Note: this post is the first of four of Dr. Chip’s take on a series of conversations he had with businessman Greg Brenneman on Four Divine Truths About Work. We are grateful to Greg for sharing his insights on our podcast! Listen here.
I stopped by his office. It was impressive. High floor. Views of the city. Nice furniture. Nice people too, the space was a buzz with smiling busy, community. He asked if I wanted him to show me around, and I eagerly nodded. As we made the rounds I saw joy and pride in Jake, whom I had only ever had short conversations with at church. This was his domain, he was clearly well-regarded and doing well. Yet I got the feeling the value of his work was rarely appreciated. Like many others, Jake inevitably wondered whether his work mattered.
Inside and outside the Christian community there is a keen quest for meaning. Rightly or wrongly we want our lives to make a difference. And as we crave life impact we are thrown into an open conversation that implies some work matters more than others. Being a teacher is more important than being a professional athlete (despite the radical pay discrepancy). Being a doctor is better than being a banker. If you’re a Christian, doing full-time Christian work is better than just about everything except perhaps being a stay-at-home parent. Many business friends have told me they felt that their pastor or missionary friends make them feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom.
This hierarchy of vocations is toxic and untrue. Work becomes a competition to prove that what we're doing counts. Winners at the vocation game inevitably fall into pride and criticism of others. Losers, feel less than, or worse, thinking their work isn’t as meaningful or important or spiritual, they embrace lower standards for excellence and ethics. Fortunately, God’s wisdom cuts through the noise to remind us that all work is important.
Here are two foundational concepts from scripture that remind us that work, no matter what work we do, is important to God.
1. God created us to work.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to keep it. Genesis 2:15
God made us to work, to complete his very good but unfinished creation. Any task that brings more order to the raw material of creation for the sake of human benefit, is work that aligns with what we call the creation mandate. “Work and keep the garden.”
2. Work is A primary act of worship.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
Paul was encouraging those at the bottom of society with these words. He was speaking to those who did menial, unpleasant, and unnoticed work. His message: God notices. God cares about your work. If you offer it to God as an act of worship, God will reward your work.
Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C.S. Lewis and one of the first women to graduate from Oxford, says this about work:
“Work is not primarily a thing one does to live but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”
Work is important because it's the way we give ourselves to God. It’s a who first, not what first. Who we do our work for makes it important or destructive. Do it for yourself, fleeting. Do it for God, worship. It matters. It connects to the eternal.
Unfortunately, few work environments tell us our work matters because it matters to God. Find ways to remind yourself of this foundational truth every day as you engage in your job and you’ll be freed from the doubts and know that your work has meaning.
This post is the first of four of Dr. Chip’s take on a series of conversations he had with businessman Greg Brenneman on Four Divine Truths About Work. We are grateful to Greg for sharing his insights on our podcast! We are also grateful for our donors who make this kind of transformational content possible. Join our funder team here.