“God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1:30
What’s the true value of your work? Is it what you are paid or the status it provides?
The other day my son picked up a book on our table and I asked him to read the title. “The Gift of Work,” he said. I then asked, “Eli, why do we work? Why does dad go to work every day?”
“To make money,” Eli answered with confidence. I thought for a moment. His answer wasn’t wrong. And it’s an answer that most of us might give.
Yet, after seeing work from God’s perspective, the value of work has a whole new meaning. So, I said to him, “Well, really we work because God works and as His children, we work too. Money is a benefit of work, but the real reason we work is because God made us to work.”
Now, whether or not Eli got what I said I don’t know. It wouldn’t be the first time I thought I taught him something important that he actually didn’t care to get. Even so, we often do measure the value of our work according to money. We think that what we earn says something about us and our job status. But, that’s not God’s perspective. Work has value on its own.
Dorothy Sayers, a writer of the first half of the 20th century, said it this way in her thoughtful essay “Why work?”
The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done.
We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” And shareholders in – let us say – brewing companies, would astonish the directorate by arising at shareholders’ meeting and demanding to know, not merely where the profits go or what dividends are to be paid, not even merely whether the workers’ wages are sufficient and the conditions of labor satisfactory, but loudly and with a proper sense of personal responsibility: “What goes into the beer?”
We are often tempted to judge our jobs in many ways. You may see your job as a means to earn money, provide for the family, as a platform for ministry, as a means of self fullfillment, as a way to ‘change the world,’ as drudgery on the way to the weekend, or as the measure of your success. Sayer’s point is that work has its own value and what we produce should be judged based on it’s quality not just its function.
Work certainly does provide for money for our needs, but if that’s the only reason for work then it becomes a self directed instead of a God directed activity. We may also rationalize unethical activities under the guise of just trying to provide for our families.
When God created He called it “good.” It was good because He made it and He wouldn’t make anything not good. When Jesus worked as a carpenter, I bet his work was good too. After all, the hands that made the heavens also spent time making tables and chairs.
In the same way, as His children, we should judge our own work by its quality not just its earnings. Did we do a good job today?
Our kids see us working, but do they know why we work? Does our work point them to God or just to a paycheck and stuff we can buy because we work? Do they see us working too much or working like our Father who took time to rest?
The gift of work is the work itself no matter if we work in the corner office or the mailroom, at the front desk or bagging groceries, paid or volunteer.
The quality of our work should bring glory to the God who made us to work well, to the absolute best of our abilities no matter what we do.