Work was never intended to be a punishment. Work was meant to be worship. But something has gone terribly wrong.
It seems to start young. If invite my children to do simple chores such as unload the dishwasher, fold their laundry, or clean their room, chaos immediately ensues—for dad and kids. They slump to the floor in utter defeat at the thought of carrying out simple work related tasks.
“But daaaaaaad,” they say. As soon as the instructions have left my mouth, I prepare myself for battle. It is on. My mentality walking in is too often one of war. The unfolded clothes are the enemy, the children are defiant soldiers, and I am an exhausted commander. Something seems really off about this picture. It is anything but worship.
Where do they get it from?
We know exactly where it comes from. It comes from us. We have all at one time or another felt the struggle of work. We have had to persevere through times when we didn’t want to work or we have quit because it was too hard. The emotional and physical strains of work take their toll on us. As we age, our bodies break down and we find ourselves able to carry out the work less and less.
What happened to us?
We lost the vision for work. In Genesis 2:15 it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” This was before sin, before rebellion, before shame, before pain, and before we cringed when we read the word work. Why did God give man work? Here are five reasons why we can see work as worship, instead of a punishment.
1) Work reflects the creative image of God.
Genesis 2:2 says, “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” In six days, God worked so hard that he created everything. The sun. The moon. The oceans. The mountains. Micro-organisms. Elephants. Dandelions. Redwood trees. Humans. He created them all. And in creating humans He gave them unique instructions from the rest of creation. They were to take His image that He had imprinted on them and carry it to the ends of the earth. And how were they to do this? With work! Work was given by God as a creative outlet.
2) We were created for work.
Work was never intended to be a necessary evil in our lives. God only instructed Adam and Eve to do a few things in the garden that we know of. Almost all of those things involved work. Tending the garden, caring for the animals, and subduing the Earth all reflect that the purpose of humans was to work on the Earth God had placed them in. There is a reason that we feel a sense of purpose when we complete a task or when we are working. We are doing the very thing we were created to do.
3) Work is an opportunity to serve.
When Adam and Eve were working in the garden, they were also serving. They were serving God as they carried out the instructions He gave to them. They served one another as they no doubt had to work together. They were serving creation as they cared for it. Work is a gift from God given to us and meant to be shared with others. Whatever work you do, the reason why you work is to serve. That could be your clients, employees, boss, children, the ground you work and, most especially, God.
4) The work of a Christian is an example of how Jesus redeems everything.
Monday mornings are the most depressing day on social media. Twitter and Facebook are rampant with various versions of, “Well, it’s Monday.” It is true that as a result of our rebellion against God’s plan for work, we suffer through pain and suffering when it comes to work. But the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection was to make everything new. Including our work. Through our new life we get the opportunity to live out the true meaning of work. Our work is actually one of the best ways we can share the power of the Gospel. (In other words, cut it out with the woe-is-me, Monday morning posts).
5) We will work forever in God’s kingdom!
In Revelation 7:15-17 we learn what life in the kingdom of God will be like.
“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Imagine all of the joys of work and none of the pains. Imagine doing what you live for the rest of eternity. That is exactly what is promised for all who enter into God’s kingdom. An eternity of purposeful work that feels like rest. God’s kingdom is not an eternal retirement home. It is a place full of laughter, fun, work, and life giving water.
Work will be our worship forever.
[Image via Thomas Leuthard]