Work is part of daily life for most people. We use our minds and our muscles to create and contribute to our world.
Work is an essential part of why we were created. In Genesis 2: 15 we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (ESV). This happened before the Fall, where Adam and Eve sinned and received God’s judgement. And this is part of who we were created to be. When God finished creating the world, we are told he “rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2: 3). We are created in the image of God, so we are created – in part – to work. The ideal life is not one without work, but one in which we find joy in our work.
Work became harder after the Fall, after Adam and Eve sinned. Genesis 3: 17 – 19 tells us that work now became more difficult.
“…cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread…”
God also created us to rest. God created us for a regular rhythm of work and rest. He created for six days and then rested on the seventh. All throughout the Old Testament God continued to tell his people, to work for six days, then rest on the seventh.
Many of us work jobs that have shift work that doesn’t line up with a seven-day work week, but we can all make sure to rest when we have our days off. We fulfill our purpose as we keep a rhythm of work and rest.
The New Testament agrees with Genesis: we are created to work. Ephesians 2: 10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. When we come to faith in Jesus, he works in us to do good works. There is no instruction about what these exact works are to look like or how we are to go about them. Instead, we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatever we do, whether we are working or taking a day off, whether we are spending time with friends or attending a church service, we are to do everything we do for the glory of God!
Like most of life, how we handle work requires balance. On one extreme is the lazy worker, the one who slacks off as soon as the boss walks away. This is the one who takes extra long breaks and helps himself to supplies from the shop for his own projects at home. This is the worker who does whatever he can to keep his contribution to the company to a minimum. If this is you, then you have some serious questions to ask yourself. How are you reflecting the creator in your work? How are you doing your work for the glory of God?
On the other extreme is the workaholic. This is the one who prides himself in how many hours he has put in this week. I have heard pastors boast about how many hours they work each week, as if this makes them extra special. Or maybe they feel this shows how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to serve the church. Sacrificing your energy, time with your spouse and your family, or even time with God is not a sacrifice that God is going to be impressed with. Boasting about how many years you have gone without a holiday does not make you a good worker in God’s eyes. Where is the balance of work and rest? Where is the understanding that work is one priority in your life, not the main one. How many, men especially, have poured their lives into their work and had no time and energy to pour into their kids at home? Sometimes we may find ourselves in a situation in which we need to work more hours than allows for a good balance, whether this is due to financial stress, busy events or seasons at work, or many other life circumstances. However, if you choose to work beyond what leads to a healthy life for you and your family, it is likely time to re-evaluate your priorities.
In the middle is the balance we are all trying to find. Putting in a good day’s work and having time to love and play with your family is ideal. Christians should always do good work. We should be able to echo the evaluation of God at the end of Creation: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31). We should be proud of our efforts at work, and what our effort accomplishes. And we should be proud of the time we have to pour into our family and what those efforts accomplish.
I write with the Christian leader in mind. So, Christian leader, how are you doing with your work and rest, and work and family balance? And don’t get caught up in the mindset that we have to work hard for and at the church at the cost of time with family. The father who desires to have a reputation of someone always serving the church needs to balance their efforts at the church with their time with their family as well.
We are created to work, and to rest. May God guide you as you balance your work and the rest of your life.
Keep looking up,