The late Ted Kennedy enjoyed retelling the story of his first run for the Senate when he was 30 years old. During a debate with his opponent, his political adversary questioned his fitness for office, pointing to the fact that Kennedy had lived a charmed life, and had never held down a full-time job. The next morning, while Kennedy was campaigning in a factory, an iron worker put his hand on the shoulder of the would-be Senator and said, “I heard what they said about you last night, that you have never worked a day in your life. Well, let me tell you something. You haven’t missed a thing.”
That’s funny, but in a very real sense it is not so funny. To say about work that, “you haven’t missed a thing” is to miss a very big thing about life. From a biblical worldview, work is a blessing not a curse, a gift not a punishment (Prov. 14:23). Work is to be a huge part of our lives, and God designed it to be that way. After creating man, God put Adam in the garden of Eden to work it and tend it (Gen. 2:15). Work is divinely established by God, it is His will that we work, it is His pleasure that we produce. It must not be forgotten that it is man’s unique privilege within the creation to work under and alongside God in managing and developing the world around us (Gen. 1:26-28). Upon his creation, Adam was not given a hammock and pillow but a shovel and a rake. Created in the image of a working God, Adam was set to work (Ex. 20:8-11).
However, I would hasten to acknowledge that sin, and God’s judgment upon it, has made the work experience frustrating and wearisome (Gen. 3:17-19). While work is not the result of the fall, it has certainly been spoilt by the fall. “Thorns and thistles” such as jealousy, self-interest, dissatisfaction, laziness, and injustice now mark and mar the workplace. Yet, work remains part of God’s plan - a means of creative expression, building character, providing for one’s self and family, responsibly subduing the earth, helping others and a means of creating community. Work may have lost something of its shine, but it is still the primary activity God created us to pursue in communion with Him and in partnership with others. And work has been wonderfully redeemed in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds the believers in that city to live in a manner worthy of Christ by doing a good job at their job (Eph. 4:1; 6:5-9). While we as Christians may have many vocations over a lifetime, we have one calling and that is to glorify God and His Son in all that we do, which includes our work week (1 Cor. 10:31). Reflecting God’s glory according to the apostle includes working submissively, seriously, and sincerely (Eph. 6:5-7). Submissively in the sense of obedience, cooperation, and a display of good will. Seriously in the sense of nervously embracing responsibility, giving one’s best, and not wanting to let anybody down. Sincerely in the sense of focus, wholehearted effort, and integrity when no one is looking.
The reformer Zwingli said: “There is nothing in the universe so like God as the worker.” Work is not an interruption from life, it is life as designed by God. Therefore, do your job!