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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Work According to the Word

“What do you do for a living?”

This is often the first question we ask when we meet someone new. After all, we spend most of our waking days working, and our job makes up a large part of our identity. Even in our workaholic culture, though, hardly anyone talks about what work really is — its purpose — and how it’s meant to be done.

From the beginning of creation, even before the Fall, work was God-ordained. Humans were working to be fruitful, to be creative, to bring forth new things. They were meant to follow after God Himself, who both worked and rested.

After the Fall, work changed. Like everything else, it became broken. Labor now has to be done by “the sweat of [our] face” (Genesis 3:19a NASB) and is no longer as fruitful as it once was.

We live in constant tension. It is still good to work, but at the same time, it is “vanity of vanities” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NASB) when it determines our identity.

Finding Our Identity in Work

There are more people who are shaped by their work than there are people who shape their work. It is a common temptation to let our work determine our lives and lose sight of what is eternal. How many of us work and work and work in order to keep acquiring (whatever it is we want to acquire), and never stop long enough to think about what we’re doing and why?

It’s possible to miss our whole lives this way, just as one might miss a plane. We trudge along until we have nothing but the past behind and the end ahead. In fearing our death, we enter into “nostalgia land” and live in the past, never having lived in the present. When our identity is our work, we miss what is happening now.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes knew this well. He multiplied wealth, wine, wives, wisdom, and wit — but in the end, none of that mattered. Working for earthly things will only lead to more work without any lasting reward. Someone else always has something else that we want. And so, we work harder. Before we know it, our life has passed us by.

Founding our Identity on Christ

When “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NASB) is the center of your life and the foundation of your identity, work takes on a new goal. We find a different vision for work, one that is often countercultural and counterintuitive.

Having Christ as the center of our life gives our creative endeavors and activities integrity and quality. He doesn’t degrade our work; rather, He restores it. Our work becomes worthwhile once more, as it is no longer about this passing world.

This is something you won’t pick up from the world’s wisdom, but from the Word.

What we do on Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 is, in a way, as important as what we do on Sunday morning. We live out our faith in a sphere of influence that could not exist without our jobs, whatever they might be. We reveal what a fruitful life in Christ looks like, working with excellence for the kingdom of God.

With Christ as our center, the foundation of our identity, we can put work in its proper place. As Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (ESV). Whether we’re working or resting, it’s only through abiding in Him that we can live in the present moment in the presence of God.

Copyright © 2019 Ken Boa, used with permission.

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