I hope it’s edifying. As far as I’m concerned the way we view work can really affect the joy in our lives. Work can bring us anxiety, fear, paranoia about our life going nowhere, foolish pride, and a whole host of things that hopefully I’ll cover effectively. Meanwhile, God intends for work to be a joy in our lives. That’s right, a joy. Regardless of what we’re doing.
That doesn’t mean work is meant to replace the joy in our lives — in other words, become our one and only joy. In fact, when it does, then the joy that it can bring us disappears under a layer of selfish ambitions, anxiety about what others think of our work, anxiety about our career, and anxiety whether our lives carry any meaning whatsoever.
Let’s start at the beginning: where work comes from.
God Said It Was Good
God began creation by working. He is the first worker, the first one who worked. And it looks like He took great joy in what He did. Genesis 1 and 2 shows a joyful God who takes pleasure in His work – creation. He calls creation ‘good’ a number of times. Then he creates man and takes pleasure in man as well. He rests on the ‘seventh day’ to indicate that work, too, is not all there is. There is also rest and just enjoying the fruits of labour. The seventh day obviously points towards many other things as well, but for the purpose of this blog we’ll stick to this for now.
On the sixth day, when man was created, God tells man to work.
Genesis 1: 28 – 31
And God blessed them [man]. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 2: 5 – 8
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground… then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
Man was created to work the earth – to take care of it, nurture it, and subdue it. It’s only after the Fall of Man (Gen 3) that work becomes a curse, when it now becomes something of a toil. Gen 3:17 says the ground is cursed and in painful toil we will eat of it, all the days of our lives.
Work was never meant to be a toil, but it is now. However, there is hope. We were created to work and it was a blessing only when we were in fellowship with God. In Jesus Christ, God has restored our fellowship to Himself, meaning that there is a restoration (a salvation) of what we were originally intended to be. Part of this is a restoration of work, where work itself is redeemed in a way. What God gives us is His joy within the work, so that we can undergo the toil and labour of it with a joy still in our hearts.
This has a number of implications, which we’ll look into deeper as we go along.
(1) If God created work, it must be good. If we were created to work, we must work, and in doing so we do one of the things we were made to do – regardless of what we are doing. So menial jobs carry a greater meaning. Also, the point of life is not to try and do whatever we can to stop working. We must work, despite our bank balance.
(2) Work will always be a toil – regardless of what we’re doing. The idea that work can bring us the ultimate joy, purpose and adventure we seek in life is a myth. Work is unable to do that for us.
(3) We needn’t be anxious because God is the one who supplies our needs. He is the redeemer, redeeming our work from its futility and making something out of it.
Work is not our primary purpose and it never was our primary purpose. Knowing God is. But yet we were created to work, so work is a natural thing, it’s part of what man is about, and we don’t work to stop working – we work for many other reasons, which we’ll cover in this series.
Some of these points above may seem contradictory but we’ll iron out the contradictions as we go along. Hopefully, future posts will be shorter too!