This may come as a disappointment to you, but work was alway part of God’s plan for humanity in creation. Contrary to popular belief, having to go to work isn’t punishment for the Fall. Work was always in the plan. What we lost in the Fall was the meaning of work — which means the world will demand we work hard but at the end of the day, we’ll have nothing to show for it. Does that feel familiar?
In the opening chapters of Genesis, we’re given an entirely differnt view of work. In chapter 2, God places Adam in the garden to tend it and to care for it. Adam was assigned as a steward of God’s creation. What is the role of a steward? To maximize the Master’s investment. That is, Adam was placed in the garden to work with God to ensure creation realized the potential God had placed in creation. The Fall not only robbed us of our relationship with God, but also of our roles as stewards.
What we lost in the Fall, God is restoring to us through Christ Jesus, including the meaning and value of work. Paul makes this point to the Colossians when he writes:
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17, NASB).
Later in that same chapter, Paul addresses slaves and how they are to honor their masters. (Think employee and employers).
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
(Colossians 3:23, NASB).
Note what Paul did. First, he turned work into an act of worship. Any job was to be done as a gift or offering for the Lord. Filing paper work, cleaning floors, working as an attorney or accountant – everything we do as Christ followers is to be done as if the Lord Himself had given us that task. We work to please Jesus, not just to impress our bosses.
Second, Paul restores the meaning of work. No longer do we go home feeling as if we have worked hard, but accomplished nothing. Jesus is in it all. Our work, if offered as a gift to Him, will not be turned away. Jesus will use it. Perhaps the quality of your work will begin a conversation about what it means to be a Christ follower in the workplace. Perhaps you do what you do where you do it in order to reach someone who doesn’t know Christ and it will be work, especially your skill at it, that will bring the two of you together.
Lastly, notice Paul didn’t say anything about the character of our bosses. Work place magazines are filled with articles on how to handle a bad boss, but as Christ-followers, we work the way we work because every aspect of our lives – including our work – is under His lordship and done to His glory.
True, our world is still fallen, broken, and dark, but through Christ God is reconciling the world to Himself. One of the ways He’s doing that is by placing Christ followers in the work place.
On this Labor Day, let’s spend a little time thinking about our work and how Christ desires to be honored by who we are and what we do.