To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
When you’re in a job you don’t love, it can be easy to forget that work was a part of God’s perfect design for us. As Genesis 1 and 2 make clear, work existed prior to sin, with God inviting Adam and Eve to co-create with Him, “filling the earth” with the work of their hands. But as soon as sin entered the picture, work became difficult and painful—a reality we still experience today.
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 85% of people around the globe don’t love their jobs. Why? I have become convinced that our unprecedented dissatisfaction with our careers stems from the fact that our modern culture has elevated work to a position God never intended. Perhaps more than anything else today, we look to our jobs to provide us with a sense of significance, purpose, and worth. Think about it: What’s the first question you ask a new acquaintance? It’s usually not, “Where are you from?” or “Can you tell me about your family?” It’s almost always, “What do you do?” Work has become a primary way in which we attempt to show others our worth.
And while it’s dangerous to expect too little from our work and forget that God designed it to be a form of worship, it is equally if not more dangerous to expect too much from work, elevating it to a place of idolatry. The fact is that career and “calling” are amongst the most worshipped idols of our culture today. And in the words of Tim Keller, “If you love anything in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations.” Yes, work is inherently good and should be viewed as so by more Christians. But perhaps we have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction and are expecting something from our work it was never designed to provide—namely, the ultimate sense of purpose that can only be satisfactorily found in Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” As Christians, we are not primarily what we do for a living. We are children of God! And when we look to who Jesus says we are for our ultimate source of significance, we can be free to view work for just what God designed it to be—another means of fulfilling the Greatest Commandments to love God and love others.
If you don’t love your job, I would encourage you to respond by first remembering the biblical reason for work. Over the next three weeks, we will examine three other practical responses the Bible holds out for those dissatisfied in their current jobs.