Work is a Blessing
It’s 5:30am, Monday morning. You’re awakened to the ear-piercing tones of your alarm clock telling you it’s time to get up and get ready for yet another day and week of work. You’re tired and you don’t want to commute yet again to the place that consumes 10 hours of every weekday. You dread the work to come and are already looking forward to 5pm when you clock out. What purpose could God have in requiring you to toil day in and day out? Is this a form of punishment? Is this a result of The Fall? What if God not only designed work to accomplish His goals and ends within his creation, but also for our joy?
Many Christians view work as simply a necessary evil, something we only do because we live in a fallen world. The truth is, work was made before the fall and it was originally designed for our enjoyment and God’s glory (Gen. 2:15).
Work reflects the Creator
In God’s original creation of the world, He included, by design, that man would work in and within His creation (Genesis 2:5). The Lord set everything in place for growth, but He wanted the man to cultivate and develop His creation (not because God needed Him, but because He delights in doing so). The land was rich in resources and material, but it needed development. Therefore, God makes the man from the dust of the ground, and Genesis 2:15 states his purpose: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Adam was made to work, cultivate, and preserve God’s creation.
In this working and cultivating, the man is reflecting His Creator. In Genesis 1, God made the world, but it was formless and void. Over the next five days, God not only fills out His creation, but He brings order to chaos. The Psalmist describes the universe as “the works” of God’s fingers (Psalm 8:3). God makes the world beautiful and glorious. He fashions and brings order, and the man was made to do the same kind of work, just like His Creator.
This is why our work today has significance no matter what job we have. Jesus was a carpenter. Paul was a tent maker. If you build houses, you’re taking the natural resources of the world and making them into a livable space. If you enter data into computer…like God, you’re bringing order out of chaos. Engineers design roads. Stay at home moms cultivate and nurture God’s image bearers. Even if you operate a bulldozer, you’re doing that so something beautiful and orderly can be made in the place of whatever you destroy. Our jobs reflect God when we create, cultivate, nurture, and bring order.
For years, I worked as a bi-vocational pastor, and two of those years were spent employed at NAPA Auto Parts delivering parts. I am ashamed to admit, I knew my work as a pastor mattered, but I didn’t see my job as a delivery man as anything significant. This low view of my deliver job caused me to work it begrudgingly. All I cared about was making money to supplement my low income as a pastor. I didn’t see that I was helping people made in God’s image by getting mechanics the parts their cars needed. I didn’t realize I was assisting my fellow man finish his creative work as he installed a radiator or beautify a car with the paint I supplied. I didn’t see that I was reflecting my Creator in my job.
I saw my job as a pastor as work that glorified God, but my job as a parts driver as something that didn’t honor Him at all because I viewed it as merely a means to earn an income. However, after gaining an understanding of work as an institution ordained by God Himself, I now understand, there is no such thing as a “secular job.” Your work is meant to reflect your Creator.
Work should be fulfilling
God’s original design for work is that it be fulfilling. Adam and Eve were farmers and builders, and they did their work for the glory of God. As a result, their work was satisfying and joyful. No matter what your vocation is, it can be joyful if it is done to the glory of God.
This is an important doctrine that was recovered by the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church taught that only professional clergy served in jobs that glorified God. All other work was considered secular. However, the Reformers said, “no”, all work is to be done to the glory of God and for our enjoyment.
Listen to this quote often attributed to Martin Luther; “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” Christian ministry is not the only vocation that glorifies God.
Your job at Kmart isn’t God-honoring because you listen to Christian music in your earbuds while you stock shelves. Stocking shelves is God-honoring when you do it with a good attitude, a grateful heart and to the best of your ability for His glory, knowing He made you to do this work.
Our jobs should be a source of enjoyment. When Adam and Eve worked in the Garden, they didn’t struggle. They weren’t frustrated. They enjoyed their work because it was done in fellowship with their Creator. Ecclesiastes 3:13, “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.”
Work is God’s providential means
God is honored when you realize He is using your vocation as His own providential means. Luther said, “God is milking the cows through the milkmaid, and He is making wool coats through the sheerer.”
When you drive a truck and deliver goods, God is providing needed resources to other workers. When you stock shelves, God is feeding children and families. When nurses and doctors care for their patients, God is healing the sick and curing diseases. Your job, no matter what it is, is being used by God to care and provide for mankind.
Years ago, I worked installing radios at my dad’s shop in Indianapolis. (This was another part-time job while I pastored.) I didn’t see that my work was a means of God’s common grace to provide enjoyable music to people while they drive. I failed to fully understand that how much the remote starters we sold made people happy because they could warm up their vehicles in the winter. Yet, God was using this simple work by me to dispense His provisions and blessings upon other people.
My pastor has been talking to our staff lately about how stand-up comedy can glorify God. A couple comedians he and I really like are Dusty Slay and Nate Bargatze. Both are clean and funny. I wonder if they realize how God is using their abilities. Do they see their work as valuable because God is blessing people with the gift of laughter through their jokes?
Think about how God is using your job to bless people. How does God provide for mankind through you? What gifts of common grace is God pouring out through your labor?
God made work to honor Himself and bring you joy. Therefore, seek to see God at work in your job. Do everything for His glory, and fight for the joy and meaning of the Lord in your work.
Brandon is the Associate Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and leads the Recovery & Redemption ministry for the church. Brandon is married to Sherrie and has a daugher, Emma.