Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson.
It's not a secret that work can be tedious. The very notion of work is tiresome for Americans--the morning trudge certainly isn’t what brightens most people's mornings. There is a myriad of factors as to why this is. Tom Nelson, in his light read Work Matters, shares how there are many ways of looking at our jobs through biblical lenses to improve our perspective and daily lives.
First, in Genesis 1-3, we find that humans were designed for fulfilling work. Humans were assigned a workload profitable to their character. Guarding and Working the Garden-Temple of God’s holy presence was intrinsically valuable, and the reward of God’s presence was exhilarating. However, the consequences of sin damaged Adam and Eve. They were told three primary consequences: a) separated from God’s presence robbed us of our daily reward; b) our labors will become toilsome; our labor lost much of its intrinsic value as we are no longer striving for holy presence but daily sustenance.
Second, people do not live for bread (i.e., things of the world), but to commune with God (Matt 4:4). If we think biblically about having j-o-b-s, we find work has value. While that value is not equal to guarding and keeping the holy Garden-Temple, it is valuable. We work not only to have stuff (truck, boat, books, etc.), but more importantly, to provide (food, shelter, education, etc.). Parents work to provide children their needs (2 Thess 3:12). All Christians work to provide for the outposts of heaven to shine a heavenly light into darkness, aka., the local church. Work has value because it is an instrument to an end, and it also provides a place to carry out a more profound office.
Third, all Christians have the role of the office of believer. This is an older term but an important one. Every Christian is anointed and ordained to the office of believer by bearing Christ’s name, hence Christ-ian. We bear this office in every sphere we live and serve. Having a secular job gives a Christian permission to bring love, mercy, and the gospel into places outside of the church building. As a pastor, I can’t just walk into any workplace, but the Messianic Kingdom Participants who work there can.
Nelson has an insightful quote, “A proper biblical understanding is that all Christians are called to 'full-time Christian work', doing good work well for the glory of God regardless of their specific vocation” (p. 45). I think Nelson offers a great reminder. Ultimately we should be consciously mindful of God's work and present presence with us while working at our secular vocations because ultimately this means taking God's work with us everywhere and anywhere we go.
Fourth, you might not be preaching the gospel during a coffee break, but your conduct at work reflects poorly or appropriately on Christ. For example, if you are an insufferable human, the boss will likely want to fire you because no one wants to be around you. But if you are a quality worker, marked by the fruits of the spirit, everyone wants you on the team! A Christian who works with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is a blessing to the work environment and a positive reflection on Christ and his church (Gal 5:22-23). Likewise, the willingness to apologize when imperfect in these fruits at work also reflects Christ well.
Fifth, work has a positive end for the world. Martin Luther contended that ‘God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.’ Work that is not sinful is good for society. Remember that when God’s people were in Babylonian exile, he told them, ‘build houses … plant gardens … have sons and daughters … Pursue the well-being of the city; Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you thrive” (Jer 29:5-7). Our good labor is good for society.
So tomorrow, and the next day, when the alarm goes off, know that your work has value both for the present felt needs of humanity as well as longer-term purposes. If you struggle with work, then give Work Matters a quick glance to encourage you.