The transition from college to the working world can be an exciting change as you take the next step in making your future dreams a reality. However, often in this transition, the initial excitement wears off and you may find yourself questioning what work is really all about. Work, as we know it, can be viewed as a troublesome experience. It has been this way ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. The processes and rewards of work are full of toil . . . thorns and thistles . . . and sweat (Genesis 3:17-19). Confusion over values rage as questions of excellence, integrity, quality, and skill get lost in the scramble for profit. As a Christian entering the workplace, how do we reconcile work with our values?
Cutting through this quagmire requires divine help because God’s original intention for work is one important way we reflect God’s image and likeness. As we continue to taste the sweet nectar of forgiveness and confess our rebellion against God, our new life experiences open windows to other value changes and perceptions—including jobs, career, and work. Over the past years, I have learned some key attitude changes in the area of workplace faith and practice that are helping many of my friends today.
Some of these attitude shifts come in the form of basic definitions. So here they are: Sin has given each of us the terrible ability to misuse every good thing. We all function daily with this tendency. Work, in its true definition, is exercising the responsibility for resources used to benefit God and others. That doesn’t equal having a job, but it does include it. This means we primarily serve God in our work. Our tendency, however, is to misuse work for our own goals and purposes rather than God’s. As a result, work often becomes separated from our walk with God and we often forget to bring our jobs under his leadership.
That separation was never meant to be. A good place to start is by asking some simple questions. How can I begin to view work as an expression of my being made in the image and likeness of God? What does the lordship of Jesus Christ mean in my daily routine? Am I functioning as a member of Christ’s church between Sundays? How can my work become a part of the church’s witness day-in and day-out? Do I let money define my worth, or see it as a functional opportunity to bring blessing to others?
From the initial interview, to relationships with coworkers, to meetings involving big or small decisions, strive to find ways to let your work bring glory to God. This can be as simple as showing up five minutes early to work and sitting at your desk or in the parking lot to pray for your day and coworkers. It could mean watching how you talk about coworkers to others. For some of us this may require re-examining the hard questions raised in Business Ethics 101 in light of the lordship of Christ. No matter what job we end up in after college, whether our dream job or a minimum wage, entry level job, we do need a biblically shaped attitude toward our work. Another way to unpack these perspectives is to develop a pattern of thankful prayer. Here is a prayer I have been using recently. I encourage you adopt it as your own as you begin your first job after college and as you continue the work God has given you throughout your career.
Father, I really did expect to rise again today, eat well, gather with friends and family in a safe place and go to work. Forgive my tendency to think that all this is a right that I deserve—rather than a gift on loan from you. I have constantly misused all these privileges in the past. And I will continue to do so, while presuming that I deserve yet more grace and privileges. Forgive my presumption and thank you for still believing in me and trusting me for one more day. Help me to receive the gift of work and live into it and your grace as a signpost of the kingdom, so that many others can join me in this new life because of Jesus Christ. In him, Amen.
Pete (d.2008) was a husband, daddy, and grandpa. He held various roles with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship-USA, from campus staff to the leader of its Ministry-In-Daily-Life work during his 41 years on staff.