The average person spends 90,000 hours of their life working. That’s more than 10 years of your life spent behind the desk, at the lectern, on the tractor or in your scrubs.
If we’re honest, most of us would rather devote our time to other things. Why do we subject ourselves to this grueling schedule? Why do we devote such a large percentage of our lives to work?
We Christians have sought to answer this question. Along the way, we’ve developed a handful of misconceptions about the nature and purpose of work.
Misconception 1: My work is only about providing for my family.
Paid work has its benefits. The money you earn during those 90,000 hours goes to buying food, paying rent, purchasing clothes, putting gas in the tank and otherwise providing for you and your family.
To be clear, providing for your family is a good and noble thing. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that anyone who doesn’t provide for his family “has denied the faith and is worse than unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
But we cannot reduce work to this purpose. Work is more than a means to an end of providing for my needs.
Our God is a worker, and so are we.
Misconception 2: My work is only about making money to give to the church.
Deep down, many of us believe that paid vocational ministry is more important than so-called secular work. We assume that God values the job of a pastor or missionary more than that of a plumber or accountant. (Here at Intersect we refer to this notion as the pulpit-pew divide.)
As a result, people who don’t work in vocational ministry want to rationalize their work by believing that their ultimate vocational purpose is to earn money to give to those doing real ministry. If I can’t go, they think, then I can give so others can.
Now, we absolutely should give to the cause of Christ. Churches and missionaries can only do their God-ordained work if we support their work faithfully and sacrificially. More importantly, God commands us to give. But, again, we cannot reduce work to this purpose. Work is more than a means to an end of providing for the church’s needs.
Misconception 3: My work is only a platform for me to share the gospel.
Working in the public sphere is an excellent opportunity for gospel proclamation. Every day, you get to be around people who are not believers. You can work alongside them, befriend them, live a Christ-changed life in front of them and model Christ-like integrity. Hopefully, you’ll have an opportunity to invite them out for lunch and share the gospel with them.
The evangelistic opportunities your work provides you are a tremendous blessing, and pastors like myself are envious of the scheduled, routine times you get to be around unbelievers. We should pray that workers steward these opportunities well. Your work can certainly be a platform from which you can (and should) share the gospel.
But what if you only work around fellow believers? Or what if your job requires you to work in long stretches of isolation, such as a farmer who toils in a field or a truck driver who spends his days (and nights) steering a big-rig through nameless back roads? Is this isolated work somehow less valuable?
Even though work can be a platform for the gospel, we cannot reduce work to this purpose.
So why, then, do we work?
Ultimately, we work because God designed us to work.
When we meet God in the Bible, the first thing we see is that God is at work. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Later, when God created the first humans, he created them “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). As a result, one of the first commands God gave these first humans was a command to work.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living that that moves on the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28, emphasis added).
In other words, God had created the raw materials of the world. Now, they were to do something with it. This task was a part of them being God’s image-bearers. Just as God was a worker, so were his people. Work was a delight.
Of course, work isn’t as enjoyable as it was back in those days. The fall in Genesis 3 wreaked havoc on every part of creation, including work. Now, work is difficult, painful and stressful. Today, work is not always a delight.
But even though sin has disrupted us, it has not erased the image of God on our lives. We still bear the imprint of our Sovereign Creator. And this truth points us to the ultimate reason why we work. Our God is a worker. He created us in his image. And we, thus, work as he did.
So, yes, we work to provide for our families. Yes, we work to give to the church. Yes, we work as a platform to share the gospel. But the foundational reason we spend 90,000 hours working is because we were made in the image of our Creator.
Our God is a worker, and so are we.