by Pete Lee
Do you wake up every morning excited to go to work? Are you passionate about what you do and feel like you are making a positive impact in the world? Maybe you wish you weren’t surrounded by such ungodly sinners and their foul mouthed, pagan ways and that you had a job where you could do something good for God and for other Christians.
But why do you think those things about work? Are those ideas biblical? What does the Bible say about work? The Bible teaches that work is good, in and of itself. No matter what you do (outside of clearly sinful occupations such as burglar, prostitute, Mafia employee, etc.), work is good. But before we examine the biblical concept, let’s explain 3 unbiblical views of work. The first view is what I call Work Idolatry – people who view their job as their life achievement. They want to work up the corporate ladder or build up their business to the best it can be. They often work overtime and on Saturdays, neglecting other responsibilities. Without realizing it, they worship their careers and find their purpose, self-worth, and pride in their salary, title, or achievements.
And you may be thinking to yourself, that’s not me! I’m a Christian, and if anything, I don’t like work! But what does that say? This is the other side of work idolatry. If you want a job that you can be excited about going to every day, even if you don’t have that job right now, work may be your idol. “Of all human endeavors, work has the greatest potential for honoring and incarnating oneself...Marriage, children, friendships, even morals if necessary, must accommodate themselves to career demands or be left behind” (Doug Sherman, Your Work Matters to God).
Why is this idolatry? Because their focus is not on finding satisfaction in God alone but on how their job needs to satisfy themselves. God is not enough to them. They need God AND a great job. So if you struggle with discontentment at work, if you’re looking for that perfect job, or if you spend a lot of time at work, you may have an idol in your heart that is employment. You may be worshiping your career or the hope of your future career.
The second unbiblical view of work is what I call Work Dichotomy – people who view work in 2 categories: secular and spiritual. Secular work is what most of us have to do – engineers, office work, construction, etc. Spiritual work is being a pastor or missionary. Naturally, one type of work is viewed as better than the other. One type of work is eternal the other is not. One type of work has value while the other does not.
This view says that secular work doesn’t matter to God and creates the misconception that secular work cannot give as much glory to God as a missionary or pastor. But some pastors give God less glory than some janitors. Teachers, nurses, and hair stylists can all give God just as much or more glory than some pastors and missionaries. The key is not what you do but how you do it as we’ll see later.
The last unbiblical view of work is what I call Work Utilitarian – People who view work as a means to an end. Work is a necessary evil and part of the curse. It is just a way to provide for their family. It is agony to endure it, and they can’t wait for the weekend, for Sunday, for time to be with other Christians.
The “good” Work Utilitarianist sees the purpose of work as evangelism. Work is just there so one can evangelize. These Christians may see work productivity or obedience to their employer as secondary to talking with co-workers about Christ and the Bible. To them, it’s more important to talk about how abortion is wrong then to come to work on time. It’s more valuable to try to convince others that evolution is wrong, then to finish the assignment their supervisor gave them.
These are 3 false views of work. They are not the only ones. It’s not important to try and categorize yourself or anyone else, but to evaluate your heart and see if you have a false view of work that is influencing your view of, your attitude about, or your actions at work.
So what is a biblical view of work? The main point of our series is this: Work is good in and of itself. You can and should glorify God no matter what you do. We will look at 4 reasons why work is a good thing in next month’s article. But before then, please spend some time thinking about these unbiblical views and see if you have been influenced by them. Maybe your attitude about work or your interaction with your co-workers or your thoughts about your career resemble to some degree one of these false views. Think about it, talk with others, and if you need to, repent to God.