The Origin of Work

Here is a devotional from the Lead Like Jesus group, for April 20, 2018.

From the world’s perspective, work is often viewed as a curse, something to get done so that we can get on to relaxing and having fun. In contrast, from God’s perspective, work is a gift that reflects His creativity and energy and life-giving nature. By inviting us to join Him in His work of caring for creation in all its facets, God gave human beings purpose and significance and an opportunity to experience the satisfaction He experienced in creation. What work has God given you to do?

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. — Genesis 2:15

Prayer: Creator God, giver of every good gift and the one who orders the days of our lives, thank You for inviting me into the work of caring for the world You created. Whatever You have given me to do, may I do it to honor You and join You in what You are doing. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Purpose of Work

Many men feel that working is part of the curse, going all the back to Adam getting thrown out of the garden (Genesis 3:17, 18-19) but notice that Adam was commanded to work in the garden before the fall, when the world was still a paradise (Genesis 2:15).

They say that man has three basic needs in life: love, purpose and significance. Many times, humans attempt to find purpose and significance in work itself. In Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, Solomon details his search for meaning in a variety of projects and works of all kinds. Even though the work brought some degree of satisfaction in accomplishment, his conclusion was: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

The fact is, the curse made work laborious and difficult (which is what we often experience every day). But work is a blessed activity and the desired goal of work is found in this verse:

“So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here! No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28)

“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:28).

Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

So, why work? This brief video explains the real purpose of why we work…

Other biblical principles regarding work are:

  • Work is done not only to benefit the worker, but also for others (Exodus 23:10-11, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Ephesians 4:28).
  • Work is a gift from God and, for His people, will be blessed (Psalm 104:1-35, 127:1-5, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, 5:18-20, Proverbs 14:23).
  • God equips His people for their work (Exodus 31:2-11).

The Christian attitude toward work should be like Jesus: “My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Work is of no value except when God is in it.

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Labor Alone Will Not Satisfy

Work is a noble thing for a man to do. Some feel that working is a part of the curse that God pronounced after the first couple sinned in the Garden of Eden, but it is clear that man was to work the garden long before Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 2:15). So when did work actually become laborious?

“All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 6:7 NKJV).

We work to support our families, to eat, to enjoy life, yet the Bible says that these things will not satisfy the soul of a man. Think about how often men will identify themselves, and measure their worth, by what they do. Remember those weird introductions at parties? So, how would you feel about yourself if your job was removed from you tomorrow? Let’s imagine that your income wouldn’t change, just what you did everyday. How long will it take for life to become laborious and unsatisfactory?

One of the schemes that our enemy uses is to get men to view their value solely based on the type of work they do and how well they do it. This is performance-based acceptance. It says “As long as I have a good job and I do it well, I have self-esteem and people will think I’m valuable.”

This is a “slippery slope” and can be used by Satan to keep our focus on our performance rather than having a focus on Christ and his mission in the world. We are a part of that mission. We are never to find our value in our livelihood. Instead, our value is solely based on who we are in Christ. Paul wrestled with this after he came to faith in Christ. He had made it to the top of his field as a Jewish leader.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (Phil 3:4-9).

You’ll never really know how much your self-esteem is rooted in your work until your work is taken away. Unemployment, illness, or a financial crisis can lead to job loss, but our self-esteem is based on our faith in Christ; it is more valuable to know whose we are than who we are. Work will never satisfy the deep longings of our heart.

Why not evaluate where you are in this area of your life. Affirm with God your desire to be known by Who you know rather than what you do.

We are not meeting this Saturday due to the Youth Evangelism Conference, but will get together next week on Saturday January 23 at 7:30 am.

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