Work as Worship

What do you think is the worst possible job? We all have our assumptions of what would be a sort of living death for us. If you are a free spirit, perhaps an ordinary 9-5 office job would be your undoing. If you are a bit more system-oriented, perhaps an unending series of unknowns and chaos is overwhelming to you because you like order. There are all sorts of jobs, but there seems to be some broader universals as well. For example, typically we can’t wait to get the new job. Then, when we get the new job, we gripe about the new job in some fashion. Thereafter, we go to work, and immediately look forward to leaving work. This may not be the case for you, but I think this describes the experiences of many people.

Is this a Christian understanding of work? As Christians, we believe in a Christian response to all sorts of things like marriage, death, forgiveness and the like. But have you ever considered what is a Christian view of work? Is there a Christian way to sweep, or throw out a diaper, or process an inmate, or treat a wound? Our first thought may be, “Of course not!” A Christian and a non-Christian can accomplish the same goal, in the same manner, in the same time. But the question is, “How does our Christianity affect our job?”

According to Scripture, when a person becomes a Christian, this event entails a radical change of the individual. The Apostle Paul writes, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Likewise in Galatians we read, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 ESV) To be a Christian means that we have been so united to Christ that our life is now found in Him. We may have the same eyes and ears, the same hair color and physical traits, but who we are is fundamentally different. Our lives have been forever transformed by the indwelling work of the Spirit. It is not merely that Jesus has come into our our hearts, but that we are now irrevocably found in Him. Our union to Christ changes everything.

How does our union to Christ change how we work? First, being a Christian does not relieve us from our ordinary duties. We are called to work. Work was not a product of the Fall of mankind into sin, but has been made harder by sin. A Christian must work. Laziness is not a mark of godly spirituality. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. . . such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV)

Secondly, Christians are called to work with sincerity. Christians are to perform their jobs with honesty and diligence, not in an under-handed manner. When we have a job to do, we don’t cut corners, we don’t take the easy way out, we don’t look for others to clean up after our mess. We take ownership and the basic responsibility to finish the whole job for which we were hired and to do it well. We give nothing less than our best.

Thirdly, Christians are chiefly working for Christ. Whether we scrub toilets, or wipe bottoms, whether you reset a bone, or land on the moon – whatever the job you perform is before the Lord. As one of my favorite children’s catechisms remarks, “God is everywhere.” We cannot fool Him. Likewise, we will never get away with whatever evil we commit. Psalm 94 goes into great detail about the ethical implications of the omnipresence of God and its practical implications. Why mention all of this? You can fool your co-workers and your boss. You can fool family and friends, but the one person you will never fool is God. You will never sweet talk your way out of His gaze or judgment. It is for this reason that the Apostle reminds believers to work diligently, “not . . . as people pleasers but as slaves of Christ.” (Eph. 6:6)

Regardless of the titles we hold in our place of work, we are servants of the King. We ought to show that primary allegiance by how we offer ourselves to every task given to us. Just as the Old Testament Israelites were called to offer their very best to God in their wealth, crops and animals, so we are called to give our very best to God (cf. Malachi 1:6-8).

May we learn to see our jobs as opportunities for worshiping God. We work to please God, not men, and God is always pleased when we give our best unto Him by faith in Christ. We do not work for the applause of men, but of God, who misses nothing and reminds us that “in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV)