By Leah Lundquist, Bethel Seminary St. Paul
I often wonder why I go to work. The answer is usually to pay the bills. I’ve been in a “fog” when it comes to my job. I’m an IT intern for a health insurance company. I often dread going to work. I dislike waking up early to sit in traffic for hours. I dislike the amount of complaints I receive through email. I do not have much human contact throughout the day. And if I do talk to someone, it is usually a negative experience. This fog has really affected my life. My work feels meaningless. I often question if what I’m doing is making a difference in our world. I don’t feel like myself.
I recently read Tom Nelson’s Work Matters and it has opened my eyes to why I work.
Created with Work in Mind
I’ve always viewed work as a task I have to do in order to pay the bills. If I had to imagine what my “perfect paradise” would be, I would not imagine myself working at my desk. I would instead imagine myself on the beach, relaxing in the sun. But when God designed his perfect paradise for us, he included work. We can see this laid out in Genesis.
The very first line of Scripture states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God was hard at work in creating this world. We can see in 1 Genesis that he is a thoughtful, active, and creative worker. God takes his time to make sure all his creation is good in his eyes. He is diligent in his work. And then God decided to create man. According to Tom Nelson, when God decided to create humankind, he placed “a distinguishing stamp of uniqueness (20)”. He wanted to make us stand out from the rest of his creation. One uniqueness that God gave humans was that he created us in his image. To bear God’s image means we were designed to reflect God’s glory (Nelson 21). It would make sense then that if we are image-bearers of God that we too should be diligent workers. We should work because we bear the image of One who works (Nelson 22).
Not only did God design humans in his imagine but he also wanted us to enjoy work. In Genesis 2, we see that God has created Adam (and eventually Eve) and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God wanted them to work in this garden together. “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).” In Genesis 2, we are presented with a delightful picture of how God originally designed work to be. According to Tom Nelson, God’s paradise for Adam and Eve was to work in this pristine garden context while finding fulfillment in a joyful and intimate relationship with God and each other (36). God originally designed work to be an enjoyable experience, not a frustrating pain.
In Genesis 3, we see how the Fall has affected this idea of work. We are shown what work looks like in a sin-ravaged world (Nelson 36). Adam and Eve were tricked by the serpent and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By doing this, they have rebelled against God and they will be punished. God tells Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life (Genesis 3:17).” Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden. Paradise is lost and sin wrecks a devastating effect on humans, including their work (Nelson 36). According to Tom Nelson, “In this broken world, God’s original design for our work has been badly corrupted, and we feel it in the depths of our being every day (37).” This cursed world has given work a new dimension to it. Work is now frustrating, painful, and messy. Genesis 3 tells us that “we are broken people who live and work in a broken world (Nelson 39).” Our work was not meant to be this way.
After realizing how God created us with work in mind, I have come out of this “fog”. The reason my work is frustrating and messy is because of the fall. My work was not meant to be this way. God wanted work to be enjoyable. And I can make my work more enjoyable with God in mind. Focus on God and what he intended my work to be. Thank you God!
Nelson, Tom. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.
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