We know that work is God-ordained. We read in Genesis 2:2 - "On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work.." Genesis 2:15 says "The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it." Work is normal. It's part of God's created order for humanity. Everything that we bring to work (skills, intelligence, experience, and reputation) is a gift from God that He allows us to use. God's original intention for work was to bless us. I feel sorry for the many people who view their work as simply a job: something to be performed for a wage and nothing else. We spend more time at work than doing any single activity except for sleep and some of us work more than we sleep. I would like to take a look at three areas where the world's view of work differs from God's view.
My Work and the Income I Earn from it Define My Self-Worth
As Christians, we must remember that it is not our work that defines us, but the attitude with which we do our work that pleases God the most. Sometimes the work we do earns a significant income. Unfortunately, some Chistians have guilt issues related to this. But, there's never any reason to feel guilty as long as you have earned the money honestly and ethically. Proverbs 14:23 (NKJV) says, "In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty." In his book The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn says: "God does not raise our income so that we can increase our standard of living, but rather our standard of giving." One of the great remedies to having a large income is giving the money away. The more you give, the less you have to manage. In fact, this attitude of stewardship is one of the great ways for a believer to distinguish his world view from the secular worldview. In the end, we must remember that while God may choose to bless us financially through our occupation, we are defined neither by our work nor by the income we earn from it. What defines us in God's eyes is the manner in which our work is done in honor of Him.
Work is a Necessary Evil
For the Christian, work is not a necessary evil, but a mission field for which we can be an example of Christ's love and spiritual integrity. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:6: "Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart." Each of us has a conscience. Your conscience is God's built-in warning system. By following it we can build Godly character. Building character takes focus and patience, with attention to detail and an ability to be consistent over time.
While God is ultimately our Potter, we also play the role of potter in forming our own character. Christians would be horrified to be accused of stealing from their employers, but there are many small ways in which employees do it everyday. If someone is paid for 40 hours per week but really only worked 30 hours, they've stolen 10 hours worth of salary. If someone takes supplies from work and doesn't replace them or pay for them, their integrity is shot.
Patrick Morley (Man in the Mirror Ministries) says that when we limit our thinking to major matters, we miss the point that to be trustworthy with much, we must first prove trustworthy with little. One thing that has not changed even in our fast-paced society is that relationships are built on trust. The fragile thread of trust upon which relationships depend can be easily broken. Integrity is priceless. It's one of the few things that can't be taken from you. You can only lose it.
My Job Should Always Make Me Happy
There are all sorts of clichés that deal with being satisfied: "the grass is always greener on the other side" is the one that comes to mind first. But, as the pessimist said, it's only greener because they're laying more fertilizer over there. The point is, contentment isn't found in always getting what we want but in always being satisfied with what we have. Sometimes, it isn't your position that makes you happy or unhappy, it's your disposition.
That's not to say that we should never find or take a new job. But, before I ever tell anyone to find a new job, I encourage them to earnestly pray about any decision before they make it. They need to discover what it is that God wants them to do. I remind them that they are at their current job for a reason. They may not know what that reason is, but there is a reason. Of course, God may be directing them elsewhere and that is fine, but they need to spend time seeking God's will before making a move.
Sometimes I meet people who simply work for awful people and they probably should leave, but I'm a big fan of praying for the people you are working for. More importantly, pray for yourself that you would be the person God wants you to be. Positive people are much more likely to turn their ideas into positive behavior. Positive behavior, in turn, does change circumstances, and nearly always for the better.
Steve Scalici is the Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial, a financial planning firm in Stuart, FL. He is co-host of God's Money which can be heard weekdays at www.oneplace.com. He can also be reached at his website www.tcfin.com.