How do we view our work? Last Saturday I participated in a seminar conducted by Christians in Commerce International (www.christiansincommerce.org) entitled Hope for the Workplace. One of the participants who worked for a large aero-space manufacturer observed, “I have never thought of my job as serving God.” She went on to explain that she just looked on her work as a job to earn a living in order to do all the other things she wanted to do in life.
Her view of work is one held by many. She never thought about how God views work, that it is part of his design for creation. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.” From the very beginning God assigned us the task to work and take care of his creation. Work is not a curse resulting from the fall, for work was ordained by God before the fall.
Both Catholic and Protestant teaching uphold the value and dignity of work, and consider it a part of God’s plan for creation. The Catholic Catechism states, “Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.
Lester DeKoster, a former professor of Calvin College in his book, Work, The Meaning of Your Life, defines work as, “the form in which we make ourselves useful to others and thus to God.” He goes on to explain that culture and civilization don’t just happen. They are made to happen and keep happening by God, the Holy Spirit through our work. The difference between barbarism and civilization is simply, work.
DeKoster observes that in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus’ choice of services we can do for one another is carefully calculated to comprehend the vast number of jobs of humankind – providing food, drink, clothing, shelter, health care, social services, etc. He says, “The fabric of civilization, like all fabrics, is made up of countless tiny threads – each thread, the work of someone.”
Like the people in the parable, we may be surprised that in doing our work, we too, are serving God. Whether our work is that of a migrant farm worker or the CEO of a large international corporation, it is one of those threads that make up civilization and matters to God. Work is a part of his design for creation and the civilization that follows. It has value and purpose.
How do we view our work? Is it just a job so we can do and have all the other things we want? This is a pocketbook perspective. Is it an idol, becoming an obsession and subordinating all of the other responsibilities we have in life? This is a self-centered perspective. Is it a partnership with God, being a good steward of the talents and gifts God has given us to further the work of his creation? This is God’s perspective.