25 Oct Honoring God with Your Work
Work. It’s something we all do but what comes to mind when you hear the word? Most people (myself included) probably think of the typical 40-hour-a-week job you go to every day and will continue to go to for the next 40+ years. Maybe some think of the word “hard” or “boring” or as Dictionary.com describes it “a means of earning one’s livelihood.”
I’ve worked my fair share of jobs as I’m sure many of you have ranging from retail to full-time ministry and now finance. In fact, I started a new job about 3 months ago and it was so exciting at first. However, the excitement quickly turned into the mundane as I got into a routine: wake up every morning at 6:15am, spend time with God, get ready for work, go to work, stay there for 8 hours a day, and then leave as I say “see you tomorrow.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I am so thankful that God provided it, but I knew there had to be more to work than this.
What does God say about work? And If I’m spending about ¼ of my week (40 out of 168 hours) at work, how can I glorify God with my work? These questions kept coming to mind about a year ago so I decided to figure out what God had to say about the topic of work. Through the Bible and a great book called “Every Good Endeavor” by Timothy Keller (highly recommend!), here is what I discovered.
God created us for work and commanded us to work.
In Genesis 1, we see God create the world in 6 days, and in verses 26-27, we see the very last thing He creates – man in His own image. He then blesses man by giving him commands to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue the earth, and have dominion over every living creature that moves (Genesis 1:28). In other words, immediately after God created Adam and Eve, He blessed them by giving them the command to work. This indicates that, though all God had done in the first 6 days of creation was very good, it was still to a great degree undeveloped. God left creation with deep untapped potential that He wanted people to unlock through their work.
So what exactly is this work? Those first few commands to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth essentially mean the same thing – to have offspring, make babies, and reproduce. The next two commands are to subdue the earth and have dominion. As those made in His own image and told to have dominion over His creation, our dominion is not to work against God’s creation but the ability to work for it.
We are to work to uncover the possibilities of the world and bring them to fullness, to cultivate and harvest the earth.
For example, the world has grapes. Humans cultivate grapes and make wine or juice. We cultivate resources God has given us by using wood to build houses and by managing those resources through building spreadsheets in Excel. Through our work of cultivating the earth, God brings forth culture which is why this command is often called the cultural mandate.
The work we are created for isn’t only done in our 8-5 jobs but it’s anything we do inside or outside the home where we cultivate the earth and create culture.
What does this mean for us? It means we can rejoice in this gift of work. God could have done all the work Himself in creation but He didn’t. He created us to continue the work He began.
I’m assuming most of us have heard about how sin entered the world (if not, check it out in Genesis 3!) but how is our work affected by sin? I won’t go into detail on the Scripture but take a look at Genesis 2:15 and Genesis 3:17-19.
These passages show us that work has changed. Work itself is not a curse because it was created in a perfect world pre-fall but it now has a cursed element to it. Knowing this helps us to have proper expectations toward our work. I often think I’m supposed to love every minute of work and that it’s supposed to be easy, but work is actually hard and we might not always like it because of that.
The weariness of work and the difficulty of work doesn’t change the fact that we are created for it. It’s important that we see both the goodness of work in God’s original creation and the struggle of work under the fall.
Living in a fallen world now, what should our work practically look like today? Let’s look at Colossians 3:22-24. In v.23, Paul says “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
God told us to cultivate the earth and now He’s telling us the very work that we do is ultimately for Him. Yes, in God’s design, there are people with temporary authority in our lives like an earthly boss we are to obey (this obedience brings God glory) but when we are working for the Lord, He is our ultimate eternal authority.
When we remember who we are working for, we remember how we are to work – with all our heart.
Through our diligent, excellent, and hard work, we display God’s diligence and excellence to the world around us. Through this hard work, we are also stewarding well the gift of work God has given us.
I could go on and on about what God says about work but I’ll stop here. My hope and prayer is that this post (not because of my words but because of the Scriptural truth) would broaden your perspective on work and ultimately give more meaning to your work. If anything, I pray that you now see work as something that transcends your 8-5 job and is anything you do where you cultivate the earth and create culture. I also pray you would remember that God created you for work and commanded you to work as a way to bless you. Finally, I pray that in all of your work, you would work for the Lord and show others who He is through the way that you work.