Whether our work is done at home or out in the community, as volunteers or for a paycheck, an essential question has to do with how faith relates to our work.
Currently, there is a global, emotional crisis related to work. Most people in the world deeply dislike their work. One Gallup poll revealed that more than anything, what the world wants is a good job—more than food, shelter, safety and peace—a good job. And yet, as another poll revealed, a full 87% of workers are disengaged from and miserable in their jobs.
In the movie, Office Space, the main character, Peter, visits a hypnotherapist to help him with his lack of motivation and disdain toward his mid-level job. In that meeting, he says the following:
“So I was sitting in my cubicle today and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s the worst day of my life…I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual work.”
Though intended to get a laugh, these words hit home for a lot of us. Our work doesn’t feel meaningful but because our perspective about work lacks a biblical imagination. Dorothy Sayers says that the church is largely at fault for this crisis. According to Ms. Sayers, rather than foster a robust vocational imagination in its people, the church has allowed work and religion to become separate departments.
Assuming she is correct and all work is God’s work, what is the way forward?
The Reason for Work
We need to work because work is in our blood. As carriers of the divine imprint, as bearers of the image of God, we are by nature vocational beings.
Have you ever considered that the very first thing God reveals about himself in the Bible is that he, God, is a worker? “In the beginning, God created…” That’s right. God, the Maker of all things, put his hands in the dirt. He started by creating water, earth and sky, all designed as hospitable spaces for life. Then came the plants, the land creatures, the birds, the fish, and they the crown of his creation—man and woman. Then, at the end of his work, God looked at everything he had made and called it very good (Genesis 1:1-31).
But work did not stop with God. After creating everything, God put Adam and Eve in his garden and told them to work it and tend to it, to cultivate it…to make culture as they exercise dominion on God’s behalf over the world God had made (Genesis 2:15).
Tim Keller is fond of saying that history began in a garden and ends in a city. In Genesis, the first chapters of history past, everything starts in Eden, the garden of God’s delight. In Revelation, the final chapters of history future, everything will culminate in a New Heaven and New Earth, also referred to as the New Jerusalem—the Holy City of God (Revelation 21:1-2).