7 Reasons Why Work is a Gift from God

A lot of people hate work. Not just the effort it requires, but the whole concept. I used to count myself among them. Work was something to be minimized, and eventually eliminated through the attainment of wealth. But now that I’m older and I’ve been through a lot more, and I’ve had the opportunity to get the perspectives of others, my view of work has changed. I’m now convinced that work is a gift from God.

That may seem counter-intuitive. But that’s something else I’ve learned – that God’s way generally is counter-intuitive. We often say “God works in mysterious ways”, and I suspect that this counter-intuitiveness is part of that. Whatever we think to be correct, God has another plan. And so it is with work.

The Current Negative View of Work

It often seems as if most people dislike their jobs. Part of that can be explained by the economic pressures that are making all jobs more difficult than they used to be. And perhaps part of it is the influence of the Internet. Both blogs and the social media not only provide people with forums to vent their work-related frustrations, but also to openly strategize on how to crash out.

7 Reasons Why Work is a Gift from God
7 Reasons Why Work is a Gift from God
The Internet has also spawned an entire anti-work related topic area – early retirement. People are now working on plans to retire by 50, 45, 40, and even 35.

Early retirement isn’t necessarily a negative goal either. If you are working toward early retirement for the purpose of creating a more fulfilling life it can be a positive direction. But for a lot of people, it’s just relief from the burdens of work. In that way, early retirement is more of an escape hatch than anything else.

But why should we see work as something to be avoided? Is it possible that work represents a God-given benefit that we should be more aware of? Here are seven reasons why work may actually be a gift from God.

1. Work Gives Us a Sense of Purpose

If you never had to work – if your sole purpose in existing were simply to keep yourself entertained – you could easily go into a downward spiral. Entertainment is only fun and interesting to the degree that it represents the “dessert” in life. Should it become the main course, you would almost certainly tire of it. This likely goes a long way toward explaining why the children of the rich and famous turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictions. After a while you just run out of new highs in life, and you’re open to anything.

Steady work on the other hand gives you a reason – and an obligation – to get out of bed in the morning. That helps to keep you regimented and regulated. Even if you find your work to be boring and dissatisfying, it still has the potential to make the other areas of your life – faith, family, friendships, community, health and entertainment – that much sweeter. It’s the blending of all of those facets of life, in addition to your work, that gives your life balance. And balance is a critical component of leading a purposeful life.

2. Work is our Contribution to the World

There are well over 7 billion people in the world. Each of them has certain needs that must be filled in order for them to survive. In a complex world, it’s not possible to provide everything you need for yourself. Most products and services must necessarily be provided by someone else. This is the interlocking nature of human cooperation: each of us perform certain jobs that benefit many other people. And at the same time, we get the benefit of jobs performed by many other people.

In that way, our work is our contribution to the world. That means that there are virtually no truly meaningless jobs. Any job that you can conceive of doing is job that needs to be done. That’s because there are people on the receiving side of your job with needs for what you are providing.

That sense of contribution is something we should all appreciate more seriously. Not only does it give greater meaning to our work, but it also represents confirmation of our value to the rest of humanity.

If you think of it this way, it’s much easier to see the hand of God in your work. Collectively, we’ll provide everything each of us needs. That gives us both the ability to provide valuable products and services, as well as the means to support ourselves.

That looks a lot like the divine plan to me.

3. Work Can be How We Self-Actualize

A lot of people, maybe even most, are simply “putting in their time” on the job. If you put yourself in this category, you maybe surprised to realize that some people actually self-actualize through their work. I certainly do, and I’ve known many people over the years who do as well.

Sometimes that’s a matter of attaching meaning to your work, and the being happy about it. Other times, it’s a matter of finding work that you feel is meaningful. For me, there was always a writer deep down inside. But none of my previous careers allowed me to let that out. It was a conscious decision on my part – or maybe I had no other choice – to decide to spend the rest of my life doing work that I actually want to do.

You can choose to do the same. I’m certainly not saying that it’s easy, because it isn’t. But the payoff is a better life. You enjoy your life more, because you enjoy your work more. That can happen when whatever your chosen work happens to be also becomes part of who you are, and blends naturally.

4. Work is Our Source of Survival

Maybe you don’t like working, but if you’re like most of us, you do enjoy surviving! If there’s joy in surviving, there should also be some residual satisfaction with working to enable that survival to happen.

