How do (or did) you usually feel on your journey to work?  In Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White’ the Seven Dwarfs go off to the mine each morning happily singing: “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!” However, their joyful enthusiasm is far removed from most people’s experiences of work (whether paid, unpaid or voluntary).

Perhaps those Monday morning blues intensify with overcrowded trains and tubes, congested roads and ill-mannered drivers. And, on reaching work, you’re confronted with a pile of admin/letters and a huge inbox waiting to be cleared – all marked urgent! There is the usual busyness and stress of the workplace, the overwhelming expectations of your boss, opportunistic colleagues, demanding clients, office politics and long working hours.

The beginnings of human work began when God told Adam and Eve to ‘subdue and rule over’ his creation (Genesis 1:28-30).  It could be argued this mandate had more to do with stewardship than ownership and was to be a collaboration between humankind and God. In a sense, we are all called to be co-workers with God as we use our talents and skills in a creative way.

One of the first questions we ask someone when we meet them for the first time is: “What do you do for a living?”  Many of us make instant judgments about people based on their occupation, don’t we?  Work is as just as much a source of identity for us as it was for Jesus. Remember that Jesus followed in his father’s footsteps working in the family building firm – presumably until the age of 30 when he began his ministry – and Jesus was recognized by others because of this: He was known as ‘The Carpenter’s Son.’

Three men were working on a building site. The first man was asked: ‘What is it that you are doing?’ He replied: ‘Earning some money to pay my bills.’  The second man was asked: ‘What is it that you are doing?’ He replied: ‘Building a wall, what does it look like?’  The third man was asked the same question: ‘What is it that you are doing?’ He replied: ‘Building a Cathedral.’

What is your perception of work?  Money?  A mundane task?  Or building something significant? Jesus considered his ministry to be ‘work.’ We see this in His prayer in John 17:4: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” 

Work was initiated by God to make us wholesome and productive beings. It should give us the opportunity to develop our skills and give us the joy of achievement and personal satisfaction. Work isn’t a bad thing – no matter what we might think to the contrary. The economist E.F. Schumacher, in his 1973 ground-breaking book ‘Small is Beautiful’ suggests that work has a threefold purpose:

1) To provide necessary and useful goods and services;
2) To enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards;
3) To do so in service to, and in co-operation with, others.

Schumacher wasn’t a Christian but these three values are deeply rooted in the Bible. Maybe we need to look at work differently and view it as using the talents God has given us, in co-operation with Him, for the benefit of others. However, there is also a clear need for the world at large to re-introduce, and implement, Biblical principles of fair distribution of employment, equal wages and to value the serving of the community rather than oneself.

Throughout creation God repeatedly suggested that his ‘work’ was good or, in the case of human beings: very good (Genesis 1:31).  In a sense, we are all called to be co-workers with God as we use our talents and skills in a creative way.  In Ecclesiastes 3:13 the writer suggests it is good that people: “… should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labour, for these are gifts from God.”  And so they are!

But don’t forget that God rested on the seventh day after his work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3) so be sure to take regular days off to rest and spend valuable time with your family and friends too!

With every blessing in Jesus’ precious name

This is a copy of my article for the February 2017 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’