Today there are two dangerous extremes that people exhibit when it comes to looking at the topic of “work.” One extreme is to view work as something evil and, thus, something to avoid as much as possible. This view of work can be seen in how people dread Monday mornings, get some relief when “hump day” (Wednesday) comes and celebrate Friday’s with a shout of TGIF. When work if viewed as something that is a burden, the goal of work becomes making enough money to retire comfortably as soon as possible.
The second extreme that many people exhibit when it comes to viewing work is the concept of defining your life by your work. A person’s value is determined by what he/she does. When people see work as what defines them, there is often a dissatisfaction with one’s job and a constant effort to “climb the ladder” of success. Work dominates every waking moment and one is said to be a “workaholic.”
Either of these extreme views of work goes against the fact that God created man after His own image and, therefore, He created man to work. Work has dignity because it is a reflection of who God is. Throughout Scripture we see the fact that God is constantly “working.” In Genesis, He performed six days of the “work” of creation.
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3 (NKJV)
The Psalmist continually praised God for His “works.”
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!…Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. Psalm 66:3,5
O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Psalm 71:17
Jesus also was known for His “works” while He lived on earth.
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples. Matthew 11:2 (NKJV)
In order to fully understand what it means to be human, every person must realize that God created man to work. This is seen in Scripture by what is referred to as the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28. Here we find God telling Adam and Eve to …be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it… This is actually God’s job description to man. Nancy Pearcey explains it this way in her book, Total Truth.
The first phrase “be fruitful and multiply,” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.
From his very beginning man was created to work. One of the primary goals of education must be the effort to guide a child to understand the gifts and talents that God has created in him/her and to develop those talents and gifts. When this is accomplished, the child can then become sensitive to God’s call on his/her life. By answering God’s call on their lives our children can then perform work in order to fulfill God’s will for them.
The problem Christians face today is that we have lost the idea of vocation when it comes to work. This loss has evolved over many years. The progression that took place in how work is viewed goes something like this.
Work is God’s Call became Work is a job to be blessed by God which then became Work is a job to get ahead and is now seen as Work gives one the ability to consume.
Tim Keller wrote a powerful book, Every Good Endeavor. In his book, Keller addresses the need to regain the concept of work being a vocation to which God calls a person. He writes:
We must recover the idea that work is a “vocation” or calling, “contribution to the good of all and not merely…a means to one’s own advancement.”…To one’ self-fulfillment and power…Something can be a vocation or calling only if some other party calls you to do it, and you do it for their sake rather than your own. Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconciled as God’s assignment to serve others.
Kevin Swanson explains how a biblical view of work should guide the education of our children when he writes in his book, Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child:
Everybody is gifted and has a purpose in God’s world…Each child has a specific calling, framed by his unique talents and abilities…The challenge of the first eighteen years of a child’s education is to find that calling…A fulfilled life will be determined by whether he/she has centered in upon his or her life calling…A successful education is achieved when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child’s calling.
In his book, Designed for Dignity, Richard Pratt states:
By filling and ruling over the world, we fulfill our true purpose in life. We reach the heights of dignity because we represent and extend the authority of the King of the universe.
Let me close with a statement made by Puritan theologian and writer William Perkins. He wrote,
The main end our lives…is to serve God in the serving of men in the works or our callings.
There a couple of questions we need to answer.
- How do you view work? Is it a burden or a blessing?
- How can your work be done in order to fulfill the cultural mandate?
- How are you modeling and teaching the next generation that man was created to work?