Go to Work on Purpose
The average person will spend about 70,000 hours at work.
That’s a significant part of one’s life, and yet many find themselves lacking joy and purpose in it. We get worn down by challenges and monotony at work. We feel little appreciation for what we do. We hear people boast about things like vacations and retirement or talk about the value and satisfaction of ministry and missions. All this can leave us sitting at our desk wondering if what we do there matters at all. Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t leave us alone in the dark with that question. In fact, it answers it on the very first page. Let Genesis 1 refresh your perspective on your vocation, and make the most of your time on the clock.
God created people to have dominion. They were not created to vacation or shop or play video games all day. People were created to work. Much confusion on work exists because of confusion on what we are created to be and do. God makes sure we understand work is a vital component of who we are.
When I was young, I thought life was about having fun and doing as little as possible. This left me struggling in school and in life. Work always seemed like a second rate option for life, but after becoming a Christian in college and reading the Bible, it was incredibly helpful to see that God created us to do something in life, to steward, contribute, and produce. When we find ourselves at work, whether 9-to-5 or nightshift, in a cubicle or at home, we shouldn’t think we missed our purpose. We are actually doing what God created us to do!
Hearing people are created to work may make sense of life, but it may not necessarily fill you with excitement. The word “dominion” is used in Genesis 1:26–28, and it often conjures up thoughts of kings and kingdoms. That’s exactly what we should think of. God gives a portion of his creation to people to rule over. They are to work hard to take care of what’s been entrusted to them.
It is an incredible responsibility to care for and steward God’s creation. The psalmist was in awe that God trusted him with ox and sheep (Psalm 8:6–8). That is baffling to most of us. We cringe at the smell of a petting zoo. But the psalmist knew these things belonged to God, and he was to steward them. So too our jobs present opportunities for us to have dominion over what God has created. We get to reign over the things that belong to God. So call that swivel chair your throne and those accounts your kingdom. Their God’s, and he’s given them to you for a time.
Sometimes we are hesitant to tell others they are reigning as kings because we don’t want them to get a big head and go on a power trip. Genesis 1 shows the incredible privilege of work and dominion, but it also shows us its great responsibility. God doesn’t give us carte blanche power. He qualifies how we are to work. We are to have dominion and do it as his image bearers. We are made to reflect who he is and what he does, his power and his dominion.
So what does it look like to image God? Twenty-five verses precede the command of dominion in Genesis 1:26. People are created in God’s image, and if not for those twenty-five verses, people probably would have been baffled at what the command meant. In them, the almighty God, the one who doesn’t need to work and is under no obligation to work, does something we would not do if we were in his position — he works! He creates a world.
In Genesis 1:2, we see the world is dark, formless, and void. Then, God brings light, life, and order. He fills the world with goodness. His dominion blesses the world, and in doing this he is giving people an example to follow and image. Your work is an opportunity to image God by bringing goodness, order, light, and life to others.
Notice that God’s work in creation doesn’t seem at all like drudgery. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As Leland Ryken says, it is “more like the exuberance of an artist. It is joyous, self-expressive, and energetic.” When we see God’s purpose and grasp his design then our attitude about our own work will reflect his. Your work can be a joy!
God enables his people to do what he commands. After creating them for dominion (Genesis 1:26), he blesses them to do it (verse 28). One aspect of this blessing is the diversity of gifts that people have. Countless professions are later mentioned in the Bible. This helps us see the many ways God blesses people to work and extend goodness.
Imagine our world if everyone had the same gift. What if we were all professional athletes, or if we were all accountants? How impoverished the world would be without great cooks, singers, managers, writers, teachers, real estate agents, contractors, and electricians! God’s blessing enables people to come into all the formless and void parts of life and bring goodness to it. This goodness should be celebrated by all, and when we do that we begin to see the real joy in work — glorifying God and serving others. We should stop and enjoy and celebrate the different and unique blessings that others bring to us through their work.
God is doing good and bringing light to the world in Genesis 1, and that light comes to greater fullness later in Jesus Christ. Many sitting in darkness for direction and motivation at work also lack hope for anything better in the future. We remember Jesus Christ, the perfect man and true light of God, who extended perfect dominion over the world, triumphing over darkness, death, and sin. He gives purpose and hope to all we do. Your work, even the hard parts, are an opportunity to live in light of the saving work of God, and that is an endless supply of hope, courage, strength, endurance, and purpose.
God has good purposes for our work, and when we look to him it helps us see that our work really does matter. It is not a second-rate aspect of life. It is a significant part of the reason he created us.
100,000 Hours: Eight Aims for Your Career: Here are eight aims that should drive every Christian career path. Fall in love with these aspirations, and your work will bear much fruit for Christ, regardless of your field.
Staying Godly in a Godless Workplace: Very few, if any, awake one morning and decide all of a sudden, “Today is the day I’m going rogue. Enough with all that honesty stuff. From now on, I’m all about corruption.”
Five Encouragements for Everyday Work: Here are five simple encouragements for the vast majority of Christians who labor vocationally outside the pastoral office.