That’s a lesson that I learned from my grandparents. They were low skilled, and by upper-middle-class standards they certainly struggled to survive. But at the same time, they took great pride and satisfaction in being able to provide for themselves. Perhaps they wanted better, but it was obvious that they were quite content with what they had.

Maybe that’s the problem with work in general. We tend to want more than we have, and when we can’t get it we translate that inability into frustration with our work. But if we can elevate the nobility of surviving – at whatever level that might be – we might be happier with whatever work we do.

Turning off your TV will also help. That will give you less exposure to the fictional characters that spend most of their time enjoying life, but little if any in earning a living.

5. You Don’t Know How Important Work Is Until It’s Gone

You really come to appreciate honest work when you face protracted unemployment, outright disenfranchisement (the end of your career), or retirement. That’s when you realize how important work is, and how much it means to you on a personal level even apart from the income that it produces.

I learned that the hard way, at age 50, when my career in the mortgage business was certifiably over. There was little else I was qualified to do. The prospect of working in anything that was remotely substantial became an exciting proposition. I just wanted to feel productive again – self-sustaining, and even relevant. Yes, all that goes away when your career is at an end.

That experience, as well as observing others, convinced me that retirement is highly overrated. I’ve known a lot of people who retired from high activity careers, and ended up nothing more than bored. I sense that many of them realized they had made a mistake. Many – perhaps most – ultimately returned to some form of work. It wasn’t always about money either. Relevancy – that quality of life that I had discovered to be critical – is probably a bigger reason. We don’t realize how much of our personalities and lives are merged with our work until that work is gone.

6. An Honest Day’s Work can Keep You Honest

“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.” – Ecclesiastes 5:12

I struggled with this passage in my younger days, conditioned by the world as I was to view being rich as a superior state of existence. But it really is true, a person who does steady, honest work, usually does sleep quite well. But when you have a lot of money, you’re constantly consumed with protecting it and growing it. Perhaps most of all, you’re obsessed with losing it. After all, if our work can become part of who we are, wealth can as well. You can reach a point where you self-identify with your wealth to such a degree that you cannot imagine your life without it.

But let’s get back to the part about keeping honest. Work does impose a certain amount of discipline on us. It’s not just about “bringing home the bacon”; there’s a whole series of steps that we have to go through in order to make that happen. That’s the part that keeps us honest.

By contrast, a person who survives by means other than work, must often resort to various strategies and sub-strategies that take the place of work.

Here are some examples:

  • A person who lives on their investments must constantly be in search of a higher rate of return, which is often not possible or available. He may substitute by taking on excessive risk.
  • A person who lives on the good graces of family and others (which is now something of an epidemic in the industrialized world) must constantly be concerned with maintaining the favor of his benefactors – or whether or not their wealth will run out.
  • I almost hesitate to include this group, but I’ve known people who are on welfare or disability who have no business being there. I’ll bet you know a few as well. They spend most of their time scheming how they can stay on those systems, and milk them for the most gain. That’s not a life I want to lead, and I hope you don’t either.
  • A criminal must constantly be worried about his physical safety, the prospect of being caught and prosecuted, or the possibility of being killed by a competing criminal.

As glamorous as these alternative means of surviving may be in concept or on TV, it’s clear that each comes with its own set of stresses and worries. Perhaps this is another reason why God gave us work to do in order to survive. And maybe why we should begin to see work in a more positive light.

7. Work is a Witnessing Opportunity

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” – Colossians 3:23-24

If you’ve spent much time in the employment universe, you are doubtlessly well aware of the Pareto Principle, better known as the “80/20” rule. In regard to work, it means that 80% of the work is done by 20% of people.

What do the remaining 80% of the people do? As little as possible. They’re just putting in their time to get their paycheck. Bigger picture, they’re putting in their time until retirement.

How much respect you have for such people? What is their “statement” to the world?

When we get caught up in the world – that is, when we take our behavioral cues from the people around us – we can often forget that our work, as with our lives in general, serve as a witness to others. If you are a Bible believing Christian, you must be aware of this concept.

In all that we do, we’re serving as ambassadors from Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world. We’re to live as members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), as this is the larger part or our witness to the world. It isn’t just our words professing our belief in Jesus Christ that will bring others to faith. In fact, our words will usually fail. But our actions will have an impact, even if they do it in a much more subtle way.

