In the Christian faith, there can be some theologies that are hard to understand. But, knowing the correct theology of work helps us apply God’s truth, purpose, and passion to our every day lives. Whether we’re a student, businessperson, teacher, missionary, or have a different vocation, all our lives are affected by what we believe about God and work.
What is the theology of work? The theology of work is what the Bible says about work Five viewpoints on the theology of work include:
- Work Is For Wealth
- Work Is Weary
- Work Is Worthless
- Work Is Worldly
- Work Is Worshipful
It may not make sense that biblical work leads to both purpose and rest, but by learning how God initially made work for the man and not man for the work, we’ll be able to worship God in all that we do and help others do the same.
The Creation Mandate And Work
To truly understand the theology of work, we get to look at and learn from what’s called the creation mandate.
The creation mandate is the charge that God gave man to fill the earth, subdue it, and to be fruitful and multiply. This account can be found in Genesis 1-3, where God creates the world and everything in it and gives Adam authority over it all.
Included in this authority was the authority to work the ground and work for not only food and survival but to work out of a place of worship for God.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they also tainted all the authority over the earth that they had been given with sin. This caused the Fall, but it didn’t stop God from blessing his people and giving them the ability to be fruitful in all their work.
When Jesus came as a man, he symbolized the New Adam, and through his perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he took back the creation mandate and put it under his authority.
Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’Matthew 28:18 CSB
Jesus has been given all authority, therefore when you and I work in Jesus’ name, we work with his authority, under the law of grace. Since we now know the truth about what work was created to be and how it’s being redeemed by Jesus, we can decide which theology of work is most applicable to our lives.
5 Viewpoints Of The Theology Of Work
There are five main ways in which most people, even Christians, see work. These five ways are:
It can be disappointing when we see all the negative words associated with work, but God never intended it to be this way.
Through each of the five theologies of work, we can see what the Bible really says about working for the Lord and how it should impact our relationship with him and our relationships with others.
1. Work Is For Wealth
In our society today, it’s glamorous and even expected for people to chase after the American dream and the American income. Work is a means to buy and consume the life we want, the car, the house, the vacation, and all the little things in between.
From a worldview that’s all about you, work is for wealth, because what else would it be for? The more wealth you have, the more well-liked and respected you seem to be.
The Bible never says that having wealth and lots of money is a sin. There were many rich businessmen and women in the Bible who used their riches for God’s glory.
Think of Joseph, who was the Pharoah’s, right-hand man. He was the wealthiest and most prosperous man in the world at the time because of God’s plan for him (Genesis 47).
Lydia of Thyatira was also a person in the Bible who used her wealth to support the mission of God (Acts 16). Nevertheless, when people aren’t rooted in their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, they can become greedy about their work and only use it as a way to get rich and get what they want.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s honorable to work to provide for a family and to make a living, but we can miss out on all that God has for us in our work when all we want out of it is money.
God wants more for us in the jobs we’re at. He wants to give us purpose, joy, and wealth. Through this purpose, joy, and wealth, we can choose to serve God in it.
In Ecclesiastes, the writer talks about the meaningless of working for wealth.
There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless— a miserable business!Ecclesiastes 4:8 NIV
Without working for God’s glory, serving others, and loving Jesus, work is meaningless, even if we have all the money in the world.
2. Work Is Weary
Have you ever had a day when you don’t want to get out of bed because the thought of work makes you so tired? I sure have.
Working can be hard at times and make us weary. Whether you’re working as a missionary, a cashier, or are in a blue collar or white collar job, there seems to always be those wearisome days.
If you feel like this currently in your work, let me tell you that God sees you. He does. On your groggy, foggy and tough days God is there.
God didn’t create work to be like this. God didn’t create work with the purpose to make you weary. But, when Adam and Eve sinned, the work God had created man to do was cursed due to the Fall.
In Genesis 3, God made the work for Adam and all of mankind to do as hard and sometimes as intense labor. What hope then is there for us, who want and need to work but don’t want to be weary doing it?
God so loved the world that he sent his son Jesus to save us not only from sin and death but also for an abundant life with him no matter what our circumstances are.
God is for us and wants us to have abundant and fruitful work.
Because Jesus symbolizes the second Adam, died, and rose again, he can redeem all things, making work life-giving for us.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV
Therefore, if you believe work is supposed to be weary, or if you’re feeling drained in your work, all you need to do is ask Jesus for help. Ask him to give you his authority so that you can rest and glorify his name.
Through the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ power, you can take back your work from the dominion of darkness and trade it for his dominion of light. Trade your weariness for his strength in your work.
3. Work Is Worthless
Another sad view of the theology of work states that work is worthless. Going back to Ecclesiastes, it seems that there’s again no reason for us to work.
‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 NIV
Is the Bible telling us to give up on work? If everything is meaningless in our lives, what are we doing working? When hard questions like these come us, this is when we’ve got to think of the context.
Ecclesiastes was written by most likely King Solomon, who had experienced everything life had to offer. He had experienced the most important work there was at the time: leading a kingdom.
During this time in Israel, the Jews still lived under the Old Testament law, and King Solomon realized the magnitude of sin and hopelessness in life without a savior. Now, we know that Jesus has come and died on a cross for us so that everything would be made new under his reign and rule.
Jesus is the perfect King of Kings, and when we subject ourselves to his authority, our work will never be worthless. God created each one of us on purpose and for a purpose, and he wants our work to be full of purpose too.
Whether working purposefully means being a light in your office, being generous and kind to coworkers, or spreading the gospel as a missionary overseas, you can ask God to make your work worth it.
4. Work Is Worldly
One way that Satan has twisted work, is that he’s fed Christians the lie that any work that isn’t vocational ministry or working as a missionary is worldly.
Satan thinks he can trick us into thinking that God is so small that he can’t also make work holy and abundant in places like Hollywood, a hospital, or at your local diner down the street.
The sacred-secular divide has corrupted our way of thinking and told us that normal, everyday work can’t be viewed as sacred and honored by God.
Now there are definitely some jobs and occupations that are not God-honoring at all, and that work is worldly. Other jobs can also become tainted by sin because people are willing to cheat, steal, and destroy others on their way to the top. As Christians, we’re called to be different.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24 ESV
Whatever work you do, do it for the Lord. It doesn’t have to be worldly. Work can be a way to serve God and others, and if you’re in a job right now that you feel is worldly, know that you can ask God for wisdom on how to navigate that.
Maybe you can start praying for your coworkers, or maybe you can ask for your church to help train you in how to share the gospel with others. If you need to leave a worldly job, ask God for the provision and strength to be able to do that.
Whatever the next step is, you can act as Jesus would as a businessperson, doctor, government worker, missionary, photographer, mom or dad, etc., and change the world through your work.
Being an honest and hard worker shows your co-workers and boss who Jesus really is.
Exercising the attributes of God in a worldly workplace is sure to stand out and make an impact, so trust God and follow his lead since you know that work doesn’t have to be worldly.
5. Work Is Worship
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:17 CSB
As Christians, we get to worship God in spirit and in truth all the time because we have a relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to pray constantly, grow in our faith, and even offer our work up to god for him to use.
Offering our work to God is a form of worship, and when we truly experience joy in what he’s given us to do, our main focus will be working to worship.
Think again about Adam, and how he was given the Garden of Eden to tend and take care of. He did that in the presence of God, and that work was a beautiful gift.
Working for God and with Jesus is also a joy, especially when you know that you are God’s workmanship and that God gave you your work for a purpose.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
We are in Christ Jesus. We get to do good works with and through him. God prepared this work ahead of time for us. Wow.
How can God be so invested in us, that even after we accept him and follow him, he is still involved in all the details of our lives including work? He is a good, good Father.
As you work, wherever and whenever you work, and in whatever you do, know that you can do it to worship God and express your love and gratefulness to him.
Biblical Work Leads To Rest
The last thing about work that honors god, is that it leads us into his rest.
It seems counterintuitive that hard work should lead to rest, but when we look at the Bible, we can see that Jesus preached about the upside-down kingdom of God which sometimes doesn’t make any sense to us.
Even God, after he created the universe in six days, chose to rest on the seventh day. By no means did he need to, but he still took the time to show us how important it is to slow down.
To stress his point, God even commanded the Israelites to rest on the Sabbath and to have festivals on the seventh month of the year. God wanted his people to throw parties for him and rest by rejoicing and celebrating in all that he had done for them.
This shows how God takes both work and rest seriously, but this doesn’t mean that we can only rest on one day out of the week.
Rest is meant to be experienced in the presence of God, and because that is true, we can rest even when we are working.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28 ESV
Jesus is speaking here and wants us to know that whatever work we’re doing, whether it’s wearisome or not, we can come to him and rest.
The Theology Of Work Matters
The theology of work matters because without it, our work is wearisome, worthless, and worldly.
When we work for wealth, or even just to get by, we’re not living in the full authority that Jesus has given us.
When we truly know what it means to work, we will be serving God and others, and worshiping Jesus because he created our work on purpose and for a purpose.
This is why the theology of work matters; because relying on God and his word will lead us into an abundant life of work with him, a better relationship with him, and into a rest that is possible even in the weariest and hardest of times.
Jesus is worthy of our work, and we give it to him so that ourselves and others may experience what it truly means to worship and live in the joy and rest of God.