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8th May 2016
Work is such an important part of many of our lives. It may fill you with dread, or maybe you aren't able to work at the moment, or you're retired, but there are principles we can apply from Ephesians 6:5-9, whatever our situations.
Our attitudes to work are shaped by many things, such as our upbringing, our biblical understanding, our experiences. My parents had a very strong work ethic, so I was taught at an early age that I would need to work, to provide for my family, to work hard.
We worship a God who works. In Genesis 1 and 2 we read about God working and the pause that was built into His work rhythm. God wasn't tired, but He took time to enjoy His work. God sets the pattern for us that work is not supposed to be all-consuming, but we're to take time to stand back and rest and look at what we've done.
God created us to work. Even before the Fall, work was part of life. It's not something to be endured, but to be enjoyed.
John Stott puts it like this: "Work is not a result of the fall, to be endured until we get to the new heaven and the new earth. Work is a creative activity that is a reflection of the creative work that our Father does."
But we read in Genesis 3:17 that, as a result of the Fall, work was spoiled and became hard. So there is a frustration and a challenge that comes with work now, but at its heart work is still something that we were created to do. We work because we have been created in the image of a creator God who works too.
Works brings many benefits to us. It's a means of earning money and providing for our families. Earning and creating wealth is not inherently bad. When we talk about creative roles, some of the most creative are those business people who had an idea, developed it, creating wealth for themselves but also jobs for many and contributed to society. So work is very important in the provision of our daily needs, but we must not let chasing after greater and greater rewards trap us in a job that has other negative effects.
There is a benefit to society that comes from the work that we do. It's important to have a right perspective on the work we're doing and the contribution we're making. For example, you can see yourself as a BT engineer who's sorting out wiring problems where someone has messed up, or you can see yourself as a BT engineer who's helping a family to have a reliable internet connection for their kids who need it to study and keep in contact with their relative on the other side of the world.
Work can become a negative area in our lives for many reasons. These can be related to our attitude to work, our dissatisfaction with work, the impact of work stress on us or the absence of work. Clearly the first thing is to try to make sure that our heart attitude is a right and godly one. But there may need to be other responses as well. We need to recognise that our self-worth comes not from success in the work we do, but from the fact that we are sons or daughters of the King of kings.
Perhaps you can’t find work or are physically unable to work as you used to. My encouragement to you is, as the Bible says, “don’t be idle”. Think about what you can do, which may mean getting involved in something on a voluntary basis. Remember that work is an inherent part of who we were created to be, and ask God to help you find a way of working that out.
In Ephesians 6:5-9 the apostle Paul writes about slaves and masters. This is in no way condoning the type of slavery that forces people into prostitution or labour. It wasn't written in that context. It does have some work-related principles that can help us.
The first principle is about accepting authority, which doesn't mean we don't question or try to influence, but that we still function under the authority of those senior to us.
The second principle is about working wholeheartedly, and not just when someone's looking. We are called to be imitators of Jesus, with integrity and diligence, working hard, not gossiping, not back-biting. We should be exemplary in the way we do our work. We should not be those taking short cuts, cheating on our time sheets, even easing off when no one is looking.
No, we work for a higher authority. And that's the third principle: we work to please God, not people. We work not just for a pay-check, but for the "well done" from our Father in heaven. Our role is to bring the Kingdom of God into the place where we work.
And if you are the boss, you're to be like Jesus too, working to please your Father in heaven and to reflect Him to those around you in your workplace.
We're made in the image of God and our work is a creative activity that is a reflection of the work that our Father does. Work is designed to bring satisfaction and to serve the community. Paid work enables us to provide for our family needs. We're called not to be idle or lazy, but to be salt and light in our workplaces.
Posted by Steve Young