The Barna Group reports that “three-quarters of US adults (75%) say they are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life.” Many are looking for meaning in “family, career, church, side projects or elsewhere.”
This search is not reserved just to Christians. In a February article, the Wall Street Journal explained:
In part, professionals are demanding more meaning from their careers because work simply takes up more of life than before, thanks to longer hours, competitive pressures and technological tethers of the modern job. Meanwhile, traditional sources of meaning and purpose, such as religion, have receded in many corners of the country.
The search for meaning isn’t new. We’re wired to desire something beyond what the world offers us.
But now, more than ever, the desire to see the connection between work and lasting meaning has intensified.
Fortunately, we were designed with the desire for something greater because there is an answer corresponding to that desire. As Christians, we find ourselves asking “What is biblical employment?”
The Biblical Background for Our Work
As the first few chapters of Genesis show us, God is active. In just six days, He industriously arranges and sets into motion an entire universe.
His creatures embody this activity. After the Fall, we were never told that we were off the hook from working.
Instead, through the guidelines God gave us, we were given a fuller picture of God’s faithfulness and provision even in our brokenness.
When our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and the earth, were broken, the way forward wasn’t clear. Fortunately, God didn’t leave us in the dark. He demonstrated his faithfulness by providing for the Israelites, walking them through the desert, giving them guidelines for their interactions with him and with others, and allowing them to flourish in small and large ways.
Between demonstrations of his provision and instruction, God prepared his people to receive Christ and the redemption that comes through his work. Now, when we are in Christ, we can experience what it means to be a part of God’s plan for his world.
A Biblical View of Employment
In God’s design, work was never meant to be contained in the daily 9-5 grind. The implications are much further reaching.
God designed our daily activities to matter because he designed us to matter. As Ephesians 2 so aptly puts it,
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It is natural that we desire our work to be meaningful, because ultimately, it does matter in God’s economy. Biblical employment is set apart by several things.
- We work with an eye to eternity. The bringing about of heaven and the new earth is at stake, and we endeavor to display an excellence in our work that points those around us to Christ.
- We work with the intent to serve. God designed his world to work together in such a way that it is essential that we pursue those things for which we have the greatest aptitude. When we create the greatest value through the development of our God-given talents, we help others most.
- We work knowing that the ordinary and the mundane matter. Granted, we shouldn’t punish ourselves by unnecessarily remaining in jobs that don’t suit our talents, but we shouldn’t despair that each moment is not filled with earth shattering accomplishment. We were called to be faithful, not just fruitful.
And above all of this, we work to find pleasure and fulfillment in the right things. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity,
History is…the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
Biblical employment doesn’t promise to fulfill our every need. Only God can do that. However, through our employment, we can experience the wonder of being used to further God’s plan to bring about greater flourishing for us and those around us.
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