Work is important, but it isn't the only thing in life.
These 2 truths seem very simple. It can seem obvious that (1) work is important, and (2) work isn't the only thing in life. However, we live in a fallen world, and sometimes we need a reminder of these truths. Before we can talk about how to incorporate your faith into your work, we need to have a solid understanding of the design of work.
First of all, work was designed by God in the very beginning – it isn't a curse/consequence that occurred after the fall. (Check out Genesis 2:2-3, 15 in the graphic)
Secondly, we see a balance between work and rest. After God worked for six days, He rested on the seventh day. We aren't meant to only work OR only rest.
We're going to stay in Chapter 1 again next week. We'll take a look at two common (wrong) perspectives society has about work.
Be honest with yourself, do you (or did you) believe one of these perspectives of work:
(1) Work is a curse and that other things (such as leisure, family, or "spiritual" pursuits) are the only way to find meaning in life. [This was debunked when we read in Genesis how God worked, and work has been around since the beginning of creation.]
(2) Work is the only important human activity and rest is a necessary evil (something we do strictly to "recharge our batteries" in order to continue to work. [This is debunked by God resting in Genesis 2:1-2. God did not need any restoration of His strength to continue working, but He rested anyways. Just as God created work, He also created rest. Both are good things; neither are a curse that happened after the fall.]
We live in a fallen world. There are going to be times where work is frustrating or exhausting. That doesn't mean that it's a curse and work should be avoided or simply endured. We also might be pressured to be more career-focused and discouraged to take vacations/rest. That is why understanding the simple truths shared last week are so important to remember!
We've spent the last 2 weeks gaining a better understanding of the design of work and different perspectives people have on work. Now we're going to shift towards the dignity of work.
Although the Greeks understood that life in the world required work, they didn't believe all work was created equal. They believed nobler work was the work that used the mind rather than the body (physical labor). Let's look at an idea Aristotle had (Politics I.V.8): some people are born to be slaves. What did Aristotle mean by this statement? Some people are not capable of higher rational thought and should do the work that frees the more talented and brilliant people to pursue a life of honor and culture. Basically, he believed that some people were meant to do the dirty work (manual labor, "lowly" jobs) while the "smart" people were to do the "noble" jobs.
This idea can't possibly be seen in today's society, right? Wrong. While we don't support literal slavery, the attitudes behind Aristotle's statement are seen in culture today. Lower status or lower paying jobs tend to be looked down on. Be honest with yourself, how do you see service jobs? What do you think about handymen, dry cleaners, gardeners, cooks, etc.? These jobs can be an assault to our dignity in societies eyes.
Today, people can be so focused on the monetary value of their work and that determines how good of a job it is. People might look down on those who are in jobs such as house cleaner, plumber, etc. Next week, we're going to look at how the Biblical view of work is VERY different than this view of work.
When connecting our work to God's work, it's important to shift how you place value in your work. Get out of your head that work is "better" if you make more money. All work reflects the image of God in us. Throughout the Bible, we hear about stewardship. We are to be good stewards with what God has given us. Being a good steward is "utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation." (Check out a blog Courtney wrote last year on Stewardship. How are you being a good steward with your work?
Let's look at two other biblical views about work that differ from the Greeks and today's society:
(1) Greeks saw ordinary work (manual labor) as relegating human beings to the animal level; however, the Bible sees ALL work as distinguishing human beings from animals. God put man in the world to take care of His creation: "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." (Genesis 2:15) Jesus himself had a manual labor job, one that might be looked down on today, as a carpenter.
(2) Seeking jobs for the income instead of using our gifts that God has given us. God gave everyone different gifts. We all have different passions. We should be seeking work that suits our gifts and passions instead of just money. We shouldn't feel inferior because we have a lower paying job than someone.
Take some time this week to reflect on your current work. Are you doing work that you are passionate about and/or have a gift for?
Work as cultivation? The word "cultivate" is often used when talking about farming – to "prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening." Some synonyms for cultivation that might help us when relating it to our work include growing, raising, improvement, and bettering.
In Genesis, God gave Adam the job of naming all the livestock. He also placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to "work the land." From the beginning, God gave people a job to use their creativity and resources to create a culture and improve their environment. In what ways does your work cultivate?
God equips Christians for building up the Body of Christ, giving people different gifts. Similarly, he equips everyone with talents and gifts for various kinds of work, to build up the human community. Not everyone is called to go into ministry or work for a nonprofit; however, that doesn't mean other forms of work is less than.
Start looking at your work as a form of service. Ask yourself, "how, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God's will and of human need?"
When you go to work, remember that everything you do can be an act of worship to God. You'd be amazed at the impact you can make by shifting your perspective of your job as service and an act of worship.