“I hate my job” is a fairly common complaint. Many people confuse their frustration with the thing they do with a dislike of work itself. Some escape into dreams of a life where they do nothing, have no responsibilities, and meet no one’s expectations. God created us to create, to serve a purpose, to work. Making order out of chaos, wherever that may be, is a gift He has given to us. Some of you are rolling your eyes in disbelief, aren’t you? A person I knew grew more and more frustrated by his occupation and longed for the day when he could turn in his keys. Finally that day came and he was overjoyed. Six months later he was bored and miserable. “Doing nothing” was not what he thought it would be and he started a whole new life at age 65, built around serving the needs of other people. He became joyful again when he accepted God’s gift of purpose!
Did you know that work existed in the Garden of Eden? “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV) The story of Creation and the paradise that existed before sin entered the world includes a reference to living with purpose. Those opening chapters in the Bible go on to tell of Adam and Eve making the choice to disobey their Creator. Their sin turned work into labor, disconnected effort from result. Adam heard these awful words which we understand in the context of our lives to this day – “All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.” (Genesis 3:17)
Despite the frustration of missed expectations and failure, there is a special kind of joy found in completing a task. Yesterday I toiled for 2 hours in my yard and looked over the results of my efforts with satisfaction even though I knew full week the grass would require mowing in a few days and that the weeds would grow again. Ask a craftsman how he feels when he completes a project. Talk with a chef who makes a meal that brings appreciation from those who eat it. Yes, that desire to make a difference that God put in us is still there.
Some of you are still skeptics about the value of work! “Jerry, if you had to go to work where I spend each day, you would share my feelings.” True enough. Some of labor in miserable situations. Others work for people who are tyrants. Many of us never feel valued or get to see how our job connects to the finished work at the end of the assembly line. The curse of Genesis 3 is all too real for many.
Still, Christian, there is a place for work and God’s gift of purpose is yours to receive. How?
Work to please God! “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:7-8, NIV) The words are in the context of slavery of the first century, but the principle applies to us. Most of the labor in Paul’s time was done by people who were not free to choose, who were servants. Those servants were coming to Christ and some thought that their new-found spiritual freedom also released them from work. The Spirit’s wisdom was that their work mattered to God! Even if no man appreciated what they did, God saw and would reward their diligence. Will you believe that and take a new attitude to work today?
The best rewards will come from a Higher Master! Jesus told a story of three servants who were given money to use on behalf of their Master. One received five shares, one two shares, and one just one share. Each one received what he could faithfully manage. The first two worked diligently and doubled their shares. When the master returned they were commended and rewarded. “‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ ” (Matthew 25:21, The Message) The servant with one share did nothing! And the rebuke that came his way is nothing short of terrifying. “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?” (Matthew 25:26, The Message) “Throw him out into utter darkness.’” (Matthew 25:30, The Message)
The Lord does care about you and how you live. Your life is an investment. Your situation is well known to Him. Seek His purpose, today, where you are.
Here is a word from the Word. May it give you encouragement to live ‘on purpose.’ “So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:15-17, NLT)