A significant fraction of our lives is spent working or at the workplace. A typical 8-5 routine is simply a third of a day. And so this is important to learn from God’s word how we can maximize this sizeable portion of our time that is spent working. We need to continually seek to know how to integrate faith and work. We need to glorify God in all things-including work.
The creation story in Genesis 1-2 presents God as Creator and Worker. For six days, he created the earth and all that is in it. He fashioned and creatively brought meaning out of formlessness, emptiness, and darkness. He brought beauty out of nothing. Creation reveals the wisdom, power, and creativity of God.
After he had created, he blessed all that he had done.
More important was the position and role of man in the entire created order. Man as God’s creation, bearing His image, was mandated to take care and name the creation: “to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15). He was to give names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field (Gen 2:20). This was quite some work! God also created a suitable helper for man. And so, from the beginning, work has an intrinsic value. It is a blessing. Work is a gift from God.
However, the fall of man in Genesis 3 brought about curses on work. Humanity was now to “sweat” in order to meet his daily needs. The reality of “painful toil” started to set in right from the sad experience of Genesis 3.
But all is not lost.
We can still experience meaningfulness in work, especially in light of the redeeming work of Christ. In our modern society, we direly need a biblical understanding of work not only to challenge the false notions of work but to lead us into working meaningfully in the areas and professions/careers/vocations God has placed us in.
Here are five biblical principles that can help us today on how to glorify God in work:
- Embrace hard work as a means to prosperity–
The Bible not only highlights the value of hard work but also emphasizes the need to shun laziness. The book of Proverbs has a lot of references to a sluggard/lazy person. Let’s first sample some verses from the OT wisdom literature on laziness.
The lazy will end up in poverty (Prov 10:4); lazy people are lazy to eat even their own food (Prov 26:15). They are married to their beds (Prov 26:13-14)- “The lazy man won’t go out and work. There might be a lion outside!” he says. He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges.” (see also: Prov 6:9-11; 22:23).
The desires of a sluggard will go unfulfilled, but a hard worker will get everything he wants (Prov 13:4).
Corruption is (thus) a form of laziness. It is reaping from where you did not sow and acquiring what is not rightfully yours. It is sad that a recent survey among Kenyan youth showed that majority of youth have no problem amassing wealth through tax evasion and corruption deals as long as they do not get prosecuted. This is a sad story. My generation should embrace hard work as a means to prosperity.
A sluggard is a liability to his/her employer Proverbs 10:26. Such people have immense power to sink your organization in a day. A sluggard is useless and expensive to anyone who must employ him. They omit/neglect their duties. They overburden others in work.
Lazy people hate the dawning of a Monday; they wish every day is a Friday afternoon and a weekend. They consistently offer excuses. They lack the energy and enthusiasm needed to get a job done. Needless to say, the idea of work is troublesome to them.
Laziness is a serious disease. It is more than idle hands and mind. It is also a heart/spiritual problem. A lazy person has a heart that is only comfortable receiving than giving or blessing. Such a heart manifests its spiritual problem through laziness in spiritual aspects like reading God’s word and prayer.
Therefore a sluggard needs a conversion of heart. A heart trained in priorities, passion, and godly perspective on work. He must take decisive action to work (2 Thess 3:7-11).
On the other hand, hard work should be celebrated. And hard-working people should be celebrated.
Hard work or diligence brings prosperity. It brings profit/wealth (Prov. 14:23; 10:4). We need prosperity derived from hard work. The riches may not come quickly, but it comes with God’s blessings and peace.
Godly people must embrace hard work as a means to prosperity.
2. Work as unto the Lord–
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. The attitude with which we approach work matters a lot (Col. 3:23-24).
There is a world of difference when you wake up each morning knowing you are working for the Lord, not for men (or for promotion or recognition, overtime, or other allowances). Doing what you do for and with God gives your life and toil meaning. Those who work as unto the Lord are not bothered by the presence or absence of their supervisors.
You see, the career/profession/vocation you currently hold, whether in the corporate world or a Christian organization, is not a coincidence or chance. You may have perceived it before as a means of purely earning money, but you know what? as we grow in Christ, our perspectives should change- including on work. We should see what we do as a calling. We should see it as a blessing, a gift from God to serve His purposes. And so, God commissions you each morning to go and serve him in whatever you are doing. In that manner, you will be rewarded for your service to God.
God wants you to declare his excellence in that specific area you are involved in. Undoubtedly, your specific area of work is also your battlefield. It is where you face tough choices, trials, and temptations (to look this way and that way-Exo. 2:12). It is where you learn how to love people as you encounter complex situations and hard-to-deal-with people. It is a God-given opportunity for you to grow and be transformed into Christ’s likeness; to pursue righteousness godliness, faith, peace, love, endurance, gentleness (1 Tim 6:11).
As I mentioned earlier, working consumes more than a third of our lifetime; so don’t think God’s purposes are not embedded in that significant fraction of your life.
Serve as unto the Lord; people may not see your sacrifices (they often do not see/reward), but know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord who sees.
Eph 6:7-8- Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
- Whatever your hand finds, do it with all your might– Eccl. 7:10.
Do the work that the Lord has blessed you with wholeheartedly. Love the Lord your God with all your heart (passion), with all your soul (emotions), with all your mind (intelligence), and with all your strength (energies).
God wants us to serve him wholeheartedly.
I know I’m writing from a context where unemployment among young people is so prevalent. Idleness is a choice. My call to many young people is, at least, to get something constructive to do and do it with all your heart and strength. You have always been told to think outside the box; why don’t you try thinking without the box.
The trap we always fall into, perhaps a result of the fall of humankind, is despising some kinds of jobs. We in turn transfer the same attitude to people doing the same jobs. Certainly, this leads and promotes the unending narrative of ‘there are no jobs’. (Swahili speakers are familiar with the expression-Kazi ni kazi). Remember, whatever your hand finds to do, do it will all your might.
Young people need to be advised to start small and not to despise their small beginnings. ‘Starting small’ in this case means considering a volunteer position, or beginning a small business, etc. Delight in what you do.
Create something. In any given opportunity, set a high standard of excellence and integrity. Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Magnify Christ in your work.
- Take a rest after work–
After creating, God rested (ceased to work) on the 7th Day. He also created Sabbath for rest and made other provisions for rest in the Law. Therefore rest must be an important component to consider. Our bodies need rest after work. Laziness is resting before you get tired.
Resting gives you time with yourself, family, and with God.
A time of rest can also be a good source of energy, direction, and inspiration in what we do.
We should not succumb to the obsession of wealth at the expense of our bodies or our relationships.
True wealth and prosperity is a gift from God; You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me,’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut. 8:17-8; see also 1 Chron. 29:12).
- We work so that we may have something to share with those in need- Eph 4:28–
In the above passage, Paul exhorts the brother who has been stealing to steal no longer. Stealing or corruption is not God’s way of creating wealth or meeting personal needs. Paul instructs that he must work so that he may have something to share with those in need.
God blesses us not only to meet our needs but, more importantly, to be a blessing to other people.
Jesus gave. At the cross, he sacrificially gave his life as a ransom for many.
God blesses us with the expectation of making us vessels of blessing to the world. We should therefore be rich in good works.
In any challenging areas of your work, remember to involve God because he is at work in you and through you even now!