Today, I thought I would give you some anecdotes on what the Bible says about work and some things that you can use as daily reflections for work throughout your day. Researcher Christian Smith uncovered some fascinating insights while working on the National Study for Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill a few years ago. When asked the question, “what is the purpose of this life?” a majority of Americans answered simply:
“To be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, you might even agree with that sentiment. You don’t have to look very hard to see that personal happiness and fulfillment is the central theme of modern Western culture. Follow your heart! Chase your dreams! Do what you love! Even though these aren’t exactly what the Bible says about work, they are, however, the mantras of our western civilization.
And with the right nuance, there is some truth to these things. We certainly weren’t created for a miserable, meaningless existence. But if we looked at scriptures on business, we would find that placing personal happiness at the center of our pursuits is actually a sure-fire way to find misery.
We weren’t designed to be the central character in a story we are writing. We were made to be beloved members of the supporting cast in a Divine masterpiece God has been writing since the beginning of time. Look at Genesis chapter 1:
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
We were made to be image-bearers, vice-regents (a person who acts in the name of another) reflecting the glory of God and carrying out His purposes in the world. God has been, and always will be, the central character of The Story. When we look at what the Bible says about work, we’ll only find our true joy in fulfilling our creative role in His grand narrative.
We were created for the glory of God.
This is what the Bible says about work, and it also should be a part of our daily reflections on work.
Flip the Script
In the 1500s, the common belief was that the earth was the center of the universe, and the rest of space revolved around us. It wasn’t until a scientist named Copernicus confronted this falsehood that the truth finally won out.
The Gospel creates a kind of “Copernican Revolution” in our lives as well. It flips the script! It removes us from the center of our own story and puts God in His rightful place. This is the story we were meant to live, as vice-regents, image-bearers, and reflectors of God almighty! This is the context for what the Bible says about work.
Here’s the reality – God did wire each of us a certain way. He gave us talents and passions, and dreams for this life we have to live. And He undoubtedly wants us to pursue those giftings, to His glory and for His purposes!
If you want to have better daily reflections of the work you do or find more purpose in your day job, start here. Pastor JD Grear says it this way:
“Whatever you’re good at, do it well for the glory of God. Then do it somewhere strategically for the mission of God.”
Find scriptures on business, happiness, calling, etc., and then pursue that happiness while finding your own misery points. Then, seek God’s glory while taking those daily reflections of the work you’re doing. This will lead you to joy in the expression of your God-given giftings wherever your daily work leads you.
“For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.”
What the Bible Says About Work: Avodah
More research suggests that a majority of people hate their jobs. Most daily reflections of work are that it’s something that “has to be done.” After all, there are bills to pay, kids to feed, school loans to pay off, and hopefully, a few dollars left over to do some fun stuff from time to time. This is life—the rat race. Days of mostly meaningless work sprinkled with a few occasional glimpses of happiness here and there if we’re lucky.
Work is boring. Work is hard. Work is meaningless. Work is drudgery.
Or perhaps the daily reflections of work you have are more in this camp. Your work makes you feel good about your place in the social hierarchy. Maybe it pays you big dollars and gives you leverage to mute many of the fears others hear more loudly.
Work is status. Work is identity. Work is power. Work is security.
How about you? How would you finish that sentence, “Work is [blank].”
Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about work is blank?
The scriptures on business, work, worship, etc. use a fascinating Hebrew word in the Old Testament that paints a much more beautiful picture of this thing we call work:
Avodah is the Old Testament Hebrew word for work.
Yep, this one word actually means all three things simultaneously. Avodah paints a beautiful word picture of God’s intertwined intent for what the Bible says about work.
In Psalm 104, Avodah means work:
“Then man goes out to his work (Avodah), to his labor until evening.”
In Exodus 8, the same word is used for worship:
“This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship (Avodah) me.”
In Joshua 24, it means service:
“But as for me and my household, we will serve (Avodah) the Lord.”
What the Bible says about work is that for those redeemed by the Gospel, work is not our identity, nor is it just some horrific punishment for man’s sin. Work is worship! Work is service! Scriptures on business and work say it’s a simultaneous opportunity to provide for our families while giving God glory and loving our fellow man.
Now think about the daily reflections of the work that you do! How would it change the way you feel when the alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning if you saw your work this way?