I caught myself scrunching my nose. I was chatting on the phone with a friend when I told him I needed to get back to work, and he said, half jokingly, that work is a result of the Fall.We laughed it off, but something just didn’t sit right with me. I began wondering, If that is true and if God is trying to heal the world, why do we still have to work so hard? Are we really cursed to toil all our days until we reach an eternal vacation in heaven? As someone who enjoys being a “doer,” I wanted answers.
As I read the accounts of creation and the Fall in Genesis 1-3, what I found was this: God always meant for us to do work. We see in Genesis that God put Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it” (2:15). After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was the ground that God said was cursed and would be hard to produce food from. God intended Adam, and us, to work and take care of his world, but he didn't intend the work to be onerous.
While I generally enjoy work, I see how my relationship with work, like other aspects of my life, is corrupted by evil. In response to fear or anxiety I catch myself either avoiding work, fearing it is too much for me, or running and hiding in it, using it to console me instead of seeking God. However, when God’s truth and calling are my focus and when my work life is in alignment with him, I've noticed that work is life-giving in the following ways.
Work reflects our identity as image-bearers.
God made humans in his own image. One way our image reflects God’s character is in our creativity. As God demonstrated his creativity in inventing the whole diversity of the cosmos, so do humans share in being creative at our core.
Whether you are creating art installations or circuit boards, innovative solutions to math problems or social ones, you are bearing the image of God in your work by using your creative juices. Work is our chance to express and use our unique giftings and skills to be more fully who God made us to be. In doing so we find deeper fulfillment, joy, and intimacy with God. As someone gifted in administration and skilled in working with people, I experience joy by responding to God's call to work for InterVarsity in the fullness of how I was created, in both my administrative roles and my more people-oriented ones.
How does your work allow you to be fully who God made you to be? How does seeing God’s character reflected in your work bring deeper intimacy between you and God?
Work challenges us to be “doers of the word.”
James, in his intense and direct letter to the Jewish believers, commands them to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Being a hearer only is like looking at yourself in the mirror and walking away only to forget what you look like. This is what our faith amounts to when we hear from God’s Word on Sunday but never do anything about it come Monday morning.
For some, work is the only space we have in our lives that isn’t a comfortable Christian bubble. It is a built-in interaction with others that provides opportunities to act on our convictions and live in response to God’s voice in our lives. When we’re not surrounded by Christians, it’s easy to assimilate and conform, rather than acting as salt and light. But working with others exposes our shortcomings and inconsistencies and allows us to bring them to God so that, by his power, we can continually become more like Jesus.
How does your work situation challenge you to live out your convictions? How can you use your exposed inconsistencies to depend further on God and become more like Christ?
Work creates opportunities to participate in God’s purposes in the world.
Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians that as we have experienced reconciliation with God through Jesus, so God sends us out as ambassadors carrying the message of reconciliation to the broken world. God’s desire is for people to be reconciled to him, to each other, and to creation.
As ambassadors, our work contexts give us unique ways to carry this message to the world. Every job offers opportunities to influence our coworkers, clients, or company policy in ways that foster reconciliation and reflect the wholeness God so earnestly desires for us. Through our careers, God can strategically use us to bring healing to the world, near and far.
How can God use what you do to bring reconciliation to the world? What individuals, policies, or systems can you influence and bring reconciliation to?
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk.