Over the past two weeks I’ve been making the case that work wasn’t the result of the fall – a curse that has fallen on humanity that we can only hope to escape one day. No, in fact, we were made for work. I would even make the case that we will work in heaven (free from the effects of the fall). That is a gift!
Today, I would like to get practical by offering biblical wisdom regarding work for a few specific groups of people. Those groups are students, stay at home moms and dads, those who don’t like their job, those who love their job, and retirees.
Even though you’re not paid, you do have a job right now. You do have dominion. That dominion is being a student and taking care of your home with your parents. Don’t neglect your job. There isn’t an opt-in age for dominion, meaning we can all contribute, no matter how old we are. For the youngest, that might just mean helping to put away toys and empty the dishwasher. Even a toddler has dominion and is called to exercise it faithfully. For older students, lean into your dominion. Take more, not less responsibility at home. If you have a part time job, great! Treat it like it’s your career.
No matter what your task is, you are ultimately working for God, not your parents.
Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Cleaning your room? That’s dominion. Do it for the Lord! Picking up dog poop? Dominion. Do it for the Lord! The dishes? That’s your dominion. Own it. Do it for the Lord! Schoolwork? Dominion. Do it for the Lord!
“But what about my career (future)?” you might ask. Often, the advice that is given to students is to follow your dreams and passions. That is half-true. If those dreams and passions are good and holy, it is very likely that God is calling you to exercise dominion in that area in some way in your life.[i] If you love art, develop as an artist. If you love football, be the best football player you can be.
Even more so, find passion in whatever you do. Passion is a terrible master, but a good servant. Steward well the education God is calling you to have dominion over. Expand what those areas of dominion look like in your life. It’s likely that one of those areas become your paid vocation one day.
God often calls us to paid vocations that are secondary areas of passion. For example, you might be gifted and have a passion for acting or for art, therefore God probably has an area he is going to call you into to exercise that dominion as an adult. In fact, often adults stop enjoying art and athletics. We shouldn’t! Those are areas God calls us to steward, even when we’re not getting a pay check for them. After all, we’re going to be using those gifts in eternity.
However, statistically speaking, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll be paid to be a nurse or an engineer than an artist or an athlete. And that’s okay. Keep developing the gifts God has given you and keep an open mind about what God might have your paid vocation. God develops perseverance and holiness in us as we serve a need for dominion on this earth.
For stay at home moms and dads:
What I have to say to you is very simple: you are absolutely doing dominion. Regardless of a paycheck, what you are doing is work. You are doing some of the hardest, most meaningful work there is: parenting. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Thank you for doing one of the hardest and most unthanked job in the world. Thank you!
For those who struggle with their job:
First, be encouraged. Know that just by working, you are fulfilling God’s good purpose in your life. Continue working hard. Paul exhorts the church at Thessalonica this way: “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”[ii]
God calls us to work, even when we don’t enjoy it. Blessed are those who work faithfully even when it is hard!
Second, find your purpose in what you are doing. I know firsthand that it can be difficult to see God’s productive purposes in your work. There are, of course, some jobs, that Christians just shouldn’t do, because they don’t serve a redeemable purpose. However, a vast majority of jobs serve a meaningful and God-honoring purpose.
It was hard to go to work when I was a Detention Officer. It is a thankless, hard, and dangerous job. Even then, I found that it has a holy purpose. More than protecting the public from inmates, your first job as a Detention Officer is to protect inmates from other inmates. As a Christian, we are called to treat every inmate as one who bears the image of God. We are called to respect and even love every human being. That truth anchored my purpose in my time as a Detention Officer.
For those who love their job:
I’m so grateful that I can now be counted in this group. Yet danger still lurks for us.
Friends, you were made to work, but you are more than your work. Your identity is as a child of Christ. Christ has done the work for us. On the cross, Christ proclaimed “It is finished!” Those words speak to the finality of our salvation, yes, but even more than that; it speaks also to the work God will use us to do.
Paul says these words of hope about not only our salvation, but our work in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Is work part of our call? Absolutely. But grace comes first, work is actually God’s grace to us. You are, first and foremost, a child of God. Purchased by the blood of Jesus, adopted by him. That is not a result of anything you’ve done. And the works too are prepared beforehand by God for us and given to us as a grace of God to walk into.
Get your identity right. You are a child, not an indentured servant paying back your master. He has freely given you the gift of your adoption. Don’t be anxious. Don’t work as the world works.
For those who are retired:
Just because you’ve hit 65 doesn’t mean that God’s intention for you to have dominion has expired. While retirement can be a great and beautiful thing, it can also be deadly. Recent studies show that those over 65 spend nearly twice as much time in front of a screen than those under 50.[iii] There is nothing wrong with TV, but we need a purpose bigger than our TV’s. What is your purpose right now? What is your plan for today?
One of the most significant engines of ministry at New Life are retirees who know exactly what their purpose is, and, in turn, pour themselves out in the good works that God has prepared beforehand for them. God calls you to partner with him and find a place where he is working and where your gifts lie.
Finish strong. Live out God’s purpose for your dominion. This is the time to pour out your wisdom, not slouch into the sunset.
God has made us for dominion.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
When the world looks at Christians, they should be astonished to find that Christians are the hardest working, most cheerful workers there are. We are called to embody the values of the companies we work for, we are called to go the extra mile and wow every employer.
God has made us for work: let us work as he has called us with the passion we can bring with us.
[i] Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs” has some great things to say about this. His TED talk is here: https://www.ted.com/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs#t-572671
[ii] 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12