As a pastor, I often hear something like this: “What I do at work is—work. What I do at church is for the Lord.”
Is this the right attitude? What does the Bible say about our work? Is there a “secular” place (work?) and sacred place (church?)? Or, since all is the Lord’s, how are we are to view this?
In Genesis 2:15, the Bible connects our work to something bigger—worship. The Hebrew word for “work” comes from the same root word as “worship.” So, Adam worshipped God not just by staying away from those out-and-out sinners (there were none — yet!) and reading his Bible (there wasn’t one — yet!), but he worshipped God by doing what God told him to do—work in the Garden.
Isn’t it also telling that 39 out of the 40 miracles in the book of Acts happened outside the walls of the church gathering? Or, that most of Jesus’ parables dealt with workplace environments?
Let me ask you: Do you see your work as worship? Is it possible to clean toilets to the glory of God? Or make sales calls to the glory of God? Or build a building to God’s glory?
Yes, everything and everyone is being put to work for the glory of God. Whether you know it or not. To do the work of the Lord for the glory of “self” is not an inferior approach; it is a stab in His back.
Let me offer you four ways that work—whether paid, volunteer, or “retirement”—can be worship and apply this practically:
#1 - Work can be worship because it accomplishes God’s intention for you in creation.
Remember, Genesis 2:15 happened before sin entered the world. Work wasn’t a part of the curse of sin—it was part of God’s plan from the beginning. The word used for work in Genesis 2:15 also can mean “develop” or “prepare.” We take the “raw goods” (literal and figurative) of the earth and cultivate them for God’s praise and the profit of other people.
But, yes, it is true that God cursed the ground and made work toilsome (Gen. 3:16-20). Pastor Tim Keller summarized it well when he said, “The Fall means, we should expect to be regularly frustrated in our work even though we may be in exactly the right vocation.”
So, what do you do if you hate your job and it’s toilsome and it’s not what you want to do?
Stay faithful as an act of service to God and to benefit others. There can be pleasure in it.
Remember: Paul made tents (Acts 18:3). His call was to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47). Making tents wasn’t his call – but he did it to advance God’s kingdom.
#2 - Work can be worship because it aims for the top integrity.
Indeed, workplaces aren’t always known for being places of truth and morals. However, as Christians, we can treat work as worship because we seek to display and handle every situation and interaction with the highest standard of justice and integrity before God. Our faith should be reflected in how we handle ourselves.
Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”
To truly worship as we work, we must remember that we shouldn’t settle simply for the company’s ethics, but should go even higher—because God’s truth is higher than all (John 17:17). As Christians, our job is to live for God and to die for God in how we handle ourselves.
#3 - Work can be worship because we seek to do all things with distinction as ambassadors for the Gospel.
Every area of our lives as Christian—our worship, walk, work, or worldview—is dependent upon the right knowledge of God.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23). If a slave can transpose his work into worship, you can to!
“In the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). Living for Him, in every vocation, is the only non-waste of time in all this world.
“Take this job and shove it,” then, must not be the attitude of Christians in the workplace. Our jobs are mission opportunities. When we’ve understood our calling to serve the Lord in whatever vocation we find ourselves as a light to the world, Mondays will be a joy. And doing those routine, rote, and menial tasks will be a joy, too!
#4 - Work can be worship because it is all about blessing others.
Before you complain about your employer, be grateful you have one. Not only does our day of rest and worship distinguish us from the world on Sundays, but it leads to a distinct work ethic on Mondays. Working hard for your employer is a part of your calling, and when you do, unbelievers will ask, “What is this hope within you?”
If you own a business, this may mean that to glorify God you don’t ask, “How much money can I get out of this?” but, what’s more, “How is our business advancing God’s kingdom?” And it may require that you give away a lot of extra money earned for Christ’s kingdom. After all, isn’t this what our Savior did for us (2 Cor. 8:9)?
One last word of caution: Worship the sovereign, triune God—not your work! Don’t make work your security. Since Christians are hidden with Christ in God, to be a Christian is to be as secure as Christ is. If you have “put on Christ,” you are as secure as He is.
Friend, work is where you will spend most of your time on earth. Work really counts for something to God and God really matters for your work.