This blog post will look a little different than most.
That’s because it’s my homework assignment. For the past six weeks, I’ve been engaged in a leadership course for The Orchard Network (if you’ve not heard about it, check it out), focusing on doctrine, life and skills according to the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our second session last week was on work. That’s right. Work. That thing we find ourselves occupied with for the majority of our days, weeks, months and years. That labor we put forth when we’re not at home, being social (though work can be social!), serving in church, or interacting elsewhere.
The session was simply titled “Work Matters.”
I will seek to respond to three “homework” questions, while also phrasing them for you, so that you can equally get thinking about the work God has you doing.
[Before drawing out these conclusions, I write down what is perhaps most glaringly obvious, whether a person is a believer or not: Work must be significant because of the amount of time and energy it demands. By its very nature it should make us curious as to why it’s so all-encompassing, and how we can make the most of it. Read on.]
The three questions are:
How can I reflect in my work that I’m made in the image of God?
• Where are you creating and inventing? My work as a Content Strategist and Manager is extremely creative–literally! I’m constantly designing graphics, writing, brainstorming ideas and content, planning marketing campaigns, and dreaming about how things could look on the web.
While it’s quite easy for me to see how my work is creative, I’d imagine some of you reading this are scratching your heads. Perhaps you don’t feel like your work is creative at all. But any time you innovate and find a new way to make a process more effective, whether its teaching your children obedience in a fresh way or helping a customer determine the most delicious combination for their dinner order, you are exercising the creativity of the Creator. If this isn’t clear to you right now, ask God to help you see where you are bearing his image in this way.
• Where are you bringing what was once formless into order? Because my job did not exist prior to my hiring, everything was new at first. There was a boatload of vision to dive into, a job description to understand and expound upon, and a never-before-established pattern of work to execute every week. And what I’ve come to realize is that no two weeks look the same, so God is giving me the chance to consistently bring tasks and projects into order.
What about you? How are you bringing what was once formless into order through your work? Another way to think about this is, “What problems are you solving?” Problems or obstacles often present themselves as disorder, meaning they need to be brought into an organized manner. Just as God took formless space and transformed it into earthly order with purpose, so he gives us the opportunity to take what may seem isolated or without purpose and creatively transform it into mission and purpose. I think about the IT worker our ministry hires and how much disorder he must order for our team each month! I would have no idea how to begin doing what he does, but God has given him a special ability to order technology. Amazing.
• Where are you exercising dominion and subduing the effects of the Fall? Boy, have I struggled this season with not growing discouraged or lazy or confused in my work. When I heard this question last week, it was like an enormously heavy burden was lifted from my tired shoulders as I realized I wasn’t making up my frustrations with work. Sin, as a power in our human nature brought about by the Fall, affects the way I view my work. I compels me to complain, begrudge, grow weary, lose heart, and get distracted. But in Christ, I have the power and authority to subdue the power of sin and take charge over my work! Every time I choose to stay focused; every time I make the most of my hours by organizing my day on paper; every time I honor my lunch break to fill my stomach and clear my head; every time I finish a project with excellence, I am crucifying sin to the cross and exercising the power of Christ, who lives in me!
How does this bring you help and freedom today? Don’t lie to yourself; you know you struggle with those days when the fluffy comforter and good book call your name, tempting you to shirk your work. Admit it; it’s freeing! Those who are in Christ are covered by his righteousness, so you have no need to fear God’s wrath. You need only to ask him to help you subdue sin while you work; it will be his great pleasure to help you because only his authority has power to prevail over it!
How can I love my neighbor at work?
• How are you creating jobs? I manage, write for, and edit a blog at my workplace. I’d say that’s the main place I’m “creating jobs” in the sense that I’m recruiting writers, asking them for material, and giving them a platform on which to display their gifts and words.
I automatically thought, “This doesn’t apply to me; I’m not an entrepreneur,” when I heard this question. But it does apply to me. And my guess is that it applies to you, too, somehow. You may not be paying someone or hiring someone to work for you, but think outside the box. Maybe you’re currently out of work and searching for a new job. By pouring your energies into resume submissions, interviews, and networking, you’re creating a job for yourself in two ways: by richly filling your time with diligent job searching to God’s glory, and by possibly getting yourself hired somewhere. That’s incredibly encouraging!
• How are you helping your co-workers? I’m currently training a new co-worker on all our web platforms and social media, so that’s the most obvious way I see myself helping. I hope that I’m helping, too, each time I ask my co-workers how they’re doing, or by answering their questions with patience and kindness. This is one area I definitely want to grow in because of how easily I grip too tightly onto “my schedule” and get stressed over “interruptions.” (Sometimes, interruptions are God’s way of redirecting us and getting our attention.)
How are you bearing the fruit of kindness and goodness towards your co-workers? I think we can all ponder some ways we’d like to grow in this area.
• How are you providing needed, helpful, and excellent goods and services for others? My personal mission statement at work is “to provide excellent, solid, biblical content across the web to help people see more clearly how God’s truth shapes all of life.” So the majority of what I produce is web content, and I want it to be excellent, compelling, invigorating, convicting, joy-producing, and illustrative of Christ Jesus.
I love this question because it so clearly extends into every arena of work. How are you providing through your work? What are you providing? If you’re a teacher, man alive, you’re providing an educational future and a solid foundation of textbook knowledge and life experience to your students. If you’re a care-taker, a doctor, a nurse, or similar, you are providing what so many of us never could in healthcare and wellness; we praise God you endured decades of schooling to provide what you do!
How can I reflect Christ?
This part of the talk centered on Romans 8 and Revelation 21. Christ will comes on the clouds with glory and power to make all things new! In this way, our work reflects Jesus’ mission. We have an opportunity to create, bring order, show kindness, produce new materials/courses/medical journals/disciplines/etc. In all of these things, we reflect Christ.
“Work will be a platform for evangelism when work is more than a platform for evangelism.” This struck me deeply because, before working in Christian ministry, I often asked myself how I could grow in my boldness for evangelism at work. This is not a wrong question, but our speaker pointed out that it must not be the first question we ask. We should be asking, “How can I reflect Christ at work?” In everything I do, not just those moments when I’m talking about church or starting a conversation about faith. Our credibility for the gospel stands on our credibility in all other aspects of our work. And if we’re not subduing the effects of the fall — if we are lazy and scattered and are not producing excellent work — our witness for Christ will be tainted at best and shattered at worst.
Christ will make all things new; this is a promise. So, brothers and sisters, let’s strive to do just that in our work, to the best of our human ability being girded by Jesus’ mighty power.
Let’s live like our work matters. Because it does.