By Javan Rowe
Work is often viewed negatively, and perhaps rightly so. It can be stressful, tiring, or simply mind-numbing. Whether we have a white collar or blue collar job, work can often be drudgery. Is there a way to revitalize our concept of work with renewed thoughts to help us in the daily grind?
Scripture says that upon creating Adam, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Before the fall had even taken place, Adam was given a job to do. He was to tend to the garden, but it was in a manner free from the stresses inherent in our present-day work. Work was actually a blessed endeavor.
So What Happened?
After the creation of Eve, God gave clear instructions that she and Adam were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed this directive, which resulted in the following curse:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground” (Genesis 3:17-19).
God’s initial idea of work was a far cry from what we experience in our current vocations. Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in a curse being placed on work, distorting what was originally an edifying thing. And though God set up the Sabbath to ensure we did not overwork ourselves (Exodus 20:9-11 and Mark 2:27), the damage was done. We are left today with work experiences strewn with stress, pain, and hardships.
Before examining the difficulties of our present work situations, let’s first consider the future of work.
Though it may contradict our view of Heaven, we must realize that we will likely work in our eternal state. I understand that work and Heaven usually do not coincide in our minds. Some people erroneously believe that we will do little more than lie around, strumming harps. After all, how can eternal bliss possibly contain toilsome work?
The truth is, our labor will be redeemed along with everything else that is glorified. Revelation reveals that Eden will be restored (22:1-5), and part of that restoration must include the work God originally commanded of Adam. After all, God will dwell with his people “and his servants will serve him” (v. 3). How else will we serve but through working in ways that please God?
Even if you presently dislike your job, think of a time you worked and enjoyed it. That is what Heaven will be like. Many of us, due to pressures and costs, work jobs that underutilize our God-given talents. This will not be the case in Heaven.
Our heavenly work will be in a manner that returns us to God’s original design where we will utilize our talents and spiritual gifts in ways that will be anything but a grind. We will engage in vocations that constantly glorify the Lord.
In the Trenches
When considering our present job situations, we should first realize that we work as citizens of our Father’s kingdom. It is a kingdom that is anticipated—where we will one day live in a perfect world. And God’s kingdom is also experienced today—as we exhibit Christ to others through our labor. God’s kingdom has not been fully materialized, and we may continue to struggle in the trenches, but we remain workers of the King.
We may lack a stress-free environment felt in Eden, and our work may not always give the compensation of joy and fulfillment. When we consider work’s past and future, though, and how work was intended to be, we can discover ways to get the most out of our present work situations, regardless of how bad they may be at times.
Let me assure you, I know what it is like to struggle in the trenches, discontented with your place of employment. Antagonistic bosses have come through my workplace who were downright mean to their employees. These were times when I despised going to work each day. I had to be there for monetary reasons, so I, in essence, felt trapped.
I did what anyone should do when struggling in some area of life—I went to Scripture. God revealed wonderful truths to me through his Word that helped me to move beyond “just getting by” and enabled me actually to work hard with a heart full of joy:
1. We work for the Lord.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). The work we do is primarily for the Lord, not for bosses who may or may not treat us fairly. Realizing this affects not only how hard we work, but the manner in which we conduct ourselves on the job. We do not work to please people, but the Lord.
Proverbs 16:3 similarly says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I cannot express how many times the Spirit has brought these verses to my mind and strengthened me though them. No matter how frustrating my work conditions have been, it was encouraging to know that I work for the Lord and no one else.
By making God the object of our work, we can trust the results to him. We can also discover the joy of work when we realize God is pleased by our strong efforts.
2. Personal responsibility trumps happiness.
There was a time when happiness had nothing to do with our vocation. The family was to be taken care of first and foremost. People basically agreed with Paul: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Our current pleasure-seeking society has all but eliminated this concept.
I learned the lost idea of responsibility over “what feels right for me.” This is one of the greatest life lessons I gained from observing my dad through the years. He worked hard every day, regardless of how tired or sore he felt. It’s just what a parent did.
At times we may feel trapped. Or perhaps we feel underappreciated. It would be great if we could all find jobs we love, but taking care of our families is paramount. Personal responsibility is more important than personal happiness. We can begin to enjoy at least some aspects of undesirable jobs when we know we have owned up to our responsibilities.
3. Find ways to utilize your talents.
I find myself working a “9-5” job that utilizes very little of what I consider to be my gifts and talents. But I have found outlets for my abilities—for example, by being involved in the music at my local church. I have exercised additional talents through writing online and in magazines like this one. Though I get frustrated at work sometimes, I do not allow it to paralyze me and keep me from what God has for me.
Though we would ideally like to use gifts and talents in our places of vocation, life unfortunately happens. Because of circumstances both in and out of our control, we may find ourselves in less than desirable situations. If this is the case, we can still do our best in our jobs and find other outlets for our talents. The joy we receive from these outlets can then overflow into our regular jobs.
Proverbs 14:23 reminds us, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Similarly, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). We simply cannot underestimate the importance of hard work. We will get out of it what we put in.
Remember, we are citizens of a mighty kingdom. Others can be impacted for Christ through our hard work and positive attitude. God is glorified by our work—and glorifying him is our primary means of existence in the first place.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s no surprise that 47 percent of full- and part-time workers cite the need for money as their reason for work, according to Pew Research’s report “Attitudes Toward Work.”
But there are other reasons for work. A variety of factors motivate people to punch the clock:
• Many (77 percent) work in order to live independently.
• A lot (69 percent) work so that they feel like a useful person.
• Others (48 percent) specifically work to help improve society.
• Work can fill a void: 41 percent said it gives them something to do, and 36 percent work to be with others.
• Most people want to work. Of those not currently working, only 13 percent cited not wanting to work as a major reason that they aren’t.
• No matter their reasons for working, most people are completely (30 percent) or mostly (60 percent) satisfied with their jobs.