Meaningful Work

Most people prefer to find work that is fulfilling, in a career field they are passionate about, and with pay that compensates them rewardingly. But what makes work truly meaningful? What if work was meant to be fulfilling because it served a greater purpose, a purpose outside of ourselves? 

Whether it’s an entry-level position, work at home, or a leadership role there are many times where we have to do the work that is set before us. This is also known as whatever our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This may or may not be something we’re excited about or paid a lot of money for, but there’s still a purpose behind it. 

Originally work was established with the purpose of worship and expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Then after the fall, a new layer was added while keeping the original intent. Work was going to be much harder, yet God provided a way for His people to be a part of the healing process in a broken world. God’s people were to be part of the solution and an Offspring was promised (Genesis 3:15). God’s people would have a new opportunity to glorify Him by having families, spreading out over the earth, and using their talents to serve His good purposes, while providing help to others (some product or service).

Work In The Beginning
In the beginning work was performed by God and then He gave instructions and assigned tasks to Adam and Eve. They were to be stewards of creation in perfect relationship with their Creator as they went about their assigned tasks.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

Work After The Fall
As revealed in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s rebellion had consequences that still impact our working lives:

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…
Genesis 3:17b-18a

Work is now more difficult, but work was not the curse even though the curse affects our work. 

And then in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we go from the pre-fall garden of grace, caring for God’s creation, and expanding it to spread God’s fame, to a fallen people coming up with a grand plan to disobey God by living in one place and trying to make a name for themselves.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Is work all about me, my self-worth, building a personal brand, accumulating wealth and retirement, while making a name for myself? Isn’t this a Tower of Babel mentality? 

There are two traps that we easily fall into. Our job, and the money and prestige it generates, can either feed our ego and selfish desires, or it can do the opposite where we tend to grumble and complain due to discontentment.

Consider these verses:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬7 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

The Work Of Redemption
As mentioned in the introduction, after the fall God had a plan to restore and redeem and work continued to be incorporated into His plan. Below is a helpful excerpt from a devotional by the team at Theology of Work regarding “God’s Good Idea: Work and Redemption.”

Despite the curse, the work commissioned in Genesis 1 and 2 continues. There is still ground to be tilled and phenomena of nature to be studied, described and named. Men and women must still be fruitful, must still multiply, must still govern.

But now, a second layer of work must also be accomplished—the work of healing and repairing things that go wrong and evils that are committed. In a world of sin and sadness, many jobs echo God’s redemption: Scientists and salespersons help people overcome various difficulties by providing products to make life easier and healthier. Law enforcement officers and parents provide safety in the midst of chaos. Accountants and repairmen fix broken ledgers, appliances and technology.

These and other roles project hope for the coming restoration (Revelation 21:1). One day, brokenness will be gone; pain will be no more. But until that day, even the most frustrating jobs can be means by which we carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We can reflect Jesus’ finished work in our own lives as we display God’s characteristics to the world and work to redeem areas of brokenness.

The Greater Purpose
While we can’t work to earn our salvation, we can show the world where our Hope lies as we’re working. As we’re going and doing we can show by our actions and how we conduct ourselves that there is a greater purpose to what we do. The purpose includes the greatest command to love the Lord our God and our neighbors.

Therefore, work has meaning and is a tangible way we can minister to a broken world, while honoring God, providing income to steward and to give away to expand His kingdom, while helping others in need. It’s also an opportunity to point others to the promised Offspring, Jesus Christ, to emulate Him as His disciples, and to tell others about His finished work on the cross.

Work, after all, is still a means of worship…so whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Navigating Offenses: Overlooking vs. Dealing With It

One of the hardest things we have to learn is how to deal with others who have offended us, while doing it with love and self-control. If you’re a parent, you know this quite well. And no one does this perfectly, so we all have some growth in this area. Can an offense be overlooked or does it need to be dealt with? The world calls this emotional intelligence, but leaves out the spiritual element and our need for the gospel.

Finger pointing and the blame game started right after the fall and taking up an offense ensued. Enmity and jealousy were introduced and you know the rest of the story…

Let Scripture Guides Us

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21–22).

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7).

Is It Really Something To Be Offended About?
Is it a potato? A what? Yes, a potato. In our family, believe it or not, there was once an argument over a baked potato among two of our children. Heels dug in, neither side would let it go, and tempers flared. After all calmed down it was rather silly and they knew it, but in the heat of the moment sinful hearts were revealed. We now have a saying when a minor offense comes up. Are you making this a potato?

Sometimes we like to argue and fight over insignificant things because it’s in our sin nature to take up an offense, point fingers, and insist on a satisfactory outcome in the courtroom of our own justice.

Consider these verses:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:18-19).

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The next time there’s a potato in your family, point it out, talk about how it needs to be overlooked, and explain that love covers a multitude of sins. Explain how we should be gracious and merciful, and how it relates to the gospel…”but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Let’s help train one another to overlook the offense because we live in a broken world where offenses come frequently. Age and spiritual maturity help, but some situations are much more difficult than others. Sometimes it requires dealing with it.

How Would You Handle These Two Examples?
A family member isn’t coming home for Christmas this year, they’re going on vacation instead. This breaks a longstanding family tradition and now other family members aren’t coming either. You can sense the tension.

A friend at work applied for the same managerial position you did after you told them about it. You feel you’re more qualified and taken advantage of. They received and accepted the offer and now you work for them.

