You are working today. You might or might not be paid for it, and you might or might not work outside the home. You might work in a manufacturing industry or you might own your own business. You might wear a uniform or you might wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt. But you are working in whatever office, home, or outfit you are currently in.
I think all of us, when the work slips into tedium and routine, are prone to ask the question of whether or not what we are doing really matters. The question, even if it’s not directly spoken, is revealed in other ways. We might find it hard to get out of bed on another Monday. Or we might constantly find ourselves clicking on job postings online to find something we deem to be more significant. Or we might apply this short but very relatively word to our occupation – “just”:
- I’m just a teacher.
- I’m just a mom.
- I’m just a cook.
- I’m just a salesman.
So how about it? Does our work really matter? And if the answer is “yes,” then are there reasons for that answer that go beyond the scope of a particular vocation? In other words, does our work matter regardless of what our position is?
To that end, I can see at least four reasons why your work matters today, whether you’re a plumber or a preacher, a stay-at-home mom or a go-to-the-office dad:
1. Because God is sovereign.
We like sometimes to attribute a kind of leveling to the sovereignty of God. That is to say, we think of God as sovereign over big, earthquaking events like an election or a world war. But if we believe that God is sovereign, then He is sovereign over both the big and the small. If God is sovereign, then it is not by chance that you are working in the field you are, at the company you are, and even in the location you are. You are there by His design. And God has not made an error in judgment, nor does He have a lapse in divine attention.
2. Because we are made in God’s image.
Work matters not only because of God’s intentionality; it matters because our desire and capacity to do good work is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. If you look back to the account of creation, you see God speaking innumerable creatures into existence, but only one that He made in His own image. And the first thing He did after uniquely creating man was to give Him a job:
“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Gen. 2:15).
Being made in God’s image goes well beyond this, but it also includes our work. God did not create us to lounge; it is His intent for us to engage in work. Indeed, without work we are not living fully in the image of God. So our work matters simply because work matters, for working is God design for us as humans.
3. Because work is for your good.
God is using all things, both big and small, for our good, which is to mold us into the image of Jesus. This is His will for us in Christ—that we become transformed into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30). When we become adults, we spend the majority of our waking hours doing some kind of work. So, then, if God is using all our circumstances for our good and godliness, and we spend the bulk of our time doing work, then our work must also be for our good and godliness.
It’s through this avenue that we learn the lessons of sanctification like contentment, perseverance, faithfulness, patience, and a host of other things. And even if your job is not one you would have chosen for yourself at this point in life, you can be sure that God is using it to make you more like Jesus.
4. Because work is for the good of others.
Work is one of the primary means by which God is exercising His common grace for humanity. Though He might have chosen other means, He has opted to use us to keep the world in order and provide for human flourishing. Consider, for example, what the Lord said to His people when they were exiled into a foreign land:
“Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper” (Jer. 29:7).
One of the most practical ways we can seek the good of the community around us is by doing good, hard work from which others benefit. Whether you are teaching a class, collecting garbage, or plumbing a toilet, you are one of the means of God for the public welfare. That means your work matters.
So you might find yourself living your dream job today. Or you might find yourself in a role you would, quite frankly, rather be assigned to someone else. But God is sovereign. You are created in His image. He is making you more like Jesus, and He is providing for the good of others through your job. Be faithful, Christian, and work hard in faith.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.