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

Chapter 7: Sin’s Effect on Work


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·   The results of sin on work.

·   Christian options for surviving the work jungle.  

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   Guard against adopting the world's value system.

·   Cope with work according to the biblical model.

Sin’s Effect on Work

Key Scripture: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world" (Eph. 2:1-2).

It is not difficult to see the tragic consequences of sin on work. Although work has inherent value to God and can be used to accomplish His purposes, the fact remains that we live and work in a fallen world. Ours is a world that is hostile to God - a veritable jungle of sin. It is important, then, to examine the impact of sin on your own life and work. Looking at your own job, do you see it as a curse or a blessing? Certain circumstances and attitudes related to work - difficult coworkers, boredom, an uncaring boss, long wearisome hours, inadequate compensation, and lack of praise - —cause many people to view their job as a curse. This supposition is also deeply entrenched in the Two-Story view of work.

But think for a moment of the status given to God by proponents of this view. Is God really punishing you by chaining you to a job that you hate? If you believe that, then all your motivation for work has been destroyed. Furthermore, it is impossible to thank God for a curse. The truth of the matter is that your work is actually a good gift from a loving God. Four specific reasons affirm this view:

First, the nature of work is good, not evil. God is a worker; therefore, when He created man in His image as a coworker, man's work became intrinsically good (Ps. 8:6).

Second, work was given before the Fall, not after it. The relationship between God, man, and creation was harmonious. God had assigned man work to do in the Garden. Evidently, he was happily engaged in it before the Fall, and only after Adam and Eve sinned did God pronounce a curse (Gen. 1-3).

Third, the nature of the curse itself shows that work is not a result of the curse. First, God cursed the serpent (Gen. 3:14). Next, He announced the ongoing spiritual conflict between the offspring of Eve and of Satan (v. 15). God then multiplied Eve's pain in childbirth and declared that Adam would rule over her (v. 16). Finally, God turned to Adam and cursed the ground, making Adam's work more difficult (vv. 17-19). But God never cursed work itself, nor did He take away its dignity and value (5:29).

Finally, God's perspective on work remains positive, even after the Fall. The following Scriptures drawn from throughout the Bible speak of work in a positive light:

  • God enables people to work (Deut. 8:18).
  • Work is a gift from God (Eccl. 2:24).
  • People are coworkers with God (Isa. 26:12).
  • Work is commended (1 Cor. 15:58).
  • Work is commanded (1 Thess. 4:11).

Since God views work in such a positive way, we should consciously direct our thinking away from a negative view of work and align it with the way God sees it.

The Results of Sin on Work

Inevitably sin has miserable and devastating results. As we have seen, Adam's and Eve's sin in the Garden brought catastrophic changes - to their physical bodies, to their relationship with each other and God, to other creatures, and to the earth. Not only was their own view of work corrupted, but all succeeding generations have also suffered. Several direct results of sin on work can be observed today:

Sin Makes Work Harder. "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food" (Gen. 3:19). The sweat, toil, and burden of work are all products of the Fall. Since that first sin, the vast majority of humanity has toiled at strenuous labor. Creation has been uncooperative, and every job seems to consist of two steps forward and one back.

Sin Renders Life and Its Work "Futile." "For whom am I toiling...and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" (Eccl. 4:8). When you leave God out of the picture, your overall view of life becomes jaded, and everything seems futile. If we try to base the significance and meaning of our lives on the pursuits of life (including work), we will find that significance and meaning are as transitory as life itself. By contrast, if our lives are based on God, who is outside the system, we can live in and accept this transient and futile life with satisfaction and joy.

Sin Affects Our Coworkers and the System. "All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one... Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness" (Rom. 3:12, 14). It becomes evident that…...

...Christians and non-Christians are motivated by different things. …

...Christians are interested in God's truth. …

...the world system is built around situational ethics. …

...Christians must guard against the world's value system while still working within a secular environment. …

...it is impossible to do business without encountering the effects of the Fall in the attitudes and behavior of individuals. …

...there is no perfect workplace (or group). …

...even within a Christian ministry or workplace there are different views and varying levels of commitment.

Sin Affects Our Own Lives. "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out" (Rom. 7:18). Often our own sinfulness tempts us to work against God and to pursue wrong ends with wrong motives. God never intended that we work with improper motives. Are you motivated by wrong attitudes, such as selfish ambition, escaping family responsibilities, seeking comfort, pride, or lust for wealth? If so, ask God to replace them with right motives.

