Blog - Mirroring God

A Searching Question about Your Workview

Saturday, May 04, 2013

It was a penetrating question. It came to my attention this week through the course, "Taking Your Soul to Work.” Dr. R. Paul Stevens, author  of many books that explore the biblical view of our daily work, had taught the course at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C. I am in the process of adapting the material to teach as an online course for the Bakke Graduate University (BGU).

Before stating the question, Dr. Stevens asks students to draw a horizontal line. At the left end of the line they are to write "curse,” and at the right end, "idol.” Like this:

Curse ___________________________Idol

Then comes the question: On that line, where would you place an "X” to represent your view of work?

Most of us would probably describe our work with other terms: fulfilling, frustrating, challenging, and so forth. But asking us to think of our work as curse or idol puts it under a lens we’re not used to looking through. A curse is something to avoid, because it injures or harms. An idol is something to adore, because it promises to supply, satisfy, and provide significance.

Over the years, I’ve encountered countless Christians who think God imposed daily work on Adam and Eve as a punishment for sin. This associates work with the curse. For example, a man now serving as a pastor wrote: "I was raised in a church setting where the prevailing philosophy with regards to work outside of the church was considered a "Necessary evil.” We were told that we have to work (a sinful thing) because we need to have money to conduct our lives and businesses.”

Imagine enduring a lifetime thinking you’re sentenced to spend most waking hours doing something that at root displeases God ("a sinful thing”). The only escape? Get into church-related work. Maybe become a missionary or a pastor. Someone with that workview would undoubtedly place the "X” very near the left end of the line.

On the other hand, a great many believers swing to the other extreme. I found this testimony in a website: "Over the years my career pretty much took over my life. I would have to say that my work became an idol in that it occupied most of my time, to the near exclusion of fellowship with other believers from my church and time in study of God’s word and prayer.” This person would mark the "X” at the far right end of the line.

When our work becomes an idol, it turns into an object of worship, a substitute for God. It swallows us whole. Jonah, who experienced being swallowed up, put it this way: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

Where would you place the "X”?

In the biblical workview, our daily work is neither a curse nor an idol. Instead, it is a gift. The very first glimpse of God we have in the Bible reveals him as worker. Genesis 2:2 describes all the creating God had done in chapter 1 as "the work he had been doing.” God the worker gave us the priceless gift of making us in his likeness and image. We work, not because we sinned, but because God works. Working is a major way we image God.

When we gratefully receive our daily work as a gift from God, we are freed from the bondage of the curse-idol continuum. Then we can offer our work-gift back to God as worship and use it as a means of loving service to others.

Comments (7)

Opal Doris (5/15/2013 1:31:04 PM)
I see work as neither a curse nor an idol. I see it as a part of life. In Genesis we are admonished to replenish and to take care of things. Work cannot be viewed only as a daily routine; get to work for eight, leave work at four, no - everyone works even a baby has to work if he wants to progress; he has to try to crawl, he has to try to stand and to balance that is work also. An old person who is retired form secular work has to stay active to live, if he /she stays in door or in bed all the time they will die quickly. A daily stroll in the park is working toward good health. In my opinion work is an activity given to us by God to have a balanced life.

Dwain Wheeler (5/4/2013 4:27:23 PM)
During my 24 years in the military, I know I would have placed my X right next to idol. In fact, the military trained me to idolize what I did for a living. I would not complain--my life was good. And yes, I did forfeit the grace that could have been mine but thankfully, I now receive it.
Larry Peabody (5/4/2013 6:20:37 PM)
Thank you, Dwain, for your honest response. How can the church equip, serve, and pray for those in the military who are being similarly trained?
Celicia Paruag (5/5/2013 5:57:12 PM)
Curse or Idol? New perspective, with new knowledge I know it is not a curse but how far down the spectrum can I go before my work is moved to an Idol. I am staying in the middle.
Larry Peabody (5/6/2013 6:13:22 AM)
Celicia, while the curse-idol line is a useful tool for exposing wrong conceptions of our work, we don't have to stay anywhere along it. Seeing work as a gift takes us completely off that line and lets us do it from a totally new perspective.
florine Dalgety (5/6/2013 8:17:46 AM)
Several years ago I saw work as a necessary evil."by the sweat if thy brow thou shalt eat bread. then I discovered Isaiah 1:19 'If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land. that was time for rejoicing as I could now my sustenance with my willingness to walk in obedience to God. I saw my attitude to work as a measure of my obedience to God. Later I found John 5:17 and Phil2:13 ihave been thankful since then for opportunities to work using whatever abilities I have. A few years ago I saw Rev. 2:4,5. Since then I've linked my attitude to work as a mirror of my relationship to God.
David Rupert (5/6/2013 8:54:22 AM)
In our current corporate world, making "More with less" is the common solution to everythign. Sometimes, it just comes down to time and unless you jolt yourself to reality, you can get sucked into it.

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