Viewing work from a truly Christian perspective requires that we build our thinking upon four foundation stones. A biblical theology of work rests upon the following:
- God was the first worker.
The very first sentence of the Bible makes this clear. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). In the creation of the universe, God set the example of working six days and resting one. Soon after being born again in the early 1980’s, I noticed that some Christians believed that having to work for a living was Adam’s and Eve’s fault. But that is not true.
- God gave work to man before sin entered the world.
Genesis 2:8 makes it clear that work came before Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Verse 15 continues, The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Work was part of God’s original design for man and the world, which was very good.
- Sin has made work more difficult and less fulfilling.
As a result of man’s rebellion, God said to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:17-19). Man’s sin did not create work, but distorted it.
- But God redeems work for us in Jesus Christ.
Believers should have a renewed vision of work. We have been saved in order to do the works that God has ordained for us. Ephesians 2:10 is often cited only in the context of religious works, but surely all our work is now for the glory of God. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
In Christ, our work becomes much more than the way we pay our bills. Our work is our calling, our vocation, one of the chief means by which we serve the Lord. Work is the primary means by which God provides for our daily needs (2 Thess 3:10). But our work is also a primary means by which we fund God’s work and bless others (Gal. 6:6, 10).
As we consider Christ-centered living in the workplace, one passage in particular serves as our guide: Ephesians 6:5-9. Though we live in a world containing an over-abundance of people who continually whine about having to work, Christians are called to understand that God places a high priority on work and our attitudes toward it. Therefore, the apostle explains what a Christ-centered work ethic looks like. He does this by giving directions to both employees and employers. In today’s post, we will think about the employee. Tomorrow, the employer.
6 QUALITIES OF CHRIST-CENTERED WORK
The apostle’s main point is this: To be obedient to your employer not only means doing what he says, but includes performing duties in a manner that is first pleasing to the Lord. The apostle argues that in order to work for the glory of God we must work in 6 ways.
- Work with reverence.
We are called to conduct ourselves with fear and trembling; that is, the fear of God is our controlling motive. This refers to a wholesome dread of displeasing Him; or an anxious care not to fall short. This transfers into respect for the employer and entails a true sense of responsibility. Consider also 1 Peter 2:18-19. Peter’s word to believers is to work as unto the Lord even when we are not treated as our work deserves.
- Work with sincerity.
The Christ-centered employee works with a sincere heart, with uprightness and simplicity of purpose. This quality includes whole-heartedness and singleness of mind. Consider also Colossians 3:22-25.
- Work with integrity.
The Christ-centered employee does not work by the way of eye-service. The one who works with eye-service is the one who labors intensely when the boss is present, but relaxes and sluffs off when he is absent. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of this in a wide variety of work environments, especially when it’s time for wage/performance reviews. But the faithful employee is not to be a people-pleaser, one who tries to win the favor of men at the expense of principle.
- Work with diligence.
The Christ-centered employee works the will of God from the heart; that is, he gives wholehearted service, doing one’s best for his employer. In the 90’s, a book was published entitled The Day America Told the Truth. After extensive research the author concluded “only one in four employees gives his or her best effort on the job, and that about 20 percent of the average worker’s time is wasted, thus producing, in effect, a four-day work week.” That was over 20 years ago. One can only imagine what the statistic is today. Some Christians long to have a Christian employer, thinking they will not have to work as hard. But the opposite is true. God actually requires greater faithfulness when the employee and employer are both brothers in Christ (1 Tim. 6:1-2).
- Work with enthusiasm.
The Christ-centered employee works with good will, or zeal and enthusiasm. Recently, Forbes magazine published an article entitled “Why Complaining Is Killing Your Reputation At Work.” The author writes, “In today’s typical workplace, disengaged employees are the norm. In fact, research conducted by Gallup shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. And as we all know, where there are disengaged employees, there’s usually complaining, gossiping, and griping that follows.” This kind of workplace behavior should not exist among believers in Christ.
- Work with incentive.
Employers use many kinds of incentives to increase performance among their workers, but the Christ-centered employee ultimately works with one ultimate motive. He works with diligence because He believes one day he will receive back from the Lord. One day, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the faithful believer will receive his adequate return. Therefore, we must work like Christ. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4).
Knowing that we ultimately work for the Lord is what will keep us working for the glory of God, both in spirit and performance. As we honor and submit to our earthly masters, God will be glorified in the workplace.
[This post is adapted from the message, Redeeming Work. To listen, search on the title here.]
RECOMMENDED MINI-BOOK: HELP! I Can’t Get Motivated