In life, we spend a great percentage of our waking ours working. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we often find ourselves either feeling two ways concerning our work—idolatry or idleness. This series seeks to encourage us in our work.
God’s intention, from the very beginning, was for human beings to work. Work is not a result of sin—even though we experience terrible days that tempt us to believe it is! From the moment God created Adam and Eve, he gave them work to do. He made a garden and told them, “Work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). The work Adam and Eve were meant to do was perfectly joyful, perfectly fulfilling work. There was no mindless toil, no cutthroat competition, no sense of futility. They did everything in service to the Lord himself and in perfect relationship to him. Their work was simply a matter of gathering up God’s overflowing blessing to them!
Adam and Eve’s sin, of course changed that. When they disobeyed God’s command and rebelled against him, work stopped being purely a reaping of God’s abundance. Adam’s sin and God’s curse against it affected the very soil of the ground. Work became painful and necessary for Adam’s and Eve’s very survival. Where once the earth had eagerly produced its fruit—almost holding it out with eager hands and begging Adam and Eve to take it—now the earth became stingy. It withheld its recedes, and the humans were forced to labor hard and painfully to get them. Life east of Eden was wholly different from life inside it.
Understanding that part of the Bible’s story and work’s place in it is actual crucial for us as Christians, because it helps explain why our work will always, to some degree or another, be marked by frustration. Work is hard because both we and the world around us have been affected by our turning away from God. Because of that, it shouldn’t surprise us that work is difficult and painful sometimes. Work has a tendency to wear us out and wear us down. It can be a source of massive frustration in our lives. On the other hand, it shouldn’t surprise us that when we do enjoy or work, there is an always-present danger that our work will swallow us whole—that our hearts will come to be defined by it and we will be reduced to nothing but workers.
Work is necessary, work is hard, and work is even dangerous. For all that, however, it’s still clear that God cares deeply about how we think about and relate to our jobs. What you do and how you do it are not uninteresting to him. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to redeem a people for himself, he also committed to conform them more and more closely to him by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us he does that through all the circumstances of our lives—including our jobs. Our jobs are one of the primary ways God intends to make us more like Jesus. He uses work to sanctify us, develop our Christian character, and teach us to love him more and serve him better until we join him on the last day in resting from our labors.
Greg Gilbert is senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of What is the Gospel?, What is the Mission of the Church?, and Preach.
Sebastian Traeger has spent the past fifteen years starting building various web businesses. He has cofounded FiveStreet.com, Razoo.com, Christianity.com, and Silas Partners. Sebastian serves as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
**Article used with permission. This article is an excerpt from The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs.
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