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General Bible Courses > Living by the Book > Career by the Book

Chapter 5: Work's Intrinsic Value


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·   God as a worker.

·   That people were created to be coworkers with God.  

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   See your work as an extension of God's work.

·   Fulfill your purpose as a coworker with God.

Work's Intrinsic Value

Key Scripture: "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work" (Gen. 2:2).

Work is a major part of life, and God takes it very seriously. Work has inherent dignity and intrinsic value, in and of itself, that does not depend on its perceived value, success, or worth to others. Three important biblical principles supply the basis for work:

God Is a Worker. "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). The Bible, by calling God's activity "work" (see the Key Scripture) and by declaring his work "good," signifies that work has intrinsic worth. Psalm 111 praises God for His work: "Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever" (v. 3). This same God meets the broad range of needs of all His many creatures: "These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time" (Ps. 104:27).

Besides being active in everyday life, God is also working out His purposes in history. For Israel, the Exodus was the preeminent event in her history: "What he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you...it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done" (Deut. 11:4, 7). The Gospels portray God's greatest work of all - —Christ's atonement through his death on the cross. "'My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'" (John 4:34).

God Created People as Workers. The writer of Ecclesiastes called work a gift from God. "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God" (3:12-13). Furthermore, God created human beings as workers. "Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth" (Gen. 1:26). Created in God's image, we are inherently significant; when we work, we are doing something godlike.

God Created People To Be His Coworkers. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Col. 3:23-24). These verses describe our participation with Christ in everyday work. We were created not as workers unto ourselves, but as coworkers with God. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Gen. 2:15). After God planted the garden, Adam cultivated it; and the first partnership was formed. It is important to remember that God does not need us; rather He chooses to include us in His plans, making us a "ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet" (Ps. 8:6).

Coworkers With God

As we understand God's call to be coworkers with Him, we begin to view our work as an act of worship. This recognition produces immediate results in our lives and is tremendously freeing. In light of such an esteemed relationship with God, three important facts are revealed:

First, you must do His work His way - with excellence, enthusiasm and ethics.

Second, your work matters to God as much as that of a pastor or missionary. You are already in full-time Christian service; therefore, it is important to have a vision for your life.

Third, your daily work is an extension of God's work. Your hands are the hands of Jesus; your voice is His voice. Begin to think of yourself in this way.

Look at Your Hands!

"Grandma, what's wrong with your hands?" Ruby turned away, hoping her granddaughter couldn't see the pained look in her eyes. She busied herself at the stove as she regained her composure. Amy’'s mother Faith, passing by the kitchen, had overheard the innocent but hurtful question. Ruby's face wore the marks of a hard life, but the twinkle had never left her eyes. Long hours of scrubbing floors using harsh lye soap had taken their toll on her hands. The gnarled fingers, tipped with permanently split nails, were discolored and ugly.

Faith remembered a time when her mother had been young and beautiful. "That was before the Depression," she almost said aloud. Faith remembered how difficult it had been for Ruby, a recent widow. With three children to support, Mom had gotten a job as a cleaning lady. Since hardly anyone could find work in those days, she used to say, 'This job is a blessing straight from God.' We never went hungry, and Mom never complained. Even after working long hours, she spent time with us. Mom was forever bringing people home for a 'good meal,' helping neighbors, and adopting stray animals. She worked at her job for fifteen years - until we all finished college. Mom outlasted four bosses, and I remember how highly they all spoke of her years later.

Shaking herself from her reverie, Faith brushed past her young daughter, and with one swift movement, grasped both her mother's hands in her own. She kissed each one gently. "Amy," she whispered, "these are the hands of Jesus."  

Praise in Proper Perspective

In her role as a self-sacrificing mother, Ruby was able to see God's hand in the selection of her job and thank Him for it. Placing your work into proper perspective (indeed, your entire life!) involves praising God. We are to praise Him not only for all His blessings, but also for who He is. David eloquently testified of a God worthy of praise in Psalm 145: "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works" (vv. 3-5).

Since so much of our day is spent on the job, it makes good sense to make praise a part of this time. Praise normally cannot include playing praise tapes or audibly singing to the Lord at your desk or your work station, but praise can be manifested in an attitude of constant thanksgiving to the Lord - thanking Him for a bonus, for favor in your last job review, for help in locating a lost report, or for solving a difficult technical problem. The list is endless, but the advice in every case is the same praise the Lord!

The following acrostic suggests some ways to include praise amidst your work routine:

Proclaim Christ in your workplace.

Require excellence of yourself in whatever job you have.

Ascribe honor to the Lord in your work.

Interest others in Christ through your attitude and performance.

Stay sharp ethically at your job.

Envision your work as being valuable to God.

Trust the Lord with the results of your work.

Hold fast to your convictions.

Exercise tact and Christlikeness during conflict.

Love your coworkers; invite them to your home.

Occupy graciously the position in which you have been placed.

Remind yourself of God's faithfulness in the past.

Desire only those things that the Lord desires for you.


Legitimate? Illegal? Questionable?

Once you have established that you are a coworker with God, you must next consider if the work you do is worthy of Him. All legitimate work is an extension of God's work, contributing to what He wants done in the world. While illegal work (i.e., prostitution, drug pushing, etc.) is always a corruption of God's work, there may be other jobs that are ethically questionable according to scriptural standards (i.e., the alcohol and tobacco industry). In such gray areas, you must first consult your ultimate Boss - Jesus. The Holy Spirit will guide you in making a final determination. (Questionable work will be discussed more fully in Chapter 11.)

Because of sin, work never completely fulfills God's intentions. Just as every other area of life has been corrupted by sin, the workplace has suffered, too. Even though work is often used for ungodly purposes, work itself is still inherently good. As Christians, however, we must question the validity of some occupations (i.e., the manufacture of bumper stickers with sexual statements or the printing of T-shirts with perverted mottoes or astrological signs). It is certainly worth asking: Am I making the best contribution to God'’s work in the world? Unfortunately, the connection between the legitimate work that you do and how it contributes to God's work is not always obvious. You may feel far removed from whatever God is doing. However, as you continue in this study, you will discover that your work, no matter what it is, serves a number of important purposes.

Life Applications:

A. Psalm 104 is a travelogue through creation showing the incredible work of God. Read it aloud.

1. List God's many occupations listed in this psalm; e.g., farmer.        

2. Describe some additional work God does that the psalmist may have overlooked.        

3. How does thinking about the specific ways in which God works affect the way you regard the world of everyday work?    


B. Psalm 8 also speaks of the work of God. Read it aloud.

1. Who oversees the work of God on earth?    

2. Describe the nature of your job responsibilities.    

3. In what ways does your work match the work that God Himself does; in other words, what does God do that you also do in your job? Before answering, note the following examples:

"God stands for justice and contends with evil. I do the same in my job as a policeman."

"God creates and designs. I do the same in my job as a graphic designer."

"God nurtures the growth of His creatures. I do the same in my work as a mother."          

4. In what ways are you a coworker with God?        


C. "God wants to see people fed. The packing cartons that my company produces are used extensively by a cereal manufacturer. So ultimately I'm helping to feed people." This example illustrates how our work is an extension of God's work. How is your job an extension of God's work?          


D. Do your children understand what you do for work and how it serves people? If not, discuss your vocation with them. Better yet, invite them to come to your workplace at a convenient time. Show them where you work. Explain what you do and how it fits with the overall objectives of your employer. If possible, demonstrate the product or service you provide and how it serves people. Some examples follow:

A telephone switchboard operator could demonstrate his or her role in linking the company to various parts of the nation and the world.

  • A naval recruiting officer could take his or her children on a tour of a ship.
  • A photographer could take his or her children on a routine assignment.
  • An airline pilot could take his or her children on a tour of the airport and the plane.


Test your knowledge on this chapter by taking the quiz at the end of chapter 8.   

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Please see the Review Questions after Chapter 8.

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