Earlier this week, I wrote a devotion for preteens on the subject of work. In doing so, it struck me how poor an outlook youth are provided when it comes to thinking about employment.
On one hand, many kids today hear the message that work is pure drudgery. It’s a toilsome means to an end that makes the alarm clock enemy #1 when it announces the arrival of a Monday. Thanks to favorably-filtered weekend photos and memes depicting work as a grind, Facebook is often the social media breeding ground for this sentiment.
Conversely, kids also hear that work is a blissful endeavor which will provide fulfillment both in the vocation itself and in the money it generates. This is why kids contemplate occupational trajectories as early as elementary school while thoughts of marriage and family growth are increasingly billed as secondary goals. Thinking once again of social media’s influence on youth, LinkedIn best propagates this romanticized version of work under the sun.
A Biblical View of Work
As with all worldviews, Scripture comes to the rescue by properly framing the notion of work. It explains that work is a good creation that has been marred by the Fall. As such, there are aspects of work we can enjoy to the glory of God as we recognize they harken back to the good mandate given to Adam and Eve in the garden. This includes joy, fulfillment, fruitfulness/productivity, service, creativity, and human synergy.
However, Scripture also gives us permission to grieve the toilsome nature of work, a quality which has been sovereignly administered as punishment for Adam’s sin. These characteristics of work include sweat, fatigue, frustration, waste, and relationship strain.
America loves to say these aspects of the Curse can be overcome by finding one’s occupational sweet spot. However, Scripture gives a different plan. The act of giving God glory through work involves having a Biblically-informed mindset, one that leads to prayer regardless of our vocation.
The first set of desirable work characteristics, those which are echoes of Eden, are designed to be prayed over in thanksgiving. We should be grateful for the remnants of the good creation that reside in our current work and see them as glimpses of what work will look like on the future New Earth. The right side of the above diagram depicts this reality.
The opposite side of the diagram shows work as it groans under the strain of sin. This category of work requires prayers of supplication. We give God glory as we ask for help in recognition of our weaknesses and limitations.
Fleshing it Out
If you’ve struggled with the idea, “How can I practically give God glory at my job?” here’s a suggestion to get you going. Draw a line down a sheet of paper or simply print the above diagram. On the left side, write down a list of things you’re currently struggling with or dreading about your job. Recognizing that these are primarily the result of the Fall, share your anxiety with God and ask for help.
On the other side of your paper, write down a few things that you honestly enjoy about your job. You can also write down recent successes at work, regardless of their size or importance. Recognizing that these are primarily echos of Eden and glimpses of the New Earth (providing you’re a Christian), take time to thank God for these blessings.
Doing this simple exercise once a week, whether on paper or in your head during a commute, can help frame your perspective of work around God. Even better, it will project a proper theology of work to a generation that desperately needs to hear Biblical truth about employment.
So what are you waiting for? Make out your list, pray, and then get to work to the glory of God!