This past Monday, most of us engaged in an annual American tradition: we observed Labor Day. For an interesting understanding of the origin and background of Labor Day, I would encourage you to read this article.
But that got me thinking about labor and our work. For many of us, our work encompasses more than one-third of our lives (for many, it’s more like one-half). If we are not actually working, we are often thinking about it, worrying about it, and stressing about it. So, how should we approach our work from a Christ-centered, gospel-centered perspective?
Let me explain by mentioning three primary myths we often believe about work, and share the truth that should combat this myth.
1. Myth: I must simply endure my work.
Truth: God desires that we find fulfillment and enjoyment from our work.
I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed, and some well…not so much. Haven’t you? Many people fall victim to the lie that they will have to endure their job until they reach retirement. That’s why so many are living for retirement. Many people are miserable in their jobs. A 2017 Gallup study revealed that 2/3 of American workers are “disengaged” and dissatisfied at the workplace. They are not happy. But God’s design is that our work has meaning and purpose. Perhaps we are in a job that we can’t immediately quit, but if we can gain a different perspective on it, we might become more fulfilled. In other words, if we can find some meaning and purpose in our work, we can have a sense of fulfillment. Work should be seen as worship. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Six verses later, the Apostle Paul exhorted us in that “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Once we realize that our work can glorify God, and we do it to the best of the ability God has given us, work can be fulfilling. We were created to work. When we work, we follow the example of God who worked/created in six days. After every day of creation, God said “it is good.” Likewise, after a day of hard work in which we are working to honor God, we can also say “it is good.”
2. Myth: I work for a living.
Truth: My life/living is Christ.
If you were to ask people why they work, most would say something to the effect, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” We often ask the question to others: “What do you do for a living?” It’s an irrelevant, distorting question. We tend to work just to pay the bills, or we work in order to make more money. Work equals money. This was never meant to be. We don’t work for a living. Paul stated, “For me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). It does not say, “For me, to live is a CEO or a computer programmer, or a doctor, or a custodian.” No, our life is not to be our job. Our life is Christ. He is the reason we live. If you are living for your job, what happens when you can’t work any longer? When Jesus becomes the Lord of our life, the very meaning of our existence, then we become free to do our jobs and do them well, to the glory of God, but not as the essential purpose of our being. A surrender of our lives to Jesus gives us perspective on our work. It gives us power to work diligently and gives us priorities in which to place work where it belongs as a part of a whole life.
3. Myth: My work will bring me a sense of identity, love, acceptance and affirmation.
Truth: Those can only be found in a relationship with Christ and others.
We in America have bought into the lie that our work (or the money that I am working for…or the prestige I am working for…or the popularity I am working for), will make me happy and give me ultimate fulfillment in life. This is the reason so many people are workaholics. But the truth is you will never find your identity, love, acceptance and affirmation in a job. These can only be found through relationships…primarily through a relationship with Jesus.
When we have a proper perspective of work, we can find fulfillment in our jobs. Just as Adam and Eve found fulfillment in working the Garden of Eden (before the fall of mankind), we also can enjoy our work. God is a worker, and we, having been created in His image, can be creative workers as well. May God bless you in your work, and may you discover and realize the purpose in your job as you work for the glory of God.