I come from the stereotypical West Virginian family: a coal-miner dad and stay-at-home mom. If you haven’t been around a coal miner before, let me tell you that they’re some of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet.
As a kid, I remember my dad working long into the wee hours of the night to provide for our family. When things didn’t work out at a coal mine for different reasons, my dad did whatever it took to make ends meet. He would take on construction gigs or drive long-haul trucks for days on end. I can still remember as a child and teenager that my dad was gone a lot, working long and hard hours to support his family.
My dad didn’t gamble away his money or pick up cool hobbies to pass the time. He worked outside of the house long hours, and he worked around our home to fix things that were broken and needed to be repaired.
In looking back on my childhood, I can see the grace of God at work in our family through my dad who worked diligently to take care of his family.
I’m not sure where my dad stood in relationship to Jesus during this time, but I know he understood the value of hard work and doing what it takes to make sure his family had food on the table, clothes on their back, and a roof over their head.
Created for work
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” —Genesis 2:15
God created us to work. Not in a sadistic sense to do his bidding or face his wrath. But to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living creature (Gen. 1:28). In other words, all of life, culture, and work is to reflect the beauty and glory of God.
Whether you’re a pastor, construction worker, elementary teacher, entrepreneur, or stay-at-home mom, work is rooted in God’s good creation, and it's to reflect his glory. We see this plainly laid out in the verse mentioned above (Gen. 2:15).
Jesus himself was a carpenter, and his earthly dad, Joseph, was a carpenter, too. God himself even got his hands dirty when he made “man of dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:15; cf. 1:28).
Not only did God command us to work, but, being created in his image as a Creator, we are hardwired with a desire to create—to work.
This doesn’t mean that we’re able to create something out of nothing like God. Instead, we can create things out of something already created. From creating a meal out of multiple ingredients to building a house out of different materials, to varying degrees, we can create.
What is more, like God, we can bring order out of chaos. “The earth was without form and void… And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). As the Spirit of God brought order to creation, we too can bring order to the world we live in.
Governments can establish an orderly way of life and commerce. Counselors can bring order to a disorderly life. Engineers can create order out of the systems they develop. And when we clean, we bring order to chaos (well, at least at my house).
If work is so glorious, what's the deal?
Why does it have to feel so challenging?
Why are Mondays the worst?
Tragically, the goodness of work was twisted by sin. You see, not only did sin enter the human heart through Adam’s disobedience, but sin has permeated the entirety of creation, including work itself.
Work was twisted by sin
The presence of sin has corrupted the desire for the good work we were created to do, and it has made work itself difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). Here are three common temptations you'll face in your work.
1. Worship work
For you, you may be tempted to worship work as your idol. You will serve it gladly with long hours, bowing down to its demands despite the destruction it causes you or your family.
2. Reject work
Or, you might be tempted to reject work. Let’s face it; working is difficult. You’ll have carefree days, but there are seasons when you’ll feel tired and defeated. Whether you find work too challenging, or you struggle with laziness and worship rest and leisure, you’ll wrestle with a desire to reject work outright.
3. Twist work
Finally, you might be tempted to twist work. Have you been tempted to accept money under the table to push through a deal? Do you feel inclined to fudge the numbers on your sales quota? If you're a writer, have you plagiarized someone else's work? It doesn’t matter what type of work you do; you will face temptations to twist it with sin.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the three examples above, the presence of sin your life or the world doesn’t abolish your need for work. You can automate tasks or outsource responsibilities, but you’ll need to do work in some shape, way, fashion, or form.
Thankfully, you’re not left on your own to do this. Jesus' goal is to redeem everything—including work (Col. 1:15-20)
3 things God says about work
Jesus has taken the “thorns and thistles” we work among (Gen. 1:18), and he wore a crown of thorns on his head as a reminder that he is indeed the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
The crown of thorns the Roman soldiers placed on Jesus’ head with the intent of mocking him, turned out to be a picture of Jesus’ rule and reign as the one true King.
As Jesus works to redeem all things, he has redeemed your life through faith in him. He has delivered you from the penalty and power of sin, and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, you are empowered to redeem your work for the glory of God and the good of others.
In the words of Stephen Nichols, “Christ through his redemptive work undone what Adam did in the fall. And he restores to us the ability and the capacity to be image bearers as God intended us to be.”
In redeeming your work, here are three things God says about your work.
1. Jesus is your boss
How do you work for your employer? Do you work for him or her as you would work for Jesus? It’s easy for our eyes of faith to become glassy at work, and forget who it is we work for.
Jesus may not be your crew leader. He may not be physically sitting in an office watching your every move, or the one signing your checks, but he is the one you work for. Paul had this in mind when he said, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).
The next time your boss reminds you of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, and you feel frustrated, angry, or not compelled to do your job, then take a moment, pray, seek God’s grace in Christ, and remember that it’s Jesus who you’re really working for.
2. God works through your work
What did you eat for breakfast?
Did you enjoy a bowl of warm oatmeal and a cup of hot coffee? How about a batch of scrambled eggs and bacon? Or, did you pick up something through a drive-thru on your way to work?
Regardless of what you ate this morning, countless people participated in God’s work of providing you your daily bread. From farmers who planted the seeds and truck drivers who transported your food to grocery store clerks who sold you what you ate and bankers who provide business with financial resources, numerous people, without even knowing each other, participate together in God’s work in providing for one another.
God is at work in your life and through your life in more ways than you can imagine. Even though you may not see how the work you do benefit others, know that God has chosen to work through you, your skills, and experience for the good of others.
3. You can trust God with your work
Are you stressed at work?
If you haven’t felt this way at one point in your life, you probably haven’t worked long enough.
There are many causes of stress at work. There’s crushing deadlines, conflict with your co-workers or manager, or you’re not compensated well for the work you do.
Regardless of what makes you feel stressed at work, you are free in Christ from anxiety, and you can trust God wholeheartedly to meet your needs, meet you in the storms of life, and work through you despite what’s going on around you.
How have you seen God at work in your work or through your work? Share you experience in the comments below.