Economics

Work is Worship

Done right, it is an expression of God’s character and beauty

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There we sat under the starry skies, talking faith, family, fun and business. A familiar space. Like many of you, I get to enjoy some nice campfire-convos each summer. But this particular night challenged me. It didn’t take long for the business conversation of this committed Christ-follower and marketplace leader to leave me saddened. “We’ve tried investing in people for years, even hired consultants to help us! At the end of the day, nothing works. We’ve just resigned ourselves that there’s only one reason we’re in business: to make money. At the root of it, that’s what it’s all about.”

Similarly, a Christian business owner recently told me the purpose of his business was to simply retire with a healthy nest egg so that he didn’t have to worry. It’s a familiar business ploy by the great Deceiver.

Skewed view

See, many Christians hold a decidedly skewed image of work. Some view it simply as a curse post-Genesis 3. Others make a false distinction between what they perceive as the sacred (God), and the secular (everything else), separating Sunday’s worship from Monday’s work.

The problem with these is that these views of work always disappoint. They force us to view God as an evil taskmaster and you just have to buck-up because “that’s your lot in life.” Or, when my identity is not a reflection of God’s character and design, that’s because I’m choosing to run parts of my life on my own, thank you very much.

Both these approaches to work will leave you banging your head against the wall – we’re hungry for something more, because we’ve left God out of the picture.

Work is a gift

Work is God’s gift to us. It’s not a result of the fall into sin. In giving Adam and Eve the job of cultivating and caring for the garden, He not only made them the first landscapers, He designed their DNA so that whatever they put their head, heart and hands to is a form of worship. The same is true for us. Made in His image, vocation is an extension of God’s work of maintaining and providing for His creation, bringing Him glory and enjoying Him.

Hundreds of times in the Bible the Hebrew word “avodah” is used to mean both “to work” and “to worship.” Our work is meant to serve God’s purposes more than our own, which prevents us from seeing work as a means to stock up our coffers, set ourselves up for retirement, or just plod away ‘cause it’s a necessary burden.

Simply put, work is worship. The Gospel actually gives us new lenses to see work through: we actually work for God Himself! Consider Eph. 6:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…”

Now there’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning!

Why does it matter?

Martin Luther said that you can milk cows to the glory of God. Why? It’s your attitude that says, “God I’m doing it for you.” So whether you’re cutting flagstone or someone’s hair today, your handiwork, even with imperfection, is for God’s glory. Your and my work is an expression of His creativity, because we’re made in His image. That’s a calling. That’s worship!

So why does having the right understanding of work matter? Because it is only when we understand it rightly that we can best use it to:

  1. GIVE GOD THE GLORY: a response of gratitude for what He did for us
  2. REFLECT HIS CHARACTER: made in His image, we get to display this to others
  3. SERVE PEOPLE: we are conduits for God’s grace and kingdom to extend
  4. GIVE: we earn so we can to give to others
  5. MEET OUR NEEDS AND INVEST OUR TALENTS: by exercising God-given gifts He provides for us

So, the next time you arrive in your office, on the plant floor or at your client’s site, remember who you are, and then consider what you are doing. Your spiritual life is being expressed through your work. Your work is worship. It’s life changing.

Col. 3:23 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” It’s my prayer that you will see your work as significant and view that significance in the light of God’s favor and plan. We are created to intimately know God, glorify him and enjoy Him forever. Let’s do that in our work!

Deliberate application:

  1. How does seeing work as a form of worship change my company’s purpose and values?
  2. If I begin doing everything “as though I’m working for the Lord and not for people” (myself or others), how would that change the way I work?
  3. Because God loves business and the marketplace, and because we are called to imitate God (Eph. 5:1) let’s consider, how would Jesus do my job? Which people would He serve? What would be His vision or S.M.A.R.T (or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time) goals?
  4. When we finish a job, can we say, “Thank you Father, for making me for this purpose”?

Darren Bosch is a partner at DeliberateU, a group offering business leadership mentoring for Christian business owners in their workplace, families and communities, with the goal of increasing their capacity to grow in both faith and business effectiveness. Their conviction is that God uniquely uses the marketplace to extend His kingdom purpose – to serve others while growing in faith, hope and love. You can learn more at DeliberateU.com where this article first appeared.


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