A Theology of Work
– (which is also a work in progress!)
Is it hard to get up on a Monday morning? Actually, is it hard to get up ANY morning!? Is it just time to hit that snooze button over and over again?!
What is our usual response to going to work? Or to College? Or even working from or at home? After all, almost all of us have homework to do as well. And what has any of this to do with being a Christian? I mean, doing work is normal, can be mundane, just a basic part of life.
I want to show you that work is actually a Christian thing to do. When we think about being a Christian at work or college, what is our first thought? Is it not that it is about witnessing to our colleagues or about having a Bible Study or playing Christian music or being part of theChristian Union. But what about our actual work? We are actually fulfilling God’s design when we do our jobs well – no matter what our job is. Most of us think of work, or going to college to get qualifications so that we can go to work, is about earning a salary, supporting our families, being comfortable or even working for work’s sake – it is a necessary evil for those who are not called into Christian Ministry full-time.
Things have changed a little in terminology – we used to call work our vocation – which interestingly means our calling. It is true that God definitely calls people into certain things but we may be surprised to know that for a Christian work is also a calling. Are we not all seeking to do the will of God?
Bear in mind that these verses are a little out of context but it is definitely transferable to work: the first is 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV) 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. And the second is: Romans 11:36 (NKJV) 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.
No matter how you put it God is to be glorified in everything we do whether as we have read it is about eating, drinking or everything else and that includes work.
Genesis 2:7–9, 15 (NKJV) 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
What do we notice about these verses? I said earlier that work seems like a necessary evil but hang on, what have we read? God created man and then He put him in the garden to, what? To work! I don’t know what your idea of Heaven is – but if work is not it then you may have to consider something else! God’s good and wholesome plan was to give us work to do – notice that this is BEFORE the fall! BEFORE man sinned! BEFORE God cursed the ground. Workis good! Work did not happen because of sin – it was before it. We were created to work. And then, of course to have rulership over the whole earth:
Genesis 1:27–28 (NKJV) 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God expects us to work; making order out of chaos which mirrors God’s creation. This cannot be done without work. Remember that God works too. Jesus worked doing the works of His father (John 9.4).
So work was God’s design from the beginning. And the ultimate goal was for every aspect of life and culture to be saturated with the beauty and glory and love of God.
Then things changed: when sin entered the picture, work was cursed. Genesis 3:17–19 (NKJV)
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Because of Adam, because of sin, suddenly work that was a joy became hard. Work involves sweat and toil and thorns and thistles otherwise known today as stress, overtime, boredom, and managers giving us a hard time. Work has been cursed. But work is still good. It is still part of God’s purpose.
Today, God calls us to redeem the time. Work is to be redeemed. Work is a calling, a vocation, a chance for God to be glorified. Colossians 3:17 (NKJV) 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Now when we go to work, stay home to work, go to college we are there for a greater purpose, we are there for the glory of God. God wants to be honoured in what we do and in how we do it.
What are some ways that God can be glorified in our work?
- God is glorified when we put our whole selves into our work, with a view toward pleasing God, not men. Not in pretending to work. Colossians 3:23–24 (NKJV) 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
- God is glorified when we honour our managers and submit to their authority (1Timothy 6:1; Romans 13:7)
- God is glorified when we avoid complaining or grumbling, even in less-than ideal worksituations. Philippians 2:14–15 (NKJV) 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing,15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
- Ecclesiastes 5:10–12 (NKJV) 10He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
- God is glorified when we plan diligently for the future Proverbs 21:5 (NKJV) 5The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
In all these ways and many more, we can do our work to the glory of God.
Another reason for work is indeed to provide for others: Ephesians 4:28 (NKJV) 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. In 1 Tim 5.8 it says that one that doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an infidel.
So, when we get up tomorrow…let us be thankful that we can work
- Work hard. Let’s go to work tomorrow or do our absolute best. Be the best employee, the best manager, the best we can be. Be known as the most honest, most humble, most ethical, most competent person in your field. Do all this to advance God’s name.
- Work is a calling. Work is affected by the fall. It can be hard graft and thankless sometimes. Just because work is a calling it doesn’t mean it is going to be perfect and work out right every time.
- Work is a calling – but we are also called to rest. Whilst the 4th commandment is the one Christians generally say have no correlation in the New Testament the principle is good. Its principle is actually found in the Creation story of 6 days work, 1 of rest. Make sure we get a day off. Make sure we rest.
Whether we are in so-called Christian ministry or we are in a secular job. Christian leaders are expected to labour hard in the Word and Prayer. The rest of us simply have to labour hard in the work God has given each of us to do. Whether we are working in the Church or we are working in our homes or we are working in our jobs or we are working in our colleges this is allChristian ministry.
Every day is an opportunity to live out God’s purpose for us in the world, to be the image of God to those whom we meet, helping people see God’s glory in us.
Colossians 3:23–24 (NKJV) 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.