All of life began with work—it’s the reason there was a day one in the first place. For the first six days, God worked. And when he built the garden and placed man inside, God’s first gift to that precious creature was work. Though Scripture never tells us directly why God asked man to work, the story suggests that the capacity to work—to create, to steward, and to care for what God has given us—is an integral part of the imago dei. In the beginning was the Word, the apostle tells us: the Logos and our reason for being. If the one who created us works, it should be a joy to be employed in the business of the Creator.
But as a result of the Fall, work came to feel like labor rather than an act of love. When you’re toiling through a long day at the office, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the Curse is the reason we work at all. But the truth is actually far more complex. God called work good, but then cursed the ground, the raw material of our day-to-day activities. That curse condemned us to feelings of longing and lack when we can’t quite make those raw materials do what we want.
The workplace offers plenty of venues to air our sinfulness. It’s there that we struggle directly with temptations of greed and exploitation. The closed environment of an office offers a crucible for raising and resolving gender conflicts and confronting our own struggles with honesty and integrity. And yet we know the Fall resulted not in these individual sins, but in a heart condition characterized by a longing for meaning.
So in spite of our disillusionment, we continue to grasp for meaning in our work. We seek satisfaction in our jobs just as God looked at his creation and pronounced it good. Each of us hopes our work will make a difference, if not to society at large, at least in our own lives. We seek a vocation: employment that meets an inner longing and provides satisfaction beyond the benefits we receive. We celebrate workplaces that encourage our creativity, build our spirits, and offer the opportunity to change our lives and the lives of those around us.
Does it sound too good to be true? Those jobs exist, in good work environments and bad. In spite of the Fall, the promise of fulfillment in our work remains very real. Sin corrupted our ability to find complete satisfaction in our work; but in the same curse, God inaugurated the story line of redemption. With the promise of the Savior, God gave us the ability to see significance in day-to-day activities. God has promised that one day even our work will be as satisfying as leisure.
But on that day, the work itself will be less important than the one who gave us the work in the beginning. Our work can fulfill us. It can give us a sense of purpose on this earth. But in the long run, our meaning must end where it began. Not until we understand that our truest vocation is to serve Christ will we too call our work good. For as each of us continues to work, as we seek ways to blend our occupation with our vocation, we discover more about who God is and who we are. What a gift to find ourselves gainfully employed in becoming the people God created us to be!
Excerpt from Christianity Today , Melody Pugh, August 23, 2006