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Workism: What If?

by | May 26, 2022 | Articles, Faith and Work, Resources

I was thinking today, what if we were so confident in God’s provision that we never worried about our next paycheck? What would that look like? What would that feel like? 

In a culture consumed by workism and workist theology, what would it look like for Christ’s Church to stand out as those not fretted by the future? 

What if we really knew our identity, could grasp our place in God’s family, and thoroughly understood what Jesus was saying in Matthew 6:26, when He spoke these familiar words, 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 

 Look at the birds of the sky. They do not sow or reap and yet your heavenly father feeds them.

Imagine a world, imagine a church, where this perspective was fully grasped & understood by the Father’s children. 

Workism the Giant  

I know that it seems like a stretch to ask someone not to worry as they stare down the barrel of their next gas bill or insurance payment. I get that. I stare down my bills all the time as a student, and heck, I can’t pay for any of them!  

Work is one way for God to provide for us, but it is not the only way. Workism is one way for us to provide for ourselves, but it is not the only way to be provided for. Are you tracking with me? 

Workism tells us that we are the only option for God’s provision – that our work is the one way for provision to come to us. It also tells us that our work is central to our identity and that finding our value in our work is the one way to be successful. This is the beloved workism we are surrounded by today. 

Work is a part of our human experience and a part of God’s expectation for us – it is something He created us to do (Genesis 2:15). However, work is easily escalated into a position of worship by creating a separation between God as provider and work as provider. 

Work as provider falls into the workism category, stating that work is the one method that God can or will use to provide for us. While I’m not saying He does not use or expect to use work, I also will note that as a student at North Central I have seen dozens of cases, literally dozens, where God has provided supernaturally through other means & people. Workism, even our work, cannot do that, only God can. 

Workism is a giant in our society today, one that runs fearlessly from corporate America to the Church of Jesus Christ. Who will stand against this idolatrous monster?  

When we think “giant” as Christians, naturally we think of David & Goliath. Imagine with me for a moment if David didn’t trust in God but trusted only in his slingshot to kill Goliath. How would that have gone? 

That would have been really awkward. Just cut out the whole sentence where he says, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:6), which is one of the hardest-core lines in the Bible, and pretend he said, “Who is this giant warrior that thinks his spear is better than my slingshot?”. 

That’s like workism. That’s like cutting God out of the picture of our provision. We trust the stone more than the Rock. 

Workism gives us an out. It tells us that we don’t have to fear, as long as we work hard enough, long enough, and with enough desperation for success. Yet, what God says is different. He says, simply, “fear not”. And this “fear not” becomes the precursor to everything else we do. 

Provider 

Jesus is Lord. He is a good Lord and a good shepherd. 

As a shepherd, He takes care of His flock, His people, the sheep of His pasture. He is also a good Lord. He takes care of His subjects, His congregants, those under His rule. 

Regardless, He takes care of us. Jesus Himself reminds us of the Father’s heart in Matthew 6:26-34. He says, 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6:31-33).

The promise here is that as we focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, our provisions are taken care of. What? That’s crazy. 

Workism tells us that if we focus on work, and more of it, our provisions are taken care of. There is just enough truth there to sell the lie. Workism says that work is good, which we can agree on. Workism says that work is a means of providing for ourselves & our families, which we can agree on. However, workism promises that work is THE means for provision, THE means for salvation, which we don’t agree on. Work is good, and God created us to do it, but work is not meant to be savior. 

Resetting our understanding and perspective of who is Provider is one way to pluck ourselves out of the idolatry of workism. 

Faith or Workism 

Trusting God can be hard. I get that – I really do. This week has been absolutely brutal for me and at the end of it all, I still hardly know what God is doing right now. But I know that because He is God, He is doing something. 

Financially, I get the point workism is trying to make: work makes money. Of course, it does, it’s supposed to, but doing so without faith in God is like working without knowing why. 

I always thought Christians had the most unfair advantage in the marketplace. We have the capability to be joyful in all we do, to work with the will of God in our hearts, and to do all things as unto the Lord – all by the power of the Spirit. 

Workism takes the place of the Spirit’s power and connects that cord to some run-down, janky, old box of metal that produces 1 kilowatt per hour of power. The Spirit is like an endless energy supply – an entire eon’s worth of powerplants all plugged into one source. The Spirit guides us in our daily lives, including our work, so that we can produce from a place of being God’s children and not from a place of desperation.  

The Spirit is our ultimate source for all that we do as Christians. To live out a life pleasing to God is impossible without the Holy Spirit. It is He who confirms us as God’s children and empowers us to live for Him, while also radically transforming our hearts from the inside out to do His will with joy. 

Today, we can lean on the Spirit in our work. Let Him guide your heart and your hands. Let His light be the guiding power of your provision. He loves you. 

Trust God, love people, follow the Spirit. What if we all did that? 

Scott Brown

Scott is a full-time Pastoral Studies student at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was called into ministry in March 2020, one year after he was born-again. Scott loves the Lord, is passionate about empowering Christians, and loves to see Spirit-led people flourish in their work. He enjoys writing, preaching, and catching fish.

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