Pastor J.D. explains why we both should and shouldn’t feel satisfied by our jobs because God created us to work, but our work here on earth is toil.

A glimpse inside this episode:

Yes and no. 

YES, God created us to work.

  • God placed Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). Remember that God said this before the fall, indicating that work wasn’t a punishment inflicted on Adam for his sin, but was a part of God’s original design.
    • The Hebrew word translated ‘abad,’ and it has the connotation of preparing and developing. Adam was placed in the garden to develop its raw materials, to cultivate a garden. Christians can fulfill the created purpose of God in the same way, by taking the raw materials of the world and developing them.
    • In principle, this happens all the time: Architects take sand and cement and use them to create buildings; artists take color or music and arrange them into art; lawyers take principles of justice and codify them into laws that benefit society.This isn’t just an accident; this is God’s plan.
    • Martin Luther, the famous German reformer, put it this way: “When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal.”
  • Another great example of this comes from the classic movie, Chariots of Fire. The movie follows a Christian track athlete, Eric Liddell, in his preparation for the 1924 Olympics. At one point in the film Liddell is confronted with an objection to his career, since there are more pressing matters in life for a Christian than merely running. Liddell responds, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” At some point or another, while working at something we love or are good at, many of us have had a similar feeling. It is as if we feel inside of us, quite literally: this is what I was made for.

NO, because it is toil.

I recently read an awesome article in The Atlantic, “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable.” This was a great line: “The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office.”

This article is one of those where someone has a brilliant insight the Bible teaches as a core principle: the futility of making work an idol.

  • However, the Bible’s presentation is more complete—man shall not live by work alone, but man was made for work.
  • An idol is a good thing that only becomes a bad thing when it becomes a God thing. Realizing it is insufficient as a God doesn’t mean it is no longer good, however. The ideal society is not, as some people tend to think, that we spend our time trying to figure out what to do with our leisure and where the poor get welfare with no work required. God created us for work. God put man in the Garden to work it, not just lounge in it, which is why life without meaningful employment will in most cases be unsatisfying as well. Work, as the author indicates, makes a terrible idol. But so does leisure.

Our idolization of work (seen in comments like “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” has produced a generation of dissatisfied idealists who can’t understand why they don’t spring out of bed each morning excited to get to the office. The Bible explains that this is the result of the curse—our work would become toil. Thus, I should expect that even in fulfilling, life-giving work, there will be days I not only feel unfulfilled, but downright weary.

Neither idle nor idol.

Resource: Good to Great by Jim Collins

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This Episode’s Sponsor: One of the greatest predictors of a disciple’s spiritual growth is regular Bible reading. That’s why LifeWay created the Daily Discipleship Guide. To download four free sessions of the Daily Discipleship Guide, visit BibleStudiesforLife.com/DDG.