Think of your current job. Do you enjoy what you do? Do you look forward to each day, and does it bring you satisfaction? Or, does it drain you, depress you, and leave you wanting more? Chances are, you have had jobs that you either really liked, or wished you could just quit. When you do something you enjoy it never seems much like "work", does it? But, when you dislike what you do, things become annoying, and aggravating, and you fight just to make it through each day. Therefore, work often becomes something negative and something you just do to makes ends meet.
It may come as a surprise then that from the perspective of Genesis 1 & 2, work is good. We were created and ordained by God to work. In Genesis 2:8, 15 (NIV) God placed the man into the garden of Eden to "work" it and "take care of" it. But what did this entail? It is interesting to note that the Hebrew words used here can also be translated "to serve" and "to guard/observe", respectively. If we see the garden and God's creation as his temple, and Adam and Eve as his vice-regents, then it seems that they were called to humbly serve God in everything they did. This was to be done as a part of their worship, while being careful to keep his commands and guard what had been entrusted to them.
This redefines our definition of work, especially since all of this happened before the Fall, when sin had not yet entered the world. It was only after the Fall that work was affected by the curse, and thus became toilsome and difficult (3:16-19). Yet despite the fact that work would now be hard, and the land would not produce what it was supposed to (3:17-18), the charge to do everything for God's glory did not change. Work was meant to be an act of worship for everyone to participate in.
Your job may be tough and you might not enjoy every minute of it now, but as we look forward to a day when work will once again be truly enjoyable, remember that we are called to be good stewards of all that God has given us, and to work at it as to the Lord. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:17, 24 that "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…it is the Lord Christ you are serving."
A Rhythm of Work & Rest
In the beginning, God made all things good. In fact, work was one of those good things. Even before the curse was placed upon the land by God because of humanity’s rebellion against him, the Creator placed the man in the Garden to “work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15). So, work was an intended part of creation itself.
But, like all things, what was originally intended for good could be bent and twisted by sin. As such, people sometimes saw work as undesirable and so avoided it at all costs. Other times, people got consumed with work and were unable to cease from it. Both responses, still to this day, are equally wrong.
In the Torah, God gave commands to his people on how he expected them to live. One of the “Ten Words” was to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy (Ex 20:8). Whatever else was meant by “keeping the Sabbath day holy,” one thing was sure: you were not allowed to work (Ex 20:10). The reason for this command was directly tied to God’s original act of creation, stating, “For in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth…but he rested on the seventh day” (Ex 20:11). In the fifth book of the Torah, the same command was repeated, but this time it was tied to God’s great redemptive act in the Exodus: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that YHWH your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut 5:15). So, there is something to this six-plus-one pattern that honors God and rests in him, and is meant to be a blessing and witness to others.
As we assess our own patterns of work, take time to evaluate whether you balance your weekly rhythms with intentional rest. If we don’t, not only does our work suffer, but so does our relationship with God.
Let Her Works Bring Her Praise
Work is tricky because it is necessary, and, at the same time, not always enjoyable. Most of us know, unless we are born into luxury, that we will have to work to make ends meet in life. And most of us work plenty of jobs over the years. Some jobs are fun, some are manageable, and some are just tedious. But, as we study the Scriptures, we find that work was originally meant by God to be good. In our fallen world, however, work, like all things, has become warped, and so has our perception of it.
The wisdom of our age tells us to just figure out what we love to do, then do it. And while this may be possible for some, it ignores the reality that many jobs just need to be done, regardless if anyone loves them or not. Perhaps the issue isn’t how fitting the job is to us, but how our attitude is toward the job. So, instead of listening to the wisdom of our age, we look into the wisdom of God’s word.
One of the key wisdom books in the Bible is the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman who appears several times trying to educate any who will listen (1:20-33; 8:1-9:12). By no small coincidence, the book ends with a woman—a “wife of noble character”—who displays wisdom, mercy, and blessing to all those she comes in contact with. As we read through the list of her activities (31:11-29), we find, whether the task is large or small, she does all her work to the best of her ability. And, over the course of her life, it causes her to stand out. In fact, the conclusion to this passage—as well as to the book as a whole—is, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (31:31).
How we do our work matters. It can shape how people see us, how they appreciate us, and how they remember us. Ultimately, our work matters because we do it for the Lord. And when we do our best, according to the strengths and abilities Christ’s Spirit has gifted us with, we create a lasting legacy for both ourselves and for the name of our God.
“Faithful Work Opens Doors”
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote that "the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet". I'm sure there are many of us who have thought that at some point in our educational journey. School is not always easy, and learning can be tough, so it can be easy to get distracted and discouraged. Yet, if we can stay the course through it all, education can grow and shape us in maturity and open new opportunities. The same holds true when it comes to work. Our attitudes and ethics towards work can either open, or keep shut, doors to make a difference in this world.
Believe it or not, Paul knew a lot about work and talked about it in his letters. We learn from Acts 18:3 that Paul was a tentmaker by trade, and was also trained as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). He knew what it was like to work hard and he used his skills to support himself while doing ministry. Even as an apostle, he had every right to eat and drink, have a wife, and work for a living (1 Cor. 3:4-6). In 1 Thess. 2:9 and 2 Thess. 3:8, Paul states that he, along with his companions, "worked day and night", laboring and toiling, so that they would "not be a burden to anyone". Therefore, Paul calls upon the churches he has established to also work hard to support themselves, so that they will not be in need and that they might be an example of honest, godly work for unbelievers (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
It seems that this teaching of work, and the attitudes that we should possess while working, was also spoken of by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:16 records Jesus teaching his disciples to "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." This is the epitome of working to open doors, and the purpose of why we work hard to do everything as unto the Lord (Col. 3:17, 23).
We were all called to honor God in our work and to be faithful in where he has put us. From here, God can give us even more amazing opportunities to work and be a witness to the power of the Gospel. Our work on earth will have eternal consequences, so let us work each day with vigor, joy, and hope.