In the beginning, there was work, and it was good.
From the formation of creation, God worked designing the heavens and the earth and all of mankind. God designed man and woman to co-labor in communion with Him, as a holy offering to Him. Long before The Great Fall, there was great work, and it was an act of worship.
The Fall, however, distorted our understanding of work, and it severed our work-worship relationship with God.
Ever since mankind was banished from working the Garden of Eden, Christians have grappled with work. What is its purpose? Does it honor God? How do I find joy in it? But God’s design for work has not waivered; His plan is the same today as it was in the beginning: Our work is a form of worship when done unto Him.
God intends for our work not only to be worshipful but also transformational.
We long to be affirmed that our temporal work here on earth has eternal significance; we yearn to hear “well done good and faithful servant” when we make it to our final destination. Through our work, everything and everyone we touch is changed in some way or another.
We leave enduring inscriptions on the world just by nature of being in it. And as believers, our aim is for as many of these inscriptions as possible to point to Christ.
That holy, deep-seeded desire to work with purpose and for excellence is a virtue written on our hearts, and it has been from the beginning. All work done unto Him is holy. Unfortunately, one of the most common hindrances to engaging in kingdom minded work is we tend to view our work as either sacred or secular.
In a Vocational Leadership course I teach at my university, the majority of my students initially struggle to reconcile the integration of their faith and their work because they see most professions as either sacred and God honoring or secular and public square enhancing.
They believe a professional call to be a pastor or overseas missionary, for example, is sacred, but to be a doctor or lawyer is decidedly more secular. Less surprising but equally concerning, students express doubt for how their professional lives contribute to common good, kingdom work.
How, they wonder, do their summer jobs as baristas, babysitters, or baggers contribute to kingdom purposes?
I understand their concerns, and at times, I experience my own insecurities about whether my vocational call to teach in college classrooms is as significant as another’s call to preach in stadiums.
God, however, does not delineate between sacred and secular work because His plan is for all work to be a manifestation of His sacred love for us. If God is the author of all things, then all work is good, or it is in need of redemption and reconciliation back to goodness.
Either way, it all belongs to Him—all of it!
Early 20th century theologian Abraham Kuyper wrote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
In other words, whether you are a missionary or a mother, a preacher or a painter, work done unto Him is His indeed.
Scripture also affirms the work-worship relationship. For example, Colossians 3:23 encourages us to do all things with excellence as if working for the Lord; Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to find joy in our labor; and Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 reminds us that work done apart from Him is meaningless.
The Fall disfigured the beauty of our work-worship relationship with the Lord, and it tainted the joy the Lord intends for us to derive from our vocations. But through our vocations— our God-given strengths, talents, and callings, He extends an invitation to co-labor with Him, unto Him.
Our work is worship. Our work is transformative. Work done well and with joy is arguably our greatest testament to the world of the Lord’s goodness to us and our love for Him.