9/26/2008

Satisfaction in Work

A Christian Perspective on Work, Part 2

I am looking for your help in creating a “Christian perspective on work.” This is different from creating a “Christian ethic in the workplace.” The discussion on “Christian Work” usually starts and ends with ethics. However, while Christians are to be ethical in every aspect of life (exemplifying honesty, integrity, love and excellence as we work but also as we play, as we do our taxes and also as we care for our families, as we interact with people and also as we live in our private lives), we need to look at work in a much more specific manner. What is work? How does it reflect God? How are we to glorify God in work? How are we to understand calling or vocation? These are the deeper issues that I’m trying to deal with here.

In my last post, I stated that God is a worker, and since we are created in the image of God, we too are intrinsically workers. But, contrary to our normal thinking, work is meant to be enjoyable and satisfying! We are meant to find pleasure in our work.

Think for a moment about the character of God. He works, not because he has to, but because he wants to. God works, and finds pleasure in it.

As we read the beautiful poetry of the Creation that opens the book of Genesis, we hear the repeated refrain at the end of each day: "God saw that it was good." And then when he finished, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). You hear in those words the satisfaction God has in the work he has accomplished. Psalm 104 proclaims, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works.”

God continues to work in sustaining the whole universe. The Apostle Paul explains that “all things were created by him (Christ) and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together(Colossians 1:16-17). God is not sitting idle, letting things go as they go. H. C. G. Moule wrote, “He keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos.”

And God’s greatest work is the redemption that comes through Christ. And God takes great pleasure in this work! We read in Ephesians, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace… With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (Ephesians 1:5-6, 8-9).

At the end of a long day of doing lawn work—mowing, weeding, doing the mulch, trimming the hedges, edging the flower gardens, cutting down dead tree branches—I love to sit on my back patio with a cold lemonade and look at the work of my hands. “Ahhhh… This is satisfying!” I am proud of my work. I see all that I’ve done, and it is good.

We are created in the image of this working God – the God who finds satisfaction and pleasure in creating, sustaining and redeeming. When I think about this, it brings a smile to my face. No wonder I like to create (I love to write, to draw, to come up with new ideas for ministry); no wonder I like to sustain (I love to take something somebody already has made and work with it, tweaking it, modifying it, maybe even improving it); no wonder I like to take part in redemption (I am highly motivated to bring about justice and shalom in the world around me, I love to see somebody meet Christ for the first time, I enjoy helping a person begin to realize their God-given potential).

What about you? As an image-bearer of the Triune God, how do you reflect the God who enjoys and finds satisfaction in work?


A Christian Perspective on Work:
Part 1: The Imago Dei and God the Worker
Part 2: Satisfaction in Work
Part 3: God Provides Through Our Work
Part 4: Work in Community for Community

1 comment:

Mark Goodyear said...

Man, I need to mow my yard...

Seriously, though, you are raising a big issue for us. David Miller talks about the four ways Christians talk about faith and work in his book God at Work. It's pretty academic, but full of great ideas.

Miller says work gets approached from four directions:

Ethics like you mentioned here is one of the most common.

Evangelism which was very popular in the 1990s and seems to be the main way churches think about work.

Experience is how Miller categories organizations that focus on "questions of vocation, calling, meaning, and purpose in and through their marketplace professions."

Finally, Enrichment is an approach where people talk about how to bring God's power into the workplace as a source of healing.

Of course, we all use some of each approach when we think about faith and work. I'm guessing you'd be in that third camp mainly--which is where I find myself.