When It Can’t Be Overlooked
The rule of thumb is what love can’t cover, it has to be dealt with. Overlooking an offense in a loving self-controlled way is healthy, but conflict avoidance, with the appearance of overlooking, isn’t healthy.

Avoiding conflict often means sweeping the dust under the rug, letting it accumulate, and then all the mess comes out later. I’m not talking about taking time to calm down, or needing some space. I’m also not talking about separation because of safety from an abusive situation. Sometimes temporary separation is necessary. I’m talking about avoiding someone because you don’t want to deal with an offense that’s eating at you.

If love can’t cover it, meaning you can’t forgive and let it go because it’s bothering you so badly, or because the offense was so sinful, that’s when you have to deal with it. The rules are clear, we’re to go directly to the person and have the conversation about the offense to try and resolve the matter.

Matthew 18
Verses 15-20 provide the guidelines for dealing with someone who has sinned against us and the aim is to confront gently and attempt to restore the relationship. One practical way to work through an offense is to explain how the offense makes us feel versus attacking someone for what they did or didn’t do. Meaning, telling the person when you did X, I felt Y and it really bothered me is a better approach than letting them have it with a verbal barrage for what they did to you and making sure they know how wrong it was. Explaining to them that you want to work through things because you care about the relationship also goes a long way toward mending it.

This may take a lot of work and self-control, but it’s a loving step towards forgiveness and reconciliation versus attacking or simply retreating into an entrenched position of “you’re the worst.” Telling someone how you feel shows vulnerability and opens the door of communication, attacking someone slams the door and often creates more conflict, and entrenching into our position creates a stalemate. Remember, if possible, try to live peaceably with others…it takes the willingness of the other person to work through things fully. Sadly, it may not be possible.  

Therefore, serious offenses and stubbornness of heart may require others to be engaged. This is where seeking wise counsel and bringing one or more into the mix helps. Each step of the way the circle is enlarged, but the aim is to keep it as small as possible. 

Outside the church, this may have to be dealt with within the family circle, HR department, or governing authorities. Within the church, this process is known as church discipline. The last step is few and far between, but the first step is practiced all the time in one on one conversations and no one else is even aware. The entire church is rarely involved. Yet God knows our stubborn hearts and He provides this process to help confront serious offenses in a Biblical, God honoring and loving way.

Growth And Hope
Whether it’s a potato or a more serious issue, we find forgiveness, hope, peace, and comfort in the gospel. Relationship difficulties sprout opportunities to trust God more, to grow in our love for God and others, and to grow in our understanding of how we should forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

Be encouraged, Revelation 21 tells us all will be made right. One day the brokenness we experience will end, the relationships between God and His people will be fully restored, we won’t offend or be offended, justice will prevail, and there will be joy and peace forevermore.

The Root Of Worry

What we desire most in life often causes us the most stress. The sin of worry stems from focusing on the cares of this world more than trusting God. This is likely a symptom of a greater sin, an underlying sin, one that may be deeply rooted within. This is known in the Bible as idolatry or covetousness. 

Brad Bigney defines it well so I’ll use his definition. “Idolatry is anything or anyone that captures our hearts and minds and affections more than God.” When we elevate anything or anyone above God, our worship and affections and desires are placed on something or someone that will never be able to fulfill us like He can.

One way to identify an idol in our life is to look at what causes us the most emotion, angst, and worry when something or someone happens to disturb our affections for it or threatens our expectations around it. What is it that frustrates and makes us anxious? Perhaps our idol is the American Dream and what frustrates us is anything that threatens our comfort. You know…the life with a successful career, safety and security, family, health, retirement, and a hobby or two, because, hey, I’ve worked hard and I deserve it.

Whenever we identify an idol in our lives we soon discover how it rules us in an unhealthy way. It causes us to live anxiously, to do things selfishly, and to treat others poorly. Yet, we may not recognize it in ourselves for a long time because idols are often hidden beneath seemingly good things (work, family, ministry, exercise, etc.) that have become ruling things.

Matthew 6:25-34 specifically addresses worrying about money. However, there are principles that we can apply to being anxious about anything. Just like looking to make more money, but quickly learning money doesn’t solve all our problems, it actually tends to create more problems for us. So it goes with any idol we hold and refuse to lay down.

The Greek word found in Matthew 6:25 for anxious is merimnaó (phonetically mer-im-nah’-o). It means over-anxious, troubled, distracted, pulled apart, to go to pieces, torn. Worry is destructive and tears us apart. We know in the proceeding verses of Chapter 6 we can’t serve both God and money. And the same applies to the other idols that have mastery over us.

Warren Weirsbe writes, “Worrying about tomorrow does not help either today or tomorrow. If anything, it robs us of our effectiveness today – which means we’ll be even less effective tomorrow.”

He also states, “It’s not wrong for us to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.” And here’s where we need God’s Word to help us and to remind us to seek God and His Kingdom first and all these things will be added. This doesn’t mean we’ll get everything we want. There’s no guarantee of the good life, no promise we won’t have cancer or never go hungry, or never die. No, the promise is everything we need to do His will in the building of His Kingdom.

So let’s examine ourselves and take note when we’re anxious to see if we can discover the root of our worry, confess it, repent, and seek to trust Him as we put His Kingdom first: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34

We need this reminder, don’t we? 

And everytime we notice the beauty of a bird or flower, let’s remember that Jehovah Jireh provides all that we need as we seek first the Kingdom. The most important being a Savior Who is All-Sufficient, Awe-Inspiring, and All-Satisfying!

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