Why do we work?
I’m not really sure if I’ve ever thought about this for more than 10 minutes, after all, work is just so fundamental to our society, the why to work has never really been something I’ve thought about. However, some answers to this question came to mind pretty quickly.
To pay the bills, duh!
To take care of my family.
To ‘treat yo self!’
I think these answers are certainly worth considering, but what does Scripture say?
To Care for God’s Creation
In Genesis 1:26-28, we find a story concerning God’s creation of the earth and humans. When God created humans, he created them to “have dominion… over all the earth,” desiring for us to be fruitful managers over the animals that He created. More than that, God apparently wanted humans to care for the plant life He had given them as well (Genesis 2:15).
Apparently, while we may often despise work and having to labor for something, it is ultimately the very thing we were created to do. We were intended to be productive creatures that put forth effort on this earth to carefully manage the rest of God’s creation. This careful management was to extend from the plant life we take for granted to the coffee beans we take extra good care of. This diligence was to extend from the animals we can’t stand to the pets we love. We were created with a purpose in mind, and how is this purpose fulfilled? Work. And that is an answer as to why we work: to carefully and fruitfully manage God’s creation.
To Care for Others
It should be no surprise that if God created humans with the purpose of carefully managing the rest of His creation through work that He also would want humans to work for the purpose of taking care of other humans. Let’s consider 1Timothy 5:8 and Ephesians 4:28.
1Timothy 5:8 really doesn’t tell us anything too surprising—you need to work to care for your family. The one surprising piece might be the aggressive language involved (if you don’t work to provide for your family, you have denied the faith!) The second passage though is one that I find to be extremely compelling and convicting.
Sometimes we gripe and complain about work. We hate that have to wake up to work, or we hate that we have to stay awake to work. We hate the wages we get. We are annoyed at our coworkers. We can’t stand our boss. Yet, amidst the complaints we may have about our jobs is a reason to be glad:
through our work we have the opportunity help those who are in need.
Better yet, we are supposed to work with the intention of not serving self but serving those who are in need! I find this to be a radically different way to think about working than the mindset that produces all the complaints about work:
Our job is itself an expression of how we love our neighbor as ourselves.
After all, it is through our jobs that we acquire the means to care, not simply for our own family, but all who are in need. I think that most of my life I was aware of the purpose of working to care for my family, but that additional purpose of caring for those in need was really lost to me. (At the same time though, it just seems so obvious!)
So, my encouragement to each of you as you think about your (potential) jobs and the financial (in)stability around us is simple: contemplate on the reason you are going to go to work. In a world where everyone is out to serve themselves, and in a world where people don’t think about the needs of people who are not their relatives, let us choose to work with the intentions God has in mind for us. Let’s choose to work for the purpose of carefully and wisely managing God’s creation. Let’s choose to work to meet the needs of our neighbors who are without jobs, without support, or without hope of financial security. Let’s choose to serve.