Necessary Struggles - Work
Many of us face problems with work. We may be employed or self-employed, part or full time, with or without pay, seeking employment, retired or prevented by circumstances from being employed.
Work is important to us and it is important to God. Following the Fall, God said this in Genesis 3:17-19
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
And so, God provided for Adam and Eve outside the Garden of Eden, but it wasn’t intended to be easy for them or their descendents.
Work was designed by God to be a struggle; it was designed to be a reminder of the reason for mankind’s eviction from Paradise. Work is still a struggle for each of us and remains a reminder of our broken relationship with God, a reminder of the perfect life there should be through a right relationship with Him. But not here; not now.
Work is God’s provision, as are our talents, and we honour God by doing our best to carry out the tasks set before us. Therefore, whilst we can be satisfied or find work enjoyable, we should not boast or become full of pride simply because of what we do.
Work brings recognition. One of the most often asked questions when we meet someone is, “What do you do?” Our work status is clearly perceived as an important indicator, even amongst Christians, of a person’s abilities and worth.
Work can fuel our pride. Sinful human beings have a deep desire to be recognised and have their efforts valued by others. If we aren’t recognised as we believe we should be, we may be angry or resentful until we find it is God’s painful lesson in humility. But if we are, in our view, properly valued, then it is essential that we struggle with pride and selfish ambition.
Work and money are closely related. Our valuation often equates to money. We can become focused on more money to show our worth. So we can feel hurt, even bitter, if we are passed over or someone we believe to be less talented gets rewarded. We compare ourselves to others and can become judgemental or envious or smug, boastful of our successes or we can become complacent and cease rising to challenges.
There is a work which pleases God. Jesus said, “ Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” (John 6:27-29)
Like Jesus we must submit to God’s will and work for His glory. Our tasks at work should be completed humbly, with grace and gentleness. Our successes should be given to God, and our mistakes acknowledged with no evasion and learned from.
Is it easy to work like this? Definitely not! It is a daily struggle requiring the constant help of the Holy Spirit. Through the wisdom of His Word and seeking God in prayer, we must aim to look beyond the immediacy of the workplace to the greater work God has prioritised for us; for His kingdom purposes.
© 2013 Fred Paton