We can witness to the world by being solid citizens. That is, we focus on being the solution, rather than the problem. Work is an important arena to do that in. Do we get the job done? Are we reliable? Can we be counted on in tough situations? Can we be trusted? Do we participate in office conflict or gossip, or do we do our best to deflect it?

The more reliable you are at work and as a co-worker, the stronger your Christian witness will be – even if you seldom say a word about your faith.

Most People Are Going About Work in the Wrong Way

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” – Genesis 2:15

Whatever our attitudes toward work may be, it’s clear that work is part of God’s plan for humankind. But we can choose to take a more positive view of work, whatever kind we do.

I suspect that most people are approaching their work in the wrong way. If you see it as something to endure as a way to earn a paycheck, and you wrap your existence around your hope for the end of the day, the weekend, your next vacation, and your retirement, you’re doomed to be miserable.

But if you recognize that your work is part of who you are, you might be able to embrace it more fully. Once you do, you might grasp the deeper meaning of what you’re doing. And if you are at a point where even after coming to that realization, you sense that you and your current work are not compatible, you’ll have to summon the courage to make a change.

Sometimes that endpoint comes around due to a job loss or a career crisis. Actually, that almost makes it easier. You are then forced to make a change, so it comes down to how you want that change to come about, and where you want it to lead.

Wherever it does lead, make sure that it’s work that you can feel good about. You’ll know that because the desire and the ability will already be somewhere inside of you. I strongly believe that God has given us each a unique set of skills and interests. Within those skills and interests, are the best chance we have of finding the “work that we were meant to do”.

For example, I always thought that I was pretty good at number crunching, mainly because those are the kinds of jobs that I always held. But I always had a sense inside that writing was my true calling – and the course of my life has proven that. Because I’m now doing what I have long suspected I was meant to do, I don’t feel any conflict related to my work. I can blend it much more comfortably with the rest of my life. And I have a greater sense of control over my work life than I’ve ever had in the past.

Here’s another “God revelation”: When I finally began moving into my current career, doors began opening up in unexpected places. Though I can’t say that it was a straight line into the change, but when you consider that there was nothing in my background that prepared me for being a writer, the fact that any doors opened at all was miraculous. I think that’s another way that God works, perhaps as a way of letting us know that we’re on the right path.

You owe it to yourself to pursue a similar situation, at least when the prospect of a career change becomes obvious or necessary.

But you don’t necessarily have to get into a different line of work either.

I was sitting in the lobby of a large building one night, and watching a cleaning woman going about her work. Not only was she smiling, but she also alternated between humming and singing. The writer in me just had to investigate.

Turns out that the woman is a believing Christian, and chooses to be happy in her work. Given that being a building cleaner is commonly regarded as a lower end position, the example that this woman set means that any of us can learn to be happy with our work, whatever that work might be.

Maybe that’s the ultimate lesson – you can choose to be happy in your work. Or you can change it if you’re not. It may not be easy, but I have a sense that the dominos will miraculously fall in the right direction when you do. And if you’re a Bible believing Christian you shouldn’t have any doubts about that.

( Photo by joguldi )

10 Responses to 7 Reasons Why Work is a Gift from God

  1. The term work and a job tends to be a negative wording versus passion. I have always been drawn to people who are passionate about what they are doing. My main attraction has been to the medical fields. It takes a special person to fill those shoes and I have been fortunate to have had medical staffing that sincerely loved what they are doing. How could I tell? I am not one to like being in the hospital or doctor’s office and when I run across someone that makes me “forget” where I am or how bad I may be feeling – that person catches my eye. I make sure I thank them on my way out and follow up with their boss to let them know what a “valuable” employee they have on their staff. Now to my life. I have always done what I needed to do to keep the bills paid but at age 58 finally realizing the importance of fulfilling my destiny on earth. What brought this “revelation” to my attention? My only child now 29 no longer needing me to “meddle” in her life/lol. Until she has children, Ma needs to give a life! For so many years she has been my life. I had to turn 100% to God for help with not feeling hurt as she began her own life and while she makes time for Ma – it is not the same. I now am working on praying and asking God for guidance. I am no longer happy with “settling” for just any job. And yes, our jobs are great places to witness but we need to also keep in mind that it is now grounds for termination if we are not careful how we witness. A sad state of affairs but one we can work around. How? By how we conduct ourselves at work. Lol, God has done an awesome job with my “flesh” (my mouth) as I am not one to put up with any disrespect of any kind from anyone. Well on the part time job I have at present, it has been a Boot Camp (training camp) for me to not show out. It is a daily lesson in trusting God for ALL THINGS. I do have some dreams with working with the homeless as I have been down that road in my 50’s. I am trusting God to bring the right opportunities and people into my life to fulfill this dream. Until then, I am GRATEFUL for the job he gave me. Yes, he gave it to me as I did not go looking for this job. It was offered to me. Only God can do that!!! Blessings Everyone, Angela

