When God created man, He gave us work to do. We were to be caretakers, stewards of creation. Work is therefore good, and essential to human flourishing.
Gen 1.26-31, 2.19. If that is hard for you to believe, it’s probably because your experience of work isn’t positive. You’re not alone. The 9-5 grind is real. Even if you love your job it will be arduous and frustrating at times. In Genesis 3, we read that work was cursed as a result of the Fall of mankind. The curse bends our work away from God instead of towards Him. Isn’t that the case? When I don’t pray or consciously pursue Him in my actions, work becomes a secular exercise in survival. That’s not in God’s design.
In modern American life, most Christians spend 40 hours a week at work. That’s 50% of our waking lives! It’s absolutely vital then that we hold a healthy, robust theology of work so we can learn how to glorify God in our careers. Whether you love what you do or dread work each day, Christians are called to renew and flourish our workplaces. God wants us to be stewards of His creation, working towards the ultimate goal of the restoration of all things.
…give your job to God as an act of worship.
Every job can be an act of spiritual worship, therefore every job has equal potential to glorify God and hold kingdom value. Yes, you heard that right. No matter if you are the CEO of a corporation or the custodian working the night shift, every job has eternal value when done as unto the Lord! None of it is vanity! God imbues every action driven by the Gospel, for the Glory of God, with eternal value. (1 Cor 15.58) This means that all your work is dignified when it is worshipful towards God.
…be excellent and be in prayer.
God expects Christians to do all things, including our jobs, as unto the Lord. (1 Cor 10.31, Col 3.17) That’s an awesome calling. We’re asked to work as if God is our supervisor. He wants our best effort. We should be on time, work hard, bring joy, and provide a tangible witness of the love of Christ to our coworkers. Christians should be such good employees that we as a community have a reputation of excellence.
As an added bonus, when we give God our best work, He will sometimes flourish us in the workplace and give us favor with supervisors. (Dan 1.9, Pv 3.3-5, Ps 90.17, Lk 2.52) At the very least, God will always grow us in character and Christ-likeness. (Rom 8.28, Eph 2.10, Jer 29.13, 2 Cor 3.18). If you want deep satisfaction in your work, pray that your work would be excellent, bringing Glory to God.
…treat all persons with respect and dignity.
Every one of your coworkers, whether they know Jesus or not, is made in the image of God. (Gen 1.27). Every person has this inherent dignity. In addition, we are given specific commands to treat others well. (Mk 12.31., Phil 2.3, 1 Pet 2.17) We are also given commands to respect those in authority over us. (Rom 13) This doesn’t mean we are to be best friends with everyone in the office. In fact, as you are open about your faith and beliefs you will encounter overt opposition and possibly even scorn. In this case, continue to love as Christ has loved us.
…be a witness to Christ in word and deed.
Paul says that people can’t come to know Christ if they never hear the Gospel. (Rom 10.14) James warns us that talk is cheap. (Jas 2) So how should we witness in the workplace? In word and in deed, with patience and wisdom. By giving your work to God, practicing excellence, and loving your coworkers, God will begin to open doors for Gospel conversations. (1 Cor 10.33) Simply be honest about who you are and work in a way that highlights the goodness and glory of Christ. Sometimes this requires more tact, but God always provides a way.
…sacrifice your beliefs for gain.
Compromising your values and beliefs for favor or material gain is sinful. (Jas 4.17, Mt 6.24) When God directs us to be loving towards our neighbors, He never means we should sacrifice truth to do so. Jesus is the prime example of this culmination of love and truth. This topic in particular is one of great interest in our current culture, and certainly lends itself to further discussion.
…conflate effort with earning.
We can do nothing to earn our salvation, because Jesus paid it all on the Cross. This is the truth of grace. However, as a result, some draw the conclusion that effort put forward is unwarranted. This is not what scripture teaches. God is not opposed to effort. He wants us to strive towards holiness and to give Him our best, as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. (Eph 2.10, Rom 6.10-11) We would be wise to guard against false ideas of piety that lead us to be slothful and, worse, unfaithful witnesses of Jesus.
…make an idol out of work and effort.
Just because we put forth effort doesn’t mean we deserve anything. God gives as He sees fit. If our effort leads us to pride, we are worshipping ourselves. If we find ourselves boasting, looking down on others, or demanding what we “deserve,” we’ve fallen into sin. (Pv 3.34) If we value our work over God, family, or the church, we have disordered our desires. We’re attempting to rob God of His due glory. Work is important for us as human beings, but it does not provide eternal satisfaction.
…despair when you don’t see fruit.
God brings glory to himself in many ways, and in His own time. (1 Pet 5.6-7, Pv 16.9). Often, we won’t witness the fruit of our labor immediately. God can still use you in the midst of that difficult work situation or volatile relationship with a coworker. He can still grow your heart in a job you don’t really enjoy. Be patient and prayerful. God may be calling you to endure a difficult time, or He may be calling you away from your current job. When in doubt, the counsel of many provides wisdom. (Pv 11.14)
…confuse people pleasing with loving your neighbor.
People pleasing is idolatry. (Jn 5.30, Gal 1.10) People pleasing is swapping God’s eternal never-waiving approval and love with man’s malleable, unfulfilling approval. It reflects a fear of man, a heart condition that leads to further depravity. It may look like kindness on the outside, and for a time it may fool everyone. But eventually, the ugly truth will reveal itself in burnout, bitterness, and contempt towards others when they don’t give you what you want. God doesn’t want you to carry that yoke. If you find yourself constantly stressing about every word a coworker says, about what all your supervisors think of you, it is time to turn back to the God of grace.
In conclusion, we should work as unto the Lord. In doing so we have assurance that our labor is not in vain and it is dignified. We should pray our labor goes far in advancing the kingdom, even when it feels menial in nature. We should treat others well, be excellent employees, and be open and honest about our faith with our coworkers. If this is how you approach work each day, God will honor it and give your growth in outward provision and favor, inward Christ-likeness, or both.