laziness on the job, while some are trying to get shorter work weeks. The common attitude toward work seems to be negative.
Why is this? If God planned for us to find fulfillment in work, why do we dislike it so?
We may consider that the answer is found in Genesis 3:17-19, a passage recording God’s words to Adam after he sinned. God told Adam that his toil would be painful, and that he would earn his living “by the sweat of your brow.”
This passage confirms that the earth was cursed because of man’s sin, and that man therefore had to toil for his subsistence. But it does not say work must become punishment.
Man is still a working being, and I believe the basic purpose of man’s work before Adam sinned still applies today: Work continues to be part of God’s provision for us. Our ability to harness our environment and to express the will of our Creator in the work we do can still bring glory to God.
Being able to understand and appreciate this “pre-sin” quality of work depends on our being restored to a “pre-sin” relationship with God. This restored relationship has been made possible by Christ, and he is the source for the final answer to our negative attitudes toward work. When Christ is our Lord and Savior we can truly value work as part of God’s provision for a meaningful existence.
But how exactly does this change our frame of mind toward our jobs?
First, we can understand that God provides all things—not only our jobs, but also the ability and talents to accomplish them. Therefore we are not merely working for our employers or for a salary, but we are expressing what God has created within us. We are using our abilities and gifts in the environment where God has placed us.
Second, we can see ourselves as stewards. Since God provided all things, then we are simply the stewards or caretakers of what he has given. Just as God entrusted the Garden of Eden to Adam, so he entrusts certain tasks and responsibilities to us to be carried out with humility and faithfulness.
Finally, with Christ as our Lord our work gains significance because it is part of God’s greater work. Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). Christ has completed his work of redemption on the cross, but through us he is still at work in the world. We can be his ambassadors in this great task. As teachers, policemen, clerks, nurses, and so on, we represent Christ where we work.
You may have specific problems in your job which this article hasn’t touched on. But be assured that God can give you the strength and wisdom to overcome them.
As you yield to God’s perspectives in your working life, your job will become an important factor in your spiritual growth, and an avenue for service to God.