- Baptist Beacon
Labor Day: your work matters
NASHVILLE,TN (BP) – You might or might not be paid for the work you do. You might or might not work outside the home. You might work in a manufacturing industry or you might own your own business. You might wear a uniform or you might wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Nevertheless, when work slips into tedium and routine, I think all of us are prone to ask the question whether what we are doing really matters.
The question, even if it's not directly spoken, is revealed in other ways. We might find it hard to get out of bed on another Monday. Or we might constantly find ourselves clicking on job postings online to find something we deem to be more significant. Or we might apply this short but very relatively word to our occupation -- "just":
I'm just a teacher.
I'm just a mom.
I'm just a cook.
I'm just a salesman.
Does our work really matter? And if the answer is "yes," then are there reasons for that answer that go beyond the scope of a particular vocation? In other words, does our work matter regardless of what our position is? To that end, I can see at least four reasons why your work matters, whether you're a plumber or a preacher, a stay-at-home mom or a go-to-the-office dad:
1. Because God is sovereign.
We tend to think of God as sovereign over big, earth-quaking events like an election or some other world event, but if we believe that God is sovereign, then He is sovereign over both big and small. It is not by chance that you are working in a particular field, at the company where you are, and even in the location where you are. You are there by His design. God has not made an error in judgment or had a lapse in His divine attention.
2. Because we are made in God's image.
Work matters not only because of God's intentionality; it matters because our desire and capacity to do good work is part of what it means to be made in God's image. If you look back to the account of creation, you see God speaking innumerable creatures into existence, but He made only one in His own image. And the first thing He did after uniquely creating man was to give Him a job: "The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it" (Genesis 2:15). Being made in God's image goes well beyond this, but it also includes our work. God did not create us to lounge around; it is His intent for us to engage in work. Indeed, without work we are not living fully in the image of God. So our work matters simply because working is God's design for us as humans.
3. Because work is for your good.
God is using all things, both big and small, for our good, which is to mold us into the image of Jesus. This is His will for us in Christ -- that we are transformed into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:28-30). When we become adults, we spend the majority of our waking hours doing some kind of work. So, then, if God is using all our circumstances for our good and godliness, and we spend the bulk of our time doing work, then our work must also be for our good and godliness. It's through this avenue that we learn the lessons of sanctification like contentment, perseverance, faithfulness, patience and a host of other things. And even if your job is not one you would have chosen for yourself at this point in life, you can be sure that God is using it to make you more like Jesus.
4. Because work is for the good of others.
Work is one of the primary means by which God is exercising His common grace for humanity. Though He might have chosen other means, He has opted to use us to keep the world in order and provide for human flourishing. Consider, for example, what the Lord said to His people when they were exiled into a foreign land: "Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:7). One of the most practical ways we can seek the good of the community around us is by doing good, hard work that others benefit from. Whether you are teaching a class, collecting garbage or plumbing a toilet, you are one of the means of God for the public welfare. That means your work matters.
So you might find yourself living your dream job today. Or you might find yourself in a role you would quite frankly rather be assigned to someone else. But God is sovereign. You are created in His image. He is making you more like Jesus. And He is providing for the good of others through your job. Be faithful, Christian, and work hard in faith. Celebrate the fruit of your labors and give God the glory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of "Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God" and "Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life." He is on Twitter at @_michaelkelley and online at michaelkelley.co, where this article first appeared.