Workism lies at the core of many hearts in the US today, not just individually but also systemically & corporately. There are units, bodies of employees, funding their ascension up the corporate ladder through a workist philosophy… and this is fundamentally wrong.
Workism & Faith
Workism is a fundamental misplacement of faith. Derived from faith is our sense of identity, value, and purpose. Faith in Christ gives us those things according to a perfect, loving God; faith in workism gives us those things according to an empty, lustful idol.
Who or what we allow to define us is integral to understanding our value. It is integral to our success, our feelings of self-worth, and our overall sense of achievement in life. If we are scaling our successes according to an idol that cannot give us true value, we will continually feel as though our efforts are meaningless and we are without further purpose to the world. This is workism. However, if we scale our successes according to God’s plan for our lives, and what He would like to accomplish through us, we can take on a greater sense of dignity in ourselves, value of ourselves, and an excellence in our work.
It matters what we measure ourselves by. It matters where we put our faith.
Who or what we look to for our definition, our value, is the place we put our faith. Just as Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, so too where we look for identity (who or what we treasure) is where we have placed our faith (our hearts).
Workism is a consistent effort to place one’s faith in something other than God. It seeks to put our faith in our finances, faith in our work, or simply faith in ourselves. While Christ is a consistent foundation, an unchanging pillar of grace, our finances, work, and selves can shift at any moment. Simply facing the music here, we are not as reliable as the Son of God. And if there is anything we have learned over the past few years, no one else, and nothing else, is either.
As the song goes, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
What is Grace?
Understanding oneself means understanding one’s shortcomings. Whether these are consistent failures or occasional mistakes, they are meant to remind us of our need for grace – grace that can only come in Christ. Workism provides no such grace; in a dog-eat-dog world of securing identity, purpose, and value from work alone, there is no space for grace.
Grace is an unmerited, unearned favor from God. It is a forgiveness, an empowering, and a faithful, loving encouragement to grow. It is not meant to sit us still or allow us to keep making the same mistakes. Therefore, as we examine grace, we examine also an expectation of greater faith in God and a growth more into the image of Christ.
“We become what we behold”. This is a popular quote among preachers I have heard and I think it sticks with this topic of workism as well. Not only must we examine who we are beholding, who we look up to, but also what we behold – our finances, work, or titles. Workism creates an easy exhibit for self-beholding, or beholding our work, which gives us every opportunity to idolize what we can do ourselves. In removing God from the picture, we welcome the sense of pride, narcissism, and self-reveling that come with workism.
However, in regarding ourselves differently, we can view the concepts of work, success, and valuation entirely contrary. If we so choose to view ourselves through the lens of Christ and His finished work, we can see our value as being found in Him; something that does not shift or change with the weather, stock market, or the emotions of our supervisors.
While workism may distort what we behold or how we behold it, we are always given the opportunity to shift our gaze back to Jesus. This comes by the grace-filled empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and through a willing heart. If we so desire to return to Jesus in our work, He will be faithful to enable us to do so.
But what does that look like?
As Erik & Darren Cooper have so faithfully explained in episode three of the Stone Table Podcast, finding our work in God’s greater story is the best way we can find true, Gospel-centric value in our work. While workism may be a distortion of God’s value of work for us, we are always able to reposition ourselves back into His will for our lives… but this takes genuine humility!
I think it’s humbling to understand that the real story, God’s story, isn’t all about us. And that should really sink into your heart when you read it. His story is about Him.
Workism centers our focus on ourselves. It puts our eyes on our needs, our feelings, and our accomplishments. This makes us the main character of the story. But as Erik & Darren also state throughout the podcast, “we are not the main characters, we are simply the supporting actors…”
Recently, I went through a hard lesson in my relationship with my fiancée. I realized that the relationship really wasn’t about me at all! It was about her. In the same way, our story isn’t really about us – it’s about God working in us & through us, fulfilling the greater story that He has been writing since the beginning of Genesis – we are simply invited to come alongside Him to work with Him in that story.
Workism casts us as the main star of the show, but the truth is that we were only ever meant to be supporting actors of what God has been doing since the beginning of time, long before we ever existed. We have a natural tendency to want to focus on ourselves & our circumstances, but that continues to make us the focal point of the world. While God of course cares about us and our lives, we must remember that everything really isn’t all about us, it’s about Him; and His story will continue long after we are done with ours.
We Are Returning
Kingdom focus is not focusing on our work or our accomplishments but removing workism from our lives and re-centering ourselves on the work of Christ. Returning to a place where we are worshipping God through the work of our hands, understanding that our work is a place to glorify God & love people, gives us the proper heart posture to live out God’s story in our lives.
Workism, idolatry, and self-centeredness has been around since Genesis 3, but God’s story began before that. In Christ, work itself has been redeemed, and we are now able to worship God & glorify Him by the power of the Holy Spirit in everything that we do. This attitude of living out our worship honors and glorifies God and it will help us to stay humble. In disassociating with workism behaviors and returning humbly to the feet of Jesus, we can fix our eyes on Him, beholding His glory, and be transformed into His image.