The place of work

God commissioned the first humans to govern and fill the world in goodness—the creation mandate (Genesis 1:26-28). Two areas of work are implicit: overseeing the world’s resources, and childrearing. These loosely correspond to work outside the home and work within it. Men and women are to engage in both (Proverbs 31:10-31) and not neglect their family responsibilities (1 Timothy 3:4-5, Ephesians 6:4, 1 Timothy 2:15, 5:14).

Although every legitimate job contributes to these callings in some way, we might choose “careers” that most benefit others. Scripture particularly esteems evangelism, church leadership, government, law, and the building of families—presumably because these best promote God’s purposes (Matthew 9:38, 1 Timothy 3:1, Romans 13:1-5, 1 Timothy 5:14).

God commands us to complete all work in six days, setting the seventh apart to rest and meet as believers—the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, 16:23-26, Leviticus 23:3, Acts 20:7). The physical, social and spiritual fallout of not doing so is only too obvious. Unless absolutely necessary, we should therefore complete all homework, chores, and paid work on other days.

Before the fall both Adam and Eve worked (Genesis 2:15, 18-24). So work is not a result of sin; it is good; it is to emulate our creator. Indeed, work will continue in the new creation (Isaiah 65:21), presumably as we perfectly utilize and enjoy its resources in an increasingly creative manner.

Those who have time on their hands should take the opportunity to seek out further ways of serving God and fulfilling the creation mandate. There is no retirement from this calling. Paul condemns laziness, charging those at home to ensure they keep busy (Titus 2:5), and people in general to work in order to provide for themselves and others (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, Ephesians 4:28). Lack of fulfilment will stem from not expressing our God-likeness in this way, and so we should feel for those who cannot work.

Through the curse for sin, childbearing became more painful (Genesis 3:16) and our engagement with the world’s resources more toilsome (Genesis 3:17-19). Our work will not therefore always be a joy, but often a struggle. Indeed, the expectation that it must fully engage our gifts and bring great satisfaction is a luxury unique to those who can choose their employment.

The bible’s priorities are to do with seeing all work as service of God, and every facet of it, no matter how mundane, as integral to our responsibility to govern and fill the world. Such work is pleasing to God and so eternally significant! Here then is satisfaction: We work “wholeheartedly,” seeing “whatever” we do as service of Christ, and as something that he “will reward,” even if no-one else does (Ephesians 6:7-8).