Editor’s note: This is the third of four articles by Bob Thune on “A Theology of Work.” Read the others:
Work is what we were created for. It is part of God’s good design. But when sin entered the picture, work was cursed.
Then to Adam [God] said . . .
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground . . . (Genesis 3:17-19)
Because of the Fall, work is hard. Work involves sweat and toil, thorns and thistles. Or, if you prefer, work involves stress and overtime and belligerent bosses and mundane meetings. Not everything in the world of work is as it should be. Work has been cursed. But work is still good.
It’s important that we see both the goodness of work in God’s original creation and the struggle of work under the Fall. If we only see the good, we’ll be frustrated when things don’t go as they should. If we only see the bad, we’ll have a hard time doing our work to the glory of God. Work is not all good, and it’s not all bad. It is part of God’s good creation, which has been tainted by the Fall. And God is at work to redeem work.
Romans 8:20-21 says, “The creation was subjected to frustration . . . in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Through us, God is after the renewal of creation. Grace doesn’t just change our eternal destiny. It changes our whole worldview, our entire basis for living, the grid through which we see the world. Redemption affects every part of us. And through us, God’s redemption is extended into the world around us.
So redemption in Christ must transform our view of work. No longer is work a necessary evil. It is now a calling. Work now has great spiritual significance, because it is a chance for God to be glorified. Remember 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A similar command is given in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” When you show up at your job, you’re there for the glory of God. God wants to be honored in what you do and in how you do it.
What are some ways that God can be glorified in our work? Consider these biblical ideas:
- God is glorified when we put our whole selves into our work, with a view toward pleasing God, not men (Col. 3:23-24).
- God is glorified when we are honest, even when it hurts us or prevents us from getting ahead (Ps. 15, Gen. 39).
- God is glorified when we honor our superiors and submit to their authority (1 Tim. 6:1; Rom. 13:7).
- God is glorified when we treat our work associates with kindness and respect (Luke 6:31; Rom. 12:18).
- God is glorified when we expose fraud or dishonesty or unethical behavior (Eph. 5:11-13).
- God is glorified when we approach our work prayerfully (1 Thess. 5:17).
- God is glorified when we avoid complaining or grumbling, even in less-than-ideal work situations (Phil. 2:14-15).
- God is glorified when we refuse to make work and money our idols (Matt. 6:24; Ecc. 5:10-12).
- God is glorified when we plan diligently for the future (Prov. 21:5).
- God is glorified when we live simply and give generously (Prov. 22:9; 1 Tim. 6:17-19).
- God is glorified when we trust him to provide today what we need for today (Matt. 6:11).
- God is glorified when we rest from work (Deut. 5:13-15; Ps. 46:10).
In all these ways and many more, we can do our work to the glory of God.
Bob Thune is the lead pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He planted Coram Deo in 2005 after prior stints as a megachurch college pastor and a Campus Crusade staff member. Thune is also the co-author of The Gospel-Centered Life, a small-group curriculum that has sold more than 40,000 copies and helped Christians all over the world understand the centrality of the gospel in all of life.