  2. Hi Angela – I’ve experienced what you mean about medical personnel in my own life. In a couple of recent hospital stays they’ve all been wonderful. But at the opposite end of the spectrum there is woman who buses tables at our local Panera Bread restaurant, and has been for the past 13 years. She has the most positive attitude for a person in what many consider to be a low level job. It’s not the job, but what we bring to it, and she brings the best of humanity. She’s a compelling reason why anyone goes to that restaurant, as it’s clear that she loves her job.

    I had experienced something similar with a lady in Atlanta who cleaned offices at night. She sang her way through the job, and was bright and cheery with everyone who happened by. That’s a unique and blessed person.

  3. They say your “career passion” is what you would do even if you were NOT being paid. That is how I feel about my dream to work with the homeless. So until God positions me to be able to do that, I give him the GLORY every day I have to deal with a work environment that has tried to get me fired or forced me to quit. Don’t get me wrong, there are some days I am in tears in the ladies restroom and that is when I BEG God to get me out of there/lol. But he has me there for a SEASON and I know now it is to TEACH me to TRUST him only. I am sure my co-workers and boss wonder every day why I keep coming in. I do it because God gave me that job. I do find myself ATTRACTING the young people and that alone makes me SMILE every day. I NEVER force myself on them, but my saying “hello” even on the days I would rather not – seems to be a Welcome Mat for them to come talk to me. They may be having an issue on the job or their personal lives and know from WATCHING me that I am not part of any group. The challenge is to do all of this in a “spiritual” way and that i am still working on. Why? Because I HATE every time they “harass” me or “harass” someone else who does not deserve. It takes an act of God for me to keep my mouth shut, say yes or no Sir or Mam and keep it moving. Who knows, this may be TRAINING for something similar working with the Homeless. I do have an interest in RECRUITING the homeless – the ones that want to work and get off the streets and out of the shelters or off someone’s floor or couch. Been there myself and my heart is there every day I pass someone in need. Blessings Everyone, Angela

  4. Angela have you tried running your ideas by local charities that work with the homeless? There may be an opportunity closer than you think, but you have to reach out a bit for it. It’s just a thought, because I think you may be on to something with your ideas. There’s that saying, “Be the change you are hoping to see in the world.”

  5. Yes, and everyone is too busy DONATING to the homeless. But I no longer get angry as I now understand that it takes one being HOMELESS to understand that journey. God will direct my steps in the right direction when my season is ready. Right now I have to keep TRUSTING him with my life and continue to share my journey with others as appropriate. Do the same Kevin. I have often told you that the FAITH FORUM needs to stay ACTIVE even when it feels like no one is reading it. Lol, I had given up on you receiving this then something told me to check the forum. It was like WOW, you have been posting!!! Yay and I am so BLESSED to read these posts. Everyone has a PART to play in this world. Blessings Everyone, Angela.

  6. Kevin, it is another NEW YEAR and once again more businesses are closing their doors due to the lack of income for many. God has certainly been in the mix of things for many of us and I know personally I thank him every day for providing. When I finally “let go” and finally gave up on trying to “fix” things myself, HE has certainly showed himself in my life. Now I am still fussing with him about getting another car/lol – but in the midst of not fussing, I have been exposed to many opportunities to show myself as a child of God. Little do we know that the way we RESPOND to situations and/or people on our jobs is an opportunity for people to ask – how do you do it? As I look back 2 years ago when I had been without a job for 3 years in Florida in my 50’s – I now know like Naomi, I was brought to Virginia for a season and reason. God got me a job within 2 months of being here when I was not looking for one/lol. I now FOCUS on this on those days when I just want to sit somewhere and feel sorry for myself as my aching body is telling me that I will NEVER get back into the office environment. Retail work is not for the seniors I am convinced but I am now thoroughly enjoying my part time job as God has positioned me on the register and fitting room. Two GREAT places to INTERACT with people of all ages. Now some interaction I would rather not have (the difficult customers) but now I look forward to going into work. Thank you Kevin for this FAITH FORUM and I look forward to seeing more posts when you feel led to do so. Blessings everyone 🙂

