Most people have probably asked themselves this question before. Does my work matter? I know I have. Even Solomon, who had the position of King, got to the point where he felt he needed to do some extensive soul searching in Ecclesiastes. His conclusion was that our labor is just vanity or futility. Along with basically everything else we do on this earth. But is it?
The purpose of our work
Solomon wasn’t at a good place in his life when he said all that. He had drifted away from God and gotten caught up in focusing on earthly things, only the things under the sun. Been there? Where everything feels stupid and pointless and frustrating? Yeah, me too. Sometimes we focus on the wrong things and we get all in our feelings. Sometimes we stay there. In reality, a lot of the things we invest time in/accumulate are pretty…stupid. But the bible says a lot about the importance of work itself. God did the first work we know about by creating this world we’re trying to navigate. Then He created us in His image and one of the first things He did was give Adam and Eve work to do in the garden of Eden. Work was God ordained and anything God makes is good.
It’s funny, as this blog post was sitting unfinished in my drafts folder in WordPress, I went to church and our Pastor brought up this very topic. He pointed out that work was in the original plan. That was before Eve and Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That means it’s not a punishment for this fallen world like we sometimes think or hear…or feel. Even though it doesn’t always feel good, God actually wants us to work because it’s good for us. We were meant to work and create things with what He has given us.
Work provides more than money
The most obvious purpose for work is so we can make money to live. It’s a huge blessing to have a job and be able to provide for our families, even modestly. A less obvious purpose is to prevent us from having idle time. I say less obvious because we all say we wish we had more idle time. But Proverbs 16:27 says that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Not that working protects you from the devil’s schemes. But have you ever been between jobs and had all that time on your hands? It’s so nice at first, but then we start to get restless, it can even cause depression…because we’re meant to work.
Fulfillment in our work
If you aren’t completely stuck on your desire to do something else, your work can also give you a sense of purpose and usefulness. If you’ve ever had any of that idle time I was just talking about you might know how it feels to wish you could get back to work. Any work. No matter the job, working satisfies that innate desire in us to be useful. Maybe you’re not doing a job that makes you feel important and super successful (by the world’s standards) and maybe sometimes that bothers you. Again, been there! But we have to keep on reminding ourselves that Kingdom work and success do not look like the work/success of the world. Your role, whatever it may be, is important and can be useful to God’s purpose in your life if you see that and embrace it.
How God blesses others through our work
Our families and ourselves are not the only ones blessed by the ability to work and the jobs God has blessed us with. So many people benefit from the work we do, no matter how dull and unimportant we feel our jobs are.
If you think about it, God takes care of our needs but these day He doesn’t do that by causing manna to fall from the sky as He once did (Exodus 16:4). He does it in sort of a secondary manner, He uses the work of His creation to take care of His creation. He has provided everything we need for us to create what we need out of it. You and I meet the needs of other people every day in ways we probably don’t even think about. We are vessels through which God can bless His creation. And our work is a tool He uses to bless us directly.
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How work creates blessings
Everything we do is made possible because God provided the resources and because we, His creation, use our innate desire to create and obey the command He gave us to work.
I wouldn’t be able to type this blog post and publish it on the internet if someone hadn’t created the internet and my laptop. Those are pretty impressive things, to be sure. But I also wouldn’t be doing this right now if there were not salespeople to sell me the laptop to begin with. I would be sitting on the floor if no one had obediently worked and built my table and chairs. In fact, I wouldn’t have a roof over my head if no one worked in construction. I wouldn’t be eating my breakfast as I write this if there were not farmers, delivery drivers, grocery store stockers, and cashiers. And those obedient workers made money in exchange for their work to bless their own families and people they encounter.
It’s bigger than us
Obviously our needs are met a lot differently today than even 100 years ago, never mind thousands of years ago. But you can see that no matter how times change, work provides for all of us, directly and indirectly. I could go on and on. It’s bigger than just us and our needs and desires. Think through everything you’re using right now and everything around you. Think about your job and what you provide to others.
You might argue that we don’t need most of the things we’re working for or the services we provide through our work. But we do need the money we make and imagine if you only ever received the things you absolutely needed and none of the blessings that you just really enjoy. We are blessed to be vessels who God uses to bless others, with needs or desires. The point is that not one job title on this earth is more important than another.
As humans we have given certain jobs titles more significance than others. But the fact remains that the most important “job” we have is to share the Gospel, above anything else. We can all do that in any position we work here on earth.
Remember for whom you are working
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”
Paul is writing to the Colossians about what their lives should look like as new creations in Christ. The context of this verse is how we should be obedient to the Lord in our homes. He’s specifically speaking to slaves in this verse. Slaves. You think your job sucks? We are not promised our dream jobs or even ideal circumstances, we are called to be obedient to God no matter the circumstances.
Colossians 3:22-24 “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”
Who are we making much of?
We live in a world that celebrates and even worships the grandiose. To be considered average or ordinary is offensive to many. We want to stand up and stand out and leave our mark on the world. We want to be remembered for what we did in this lifetime. I have felt this way my whole life. I have felt like I am different, I was made for something BIG. That’s what I was told by parents and that’s what social media convinced me was the point of this life. Follow your dreams, do big things! That’s been the resounding consensus for long before social media was around, now it’s just more in your face.
Not that we can’t have dreams and attain them. We can! But if we aren’t making much of Him, if we are just asking Him to join in on our plans instead of asking God what He’s doing that we can be a part of, we’re missing the point.
Back to Solomon, he wraps up Ecclesiastes with this in chapter 12:13, “When all has been heard, the conclusion on the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.” Jesus taught the same thing in Matthew 22:36-38 when He was asked which command in the law is the greatest. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with you all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.”
Honor in the ordinary
Whether you’re a doctor or a waitress, a CEO or a cashier, a king or a slave — the job is not the defining factor in your life. How you love God is the defining factor. How you love God will impact how you see your work, how you love people, and what kind of mark you leave on this world. The job you do doesn’t matter, it’s how you do your job that matters.
If you have a dream job, go for it! But please remember, there is great honor in obedience to God in your approach to your daily, ordinary life. God has something for you to do now, right where you are right now.