Why should people work? The Bible gives some remarkably comprehensive and penetrating answers that have little to do with meeting needs, finding fulfillment, becoming successful, or accumulating wealth. Work is God-ordained. It is part of His original intention for human beings. Work, however, no longer is the pure joy that God intended it to be. Because of the fall, work has become a burden, especially for employees of the unethical who exploit their underpaid or mistreated workers. Some make work an idol and drive themselves in the vain accumulation of wealth and achievements. Others pour their skills and efforts into work and anxious striving, only to wonder if all their efforts are useless and without meaning.
Work, however, has been redeemed from the curse by Jesus Christ. He has given work a new dignity, and made it a source of blessing. Work is to be done as a service to Christ. We do our jobs, not primarily to please our employers, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. According to multiple places in Scripture, it is God we are serving, even when we work for a non-Christian employer.
Work can bring glory to God, but it also helps others and brings personal benefits as well. Stated concisely, work enables us to meet our needs. If we want to eat, most of us have to work. Regrettably, many Christians have lost the biblical perspective on work, and have accepted secular thinking about vocations.
The notion that a job should bring fulfillment is a dangerous half-truth, in that the Bible never indicates that our jobs should be “fun” or make us “happy.” Fulfillment is more correctly understood in the sense of service, taking pleasure in the contribution that our work is making to the community. This implies that whenever possible, we should choose work that benefits those in need, and this should head the list of criteria by which a Christian chooses a career.
If we view decisions about our careers through the lens of self-satisfaction or self-interest, we are not being biblical people. Disciples of Jesus Christ must view career decisions not through the lens of self-fulfillment, but through the lens of the needs of God’s people — indeed, of human needs whenever they are found.
- Work is honorable; laziness is condemned.
- Work is to be interspersed with rest.
- Work is to be of high quality.
- Work is unique and for the common good.
- Work and vocational choice are guided by God.
Many Christians would agree that God calls at least some people to special ministries and places of service. There is, however, disagreement about whether or not He has one specific career calling for each of his children. We know that He directs those who acknowledge Him and seek His ways, and we can be sure that He gives wisdom to those who ask. For many, however, there remains an issue that is confusing to Christian job hunters — “What role does my effort play, and what role does God play?” Perhaps it is best to conclude that God makes that clear to each person. Each worker makes a dual assumption: “I must accept the fact that my unfolding vocational future is in God’s hands, and guided by His Holy Spirit,” but in addition, “I know that I have in my own hands the stewardship responsibility for developing my own talents, attitudes, and abilities.”
President of the Southern Union Conference
Southern Union | April 2017