Fight or Flight? Christians must reckon with the effects of sin on their lives, for it is impossible to avoid the conflict between the absolute truth of Christ and the moral vacuum in the secular world. Sin in the workplace often reflects the sin in a Christian's own life. People often respond to conflict with either fight or flight. The questions arise: "Should I fight to build a new order?" or "Should I totally withdraw from this godless society?" or "How can I survive in this ruthless madhouse?" Most Christians answer these questions in one of four ways. Believers relate to the world through:

Identification with Coworkers. "Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked" (Prov. 25:26). These believers identify so closely with the people around them that there is no visible difference between them and unbelievers. They tell the same jokes, curse and complain like everyone else. Their anger, resentment, relentless ambition, greed, and envy bear witness to the real "god" they serve. It is impossible for such Christians to witness to those around them, for they have nothing better to offer.

Separation from Coworkers. When the Pharisees saw Jesus having dinner at Matthew's house, "they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?'" (Matt. 9:11). Having become totally disgusted with the sin around them, some believers separate themselves as much as possible from unbelievers. Their entire life is shared only by other Christians, leaving no time for those who do not hold their views. Unfortunately, this attitude quickly disintegrates into intolerance and pride. Like the arrogant Pharisees, they disassociate themselves from "sinners" and have little desire to witness.

The Governmental Model. "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right" (1 Peter 2:13-14). Adherents of this view propose that the only way to save the country is to elect Christians into every political office. Truly a government run by God's people implementing godly principles would be ideal. But problems arise quickly, as not everyone who bears the name of Christ also bears His nature. Christians come in all varieties and in various stages of their walk with the Lord. To elect candidates just because they say they are Christians is not always wise. Questions such as "Do they behave like a Christian?" and "Does their past performance reflect Christlike attitudes?" must be asked. What our church and country desperately needs is for those who bear the name "Christian" to be more Christlike.

A Biblical Model. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12). Modeling is a powerful teaching tool for Christians because more learning is "caught than taught." The presence of Christians should raise the moral temperature in the places where they work. Their demeanor and actions should be such a convicting influence that coworkers come to view them as the moral leaders in the company. As Jesus is reflected in the attitudes and workstyle of Christian workers, their coworkers will be shaken, inevitably asking themselves, "What is it that keeps a Christian confident and joyful in the middle of problems?" The primary strategy for changing the workplace, then, is to follow Christ, exposing others to the "hope that is within you."

Staying In the World

Ultimately, the task of removing sin from society is God's. This point was clearly made by Jesus in His parable of the wheat and the weeds. "Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First, collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn" (Matt. 13:30). God's intention is to flourish His people in the midst of the workplace, not to root them out of it.

Jesus further stated, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15). Christ wants you to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (Matt. 5:13-14). He uses the workplace as an arena to test your faith and build your character as well as to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (v. 16).

Life Applications:

A. Imagine that you are doing your job in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall.

1. Describe creatively what your job might be like in such a setting.  

2. How has your particular job been made more difficult as a result of sin in the world?     

3. How would it be easier today if you didn't have to contend with sin?      


B. People attempt to find meaning and value for their lives in a variety of ways.

1. How do most people in your profession or occupation attempt to find meaning and value for their lives? Do they succeed? Why or why not?      

2. If you were to die tonight, what aspects of your current job would live on and make a difference a year from now? Five years from now? Twenty-five or one hundred years from now?      


C. Moral standards are compromised and questionable ethics are evidenced in all occupations.

1. Describe an instance you know of in which people in your industry or profession compromised moral standards or displayed questionable ethics.      

2. In what aspect of your occupation or profession do you most often see repeated, flagrant, and even accepted compromises of ethics and integrity?      

3. Describe an instance in which you compromised your own Christian values on the job. Why? What were the results?    

4. Name at least one sin that you feel most tempted to commit on your job.      


D. 1. There are many ways in which sin can affect your actions, attitudes, and motives on the job. Take an inventory of your life and ask yourself:

a. Do I bring sinful thoughts to my job?

b. Do I need to pay back money I gained unethically?

c. Do I need to admit to someone that I lied?

d. Do I cheat my employer by wasting time?

e. Do I leave God at home when I go to work?

f. Do I use people as stepping stones toward success?

g. Do I work to meet the needs of people?

h. Do I work overtime to escape responsibilities at home?

i. Do I try to prove my self-worth through my work?  

2. Bring before God any areas of sin this inventory may have revealed; confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness from Him, and, if necessary, from those you have wronged. Seek reconciliation through restitution of time or money. Most importantly, don't do it anymore, by relying on the direction, correction, and strength of the Spirit within.  

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 at the end of Chapter 8.

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