  7. Hi Angela – Glad to know you’re still out there working and not giving up. My experience has always been like yours – as long as I keep moving forward in faith, God meets me along the way and provides what I need. It doesn’t mean that all of our problems go away, but that we’ll get the help that we need as we face them. I’ve learned that that’s enough, as in enough to remind me that God is real, and so are His promises. And that’s a good feeling because the ultimate promise is that He’ll take us up to be with him one day. Whatever we face between now and then is more tolerable if we remember the prize at the end.

  8. Kevin, good for you! Witnessing can be FUN if we let God GUIDE us. I know I am totally turned off by co-workers who use to bombard me with unasked for sermons or material. I now use my own experience with this to not do this and it is so AWESOME when it all falls in place. I get a chance to share my miracles and also get to network with other Christians. It may be a customer or a co-worker of any age. Now I UNDERSTAND why I was brought to Virginia two years ago and have that FEELING that my car is on its way 🙂 It looks totally IMPOSSIBLE and I know I had allowed the devil to DISCOURAGE me with thoughts of why even go to work with no hours. I had to also deal with shame of having to let my only adult child help me with bills. Not one to do this, it was a BIG deal. My constant prayer is that I will get back to my self sufficiency and not have to worry about what happens when my tax refund runs out. Lol, it is like every time I get my refund – my retail job reduces my hours. But I am through fussing with God and await my destiny. I see myself working until the day I die once I get into what I am suppose to be doing. Working with the homeless who are over 50. So many of us are being forced out of the work place as we age and it is hard to prove this. There are LAWS against this, but how do you prove this. A senior needs to be active and God certainly can use them in any workplace. I am trusting Donald Trump will do something along these lines to change the work environment for the over 50. Too many are ending up homeless. Blessings, Angela

  9. I’ll be with you working until the day I die Angela, that’s a big reason why I’m doing work that I love! I suspect that a lot more people will be doing the same thing even if they can’t admit it to themselves or anyone else right now. But unlike a lot of people, I’m perfectly OK with that. I’ve always worked and can’t imagine life without it. I like the feeling of being self-sustaining, while making a contribution and remaining relevant all at the same time.

    I’m with you on the people who are “in your face” with witnessing. I used to work with someone who was like that, and even as a believer myself I was put off. I personally prefer “soft witnessing”. For example, yesterday and into the night we had a blizzard – over a foot of snow. There was a guy assigned to our parking lot, who kept the walkways shoveled all day. At about 6pm I went out to offer him a hot beverage, and if he wanted, a bathroom break and a chance to warm up for a bit. He accepted the hot drink, but didn’t need to come inside.

    Afterwards when he returned the coffee container, he said he was putting that episode on facebook – he said no one had ever done that! Can you imagine? These guys are out clearing snow day and night under awful conditions and no one ever offers them a drink or a bathroom break. We just assume that “it’s their job”. I told him that we’re Christians and it’s our job to help where we can. I think that’s a more effective witness. As it says in Matthew 5:47: And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Yesterday was a lucky moment for me – even though I’m aware of this verse, I still have to remind myself to act on it.

  10. Kevin, that was an excellent example of KINDNESS and a chance to share your Christian Walk. Kindness does SO MUCH for others and gives Christians a chance to share a little something with others. Yes, we tend to FORGET about the people who work OUTSIDE and like you, my area just came out of a snow storm. I am GRATEFUL every day for the people who work outside. I know I could not do it. In ending, you stated a very critical thing – doing what you are destined to do in the workplace does make a difference. I love running into people who are just GLOWING at their job. I often ask them how did they know this was what they wanted to do. Some knew from childhood while some just fell into something. I know from being homeless myself in my 50’s helped me to realize how PASSIONATE I am about finding ways to PREVENT it. It is a lot cheaper to save jobs versus rescuing the homeless and building more shelters. Blessings, Angela

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