Work is more than toil

By Morgan Mitchell, Bethel Seminary San Diego

Tuesday mornings. These are the start of my work week being in full-time vocational ministry. After getting ready for the day with my usual routine, I drive to the church office, and take part in meetings, have conversations, schedule and plan events, write sermons, address issues that come up, visit local high schools, connect with students, and write letters of recommendation. These are all just small pictures of what my “work” looks like.

I then will transition from office time to study time where I am also a full-time seminary student reading, writing, and engaging in conversations and with materials that will help me engage with the rigors of ministry. These will allow me to dive into life with God further and will allow me to lead people better. My weekend comes, and my Saturdays are often filled with ministry related get-togethers because my community is also my church community, a mix of work and life. But then Mondays, ahh Mondays, my Sabbath days, the day where I can spend doing what I want. Going for long runs, visiting trails and the beachfront with my fiancée, eating good food, and reading. A day of intentional cutting off from the rest of the week. What I love about Mondays is that although they are not different, I am not escaping from my “work” life by doing so. I am simply choosing to steward that day differently, to rest and to re-establish a rhythm.

I find this isn’t the case for everyone, however. This post isn’t about the commandment, “Keep the Sabbath day Holy,” which is very important, and holds the lion share of this work conversation. But what I am talking about is this: what if work isn’t a punishment that we are trying to get to the end of? What if we aren’t working for (at least in my case Mondays) and our days off? What if work is not something we need to escape from, but enter into? Simply put, I believe work isn’t something we need to grind through to get to our days off. I believe work is a call and response from God to enter into the beautiful rhythm of what life with him looks like.

Work is a tricky subject and has many loaded meanings behind it, usually starting with a “sigh.” But work is something that has been a process that has been looked at in many different lenses for as long as people have been around and have walked this earth. Work is just that: work, tilling, toil. It’s a process that advances a mission, builds something, aids someone, or maintains a space. These are all different aspects of what work is, but what is our relationship to work? How are we supposed to look at walking into the office, lacing up our work boots, putting on our scrubs? Is work the process and necessary evil that we have to grind through to get to the true meaning of life or life with God for that matter? If we are created in the image of God what does it mean to work? Is it supposed to be different? Are we supposed to be more serious when we work? These are all questions that we ask because work has been skewed and often confused for people. As we have been a part of this “Work with Purpose” program, we have been introduced to three different works that have taken us deeper into the topics of calling, partnership, financial stewardship, and Kingdom work.

As we have read through these books, I have gained key insights that have helped change my perspective on work. I have been able to look at work as not something that I “have” to enter into to simply get a paycheck so that I can enjoy my days off and put gas in my tank. Instead, it is a place that I “get” to be a Co-Creator and Co-Cultivator with God. As we look in Genesis, you can see that we are called to work and partner with God to work and till, to develop, and cultivate the land. To be working with God to build something, that we are working on something, this something may at times be mysterious, but it is the call that we have. To work, it’s not something that we are punished and therefore have to do, but is something that we have been called to do from the beginning; we don’t work so that we can live. We live through work in a rhythmic and beautiful cadence that we get to sway to.

So here is one small challenge: let’s take a look at what our view of work is. Do you find yourself dreading going into work? Dreading the days you don’t have off? What if you looked at work as a partnership, a call and a beautiful mandate set apart up by God to get more of him? Evaluate your relationship with work—maybe there is something deeper and more meaningful behind the hours you put into it besides a paycheck. What if you are creating and cultivating a Kingdom-minded culture that will have ripples in not only your life but your community?

Image © Free-Photos |

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