I am routinely fascinated every time I read Matthew chapter six.
I am fascinated by the connection between where our treasure is and where our hearts are (6:21), by the connection between serving both God & money and feeling anxious about our life (6:24-25), and I am fascinated by what seems painfully obvious to Jesus when it comes to trusting God to know our needs and to meet them (6:25-34). These passages are all intrinsic to the Gospel – they speak to putting our hearts in the right place.
The problem with modern day work theology is we practice a lot more workism than we do worship. Both workism & worship have to do with the heart placement, or posture, and what we are attaching our desires to. If we work for the Lord, as Scripture calls for us to do, we are practicing worship in our work; however, if we work solely for the sense of fulfillment, merit, or entitlement, we are practing a lot more workism than we are worship.
Biblical worship sets our hearts on God – it fixes our attention & affection to Him. This is placing our treasures in heaven, as Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:21. Workism is a misplaced worship, a sense of worshipping our work itself, which focuses our attention & affection not only on our work itself, but also on our present circumstances, needs, and lack.
Workism presents the need, while [Biblical] worship presents the fulfillment.
Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 6:25-34. He says in verses 31-33,
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV).
This is absolutely fascinating. As I read this once more, I can see the contrasts here. Do you see how Jesus takes what the Gentiles (those who did not worship God) seek after and flips it on its head, telling His followers that God actually meets those needs as you seek Him? Isn’t that wild? Wow!
He says, “stop seeking after those things and seek after the One who provides them to you”. Isn’t that insane?! He flips workism on its head entirely, 2000 years before the term was ever coined.
When we practice workism, we are showing ourselves (and God) that we do not trust in His provision, but that we must rather seek after providing for ourselves. God not only wants to provide for us, but He actually tells us to let Him provide for us!
The Gentiles sought after their provisions: food, drink, and clothing, but God’s people were called to be different. They were to seek after God, who would then in turn take care of them and handle all their provisions. Isn’t that special?
We are called to put down the mantle. To set aside our need to provide for ourselves, to take up the pursuit of God, and to allow the Lord to be Provider in place of us. This is God fixing idolatry at its core – fixing even workism at its core.
Workism places our hope in our pursuit of provision. We chase the provisions, not the Provider – just like the Gentiles in Jesus’ comparison. When we seek after these things, we get caught up in workism; chasing after our next paycheck, our next promotion, our next big presentation, but when we do this, we lose sight of what God really wants to do for us… And that is to give us rest.
Workism Provides… What?
I’ve written a lot about rest before, especially on its connection with workism. Rest is such a beautiful detriment to the idol of work. It really has a way of interrupting the flow of workism in our lives and setting us up for success. Yet, we must ask ourselves, are we willing to rest?
Rest is a reward of putting trust in God. It is a blessing that comes as a result of practicing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 – putting our attention & affections on God & His Kingdom. This kind of trust also frees us from anxiety, which is something that workism and seeking our own provisions ironically spirals us into.
Being willing to rest means we must be willing to trust God, even when its uncomfortable. We cannot rest without putting our trust God.
While workism preaches a gospel that sells hustle & motivation in 20oz to-go cups, Jesus preached a Gospel that brought rest, peace, and provision to those who sought the Lord. This provision comes as a result of our resting in God’s promises, including the ones where He says to focus only on today and don’t worry about provision. As we seek and rest in God’s love & faithfulness, we will watch all of those needs be met above & beyond what we would be able to do through workism.
As we see here, workism provides anxiousness, a focus on immediate & long-term material needs, and the desire to seek after our own provision. Given that, I think it’s fair to say that workism will never compete with the rest & provision of the Gospel.
Despite the seemingly obvious truths that Jesus points out in Matthew 6, many of us still subscribe more to a workism theology than a Gospel theology when it comes to our work. How can we turn that around?
The first step is a choice. We must choose to recognize the idolatry & fallacies of workism, and we must choose to walk towards God’s desire for us in place of that. Our choice to turn from workism to rest is just that – a choice.
It helps to acknowledge the fact that workism is actually practicing a form of idolatry, meaning that as we practice it, we are sinning against the Lord. Really, it’s kind of a funny picture when you think about it because we are actually punishing our own selves for not accepting God’s grace, peace, and provision. It really makes no sense.
Second, we must be willing to trust God where we haven’t before. This is almost always a painful, uncomfortable, and most-often scary experience, especially when we have relied on ourselves or other people for most of our lives. While workism can hold us locked into one place, God calls us into deeper waters of trust & devotion… And we must be willing to follow Him there.
Finally, accepting His will. This can be difficult in our own strength, but when we are willing to make a change, God will transform our hearts from the inside out and allow us to pursue this change with joy & peace (Philippians 2:13).
While it may feel strange, working our butts off 24/7 is not the will of God. Rather, God wills to give us rest, peace, and provision as we seek Him. While we may choose to fight against God’s will when we take matters into our own hands, His desire is always to provide for us and to give us rest.