Text: Genesis 1:28; Ephesians 6:5-9 | Listen to Message
It’s a common problem experienced by countless Christians: there’s a massive disconnect between our faith and work. We have no idea what the Sunday sacred has to do with the Monday-through-Friday secular grind. We’ve compartmentalized our Christianity to a few nights and weekends, and we live with spiritual amnesia the 40, 50, or 60 hours a week we’re on the job.
“I’m just an electrician, just an attorney, just a student, just an accountant, just a teacher, just an architect, just a nurse practitioner, just an engineer, just an artist,” we tell ourselves. “What does the Bible have to say about my work?” we ask – as if the assumed answer is nothing.
In reality, the Bible says a lot about work and vocation – beginning with the fact that your work has an eternal purpose and design. Your work matters to God. As Martin Luther wrote, we are the masks of God – meaning, God is at work in us and through us to accomplish his will in our world today.
Our work is the primary place where our faith must be lived out – because we spend more hours working than anything else! Our vocations and workplaces represent massive opportunities for us to flesh out the implications of our faith. So let’s consider briefly both the design and the delight of work.
The Design of Work
We often think of work as a necessary evil. It’s stressful. It’s monotonous. It’s busy work. It’s boring. But, you know, you gotta work in order to get that paycheck in order to live. So we just grin and bear it. Work is little more than a means to an end.
But in the Bible, work is viewed as intrinsically good. The first five words of the Bible are, “In the beginning, God created” (Genesis 1:1). In others, in the beginning, before sin and the Fall, before entropy and pain, God worked. Work isn’t a necessary evil. It’s so good, God himself does it! And before any of that bad stuff worked its way into the story, God commanded us to work.
Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them [the first humans] and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.’” Go and flourish. Build civilization. Bring the earth under control in non-exploitive ways that harness its power and potential. Lead, govern, and manage creation for the common good.
How can you do this in your work? How can you create and cultivate? How can you bring order out of chaos? How can you arrange the raw materials of God’s world so that others thrive and flourish?
It’s a simple question, but how can you use your work to love and serve others? What would it look like to leverage your position and power not for self, but to seek common grace and the common good?
The Delight of Work
The more you align your work to the purposes of God, the more you will find work a delight and not just a duty. To that end, determine to work with Christian distinctiveness. Work with honesty, integrity, and humility. Run from manipulative power plays, gossip, and shortcuts. Think theologically about your whole field of work and collaborate with other Christians in your vocation to express the kingdom purposes of God.
Next, deliberately work for an Audience of One. As Colossians 3:23 puts it, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Don’t be a people pleaser. Don’t try to look busy because the boss is coming around. Work as an act of worship. Celebrate the Good News that you don’t have to work for your identity, your status, your contentment, or your inheritance – because you already have all of these things as free gifts of God’s grace.
Finally, recognize that we all work in light of some story. Our story is what motivates us. What empowers us. What keeps us going. Maybe your story is the promise of the American Dream. Maybe your story is the flexibility and freedom of the FIRE Movement (Financial Independence Retire Early). If you don’t think you have a story, it’s because you’ve simply adopted the prevailing stories of our culture. But faith in the workplace means deliberately working in light of God’s Story.
Creation means your work has both instrumental and inherent dignity and goodness. Your work has a divine design, purpose, and goal of glorifying God and serving the common good.
The Fall means work will often be hard, painful, and unfair. It doesn’t mean God’s mad at you or you’re in the wrong line of work.
Redemption means you are defined by the grace of Jesus Christ and not by your achievement. Everything you want out of work as an idol you actually get from Jesus as a free gift. Furthermore, since Christ is working to make all things new, you are free to work for him however you are gifted to do so. There are no secular or second-rate jobs.
Lastly, the Restoration means your work is not in vain. Your work is not just going to burn up in the death of the Sun. One day the Lord will return, and heaven will come down, and your struggling work will be perfected.
So get out there and work for God and his glory! See that you have the privilege of co-creating and co-cultivating with God. Use your work to help others flourish and experience the love of God. And in doing so, you will experience God’s power. You will know his pleasure.