Blog - Mirroring God
A Searching Question about Your WorkviewSaturday, 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:
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.