Why do we work?

Work is not meant to be a bad thing in our lives. It is not the punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. In fact, work is a God-given, good thing for men and women. The first three chapters of Genesis show a lot of work. God created for six days, and then purposefully rested. He put Adam in the garden “to work it and take care of it.” Work only became painful, frustrating, and troublesome in Genesis 3 – it is the “painful toil” of work that is the punishment for Adam’s sin, not the work itself.

But even if we know that work is good and purposeful, we are still often frustrated because it is hard. As humans, we are tempted to want everything to be easy, safe, comfortable, and leisurely. But rest is only truly satisfying if it comes at the end of good, real, hard work. God did not rest on Day 1 of his work creating, he rested at the conclusion, on Day 7. So how do we handle the frustrations of work? Here are three suggestions to make work worthwhile.

  1. Read Colossians 3 and think about your attitude at work. No matter where you work – at home, at your dream job, at three part-time jobs trying to make ends meet, or in volunteer work – your attitude and your kindness How do you treat people at your workplace? How is your attitude on your drive to work, or coming home from work? There may be areas where you need to challenge yourself to grow.
  2. Remember that perseverance glorifies God and has a purpose. You may be suffering as you look for a job, or suffering through a job that you can barely stand. But Romans 5 tells us that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character. Giving in to hopelessness about work does not glorify God, and it’s no fun for you or the people who love you. So instead, focus on the good things around you, on loving other people, and continuing to strive for the dreams or goals that God has placed on your heart. God will use this period of suffering or frustration for good purposes.
  3. Understand the true definition of success. If you are a Christian, “success” is not defined by money, possessions, prestige, or leisure. Instead, it is defined by God. What is your gut reaction to “success”? How close is it to the American Dream versus God’s plan? Matthew 6:19-34 provides a clear description for success: store up treasures in heaven (not on earth); choose between serving God or serving money; do not worry about possessions or even your basic needs, but instead focus on God’s kingdom and his righteousness. If you can pay the bills, stay loyal to God, and show other people love, then you have a very successful job, and it is a gift from God.

It is all right to struggle in your work, but please do not struggle alone. Talk to trusted friends. Use the internet to build skills that may lead you to a more enjoyable job. Read books that challenge you and help you to grow. You may find that counseling is helpful, to identify career options and help during transitions or struggle in life. But above all, trust God, and let him be glorified in your work.

There are many resources available to dive further into the world of work. Here are a few ideas: