I’m excited to share Brenda Pace’s wisdom in today’s post, 5 Purposes of Work, as we kick of our month of Flourishing in Work.
Created for Work
by Brenda Pace
My dad grew up the hard way. He dropped out of school at a young age to work in the cotton mills of North Carolina. He worked hard to pull himself out of poverty by joining the Army and then used his GI Bill to become the only person in his family to attend college. He eventually earned a PhD and was a successful college professor. Up until his death at age 89, he cared for my mother, kept a disciplined routine of home management, and found time to study and write every day. He worked hard throughout his life with a sense of enjoyment in his labor. I’m grateful for his example and legacy of diligence.
That example served me well, when at an age when many of my peers were retiring from their day jobs, and after years of not bringing home a regular paycheck, I re-entered the paid workforce. The transition has not been seamless (understatement), but whether paid or volunteer, I’ve never questioned the privilege granted me to do meaningful and purposeful work.
Punishment or Gift?
I recently heard a profound sermon on the topic of work. The preacher asked if we had heard or believed that work is a result of the fall of man and punishment for sin. He went on to declare that yes, work began in the garden of Eden, but it did not happen after the fall, but before: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15 ESV).
Toil in work came after the fall in Genesis 3:17, “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”
Friends, work is not a punishment; work is a gift from God.
He created us in his image to work and care for his created order. He wants us to flourish in our work and enjoy the fruits of our labor which brings him glory.
5 Purposes of Work
In the book Your Work Matters to God, authors William Hendricks and Douglas Sherman offer five purposes for work:
- Through work we serve people.
- Through work we meet our family’s needs.
- Through work we meet our own needs.
- Through work we earn money to give to others.
- Through work we love God (Hendricks and Sherman, 87).
On this Labor Day, I say thank you to military personnel and military spouses who labor valiantly on behalf of our nation. The military profession is work that indeed matters to God, and those who with professional skills serve the nation and with personal dedication serve God, have the elements of true fulfillment in work. Spouses who support and serve on the team share in a purposeful life that goes beyond a mere paycheck.
“God of heaven and earth, we pray for your kingdom to come, for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Teach us to see our vocations and occupations as woven into your work in the world this week. For mothers at home who care for children, for those whose labor forms our common life in this city, the nation and the world, for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce, for those whose creative gifts nourish us all, for those whose callings take them into the academy, for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you, for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy. Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen” (Garber, 239).
Verses to Ponder
Consider this practical guidance from God’s Word on work:
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil —Ecclesiastes 2:24a ESV.
Behold what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God —Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ESV.
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat —2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV.
As each has received a gift, us it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace —1 Peter 4:10 ESV.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need —Ephesians 4:28 ESV.
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.
William Hendricks and Douglas Sherman, Your Work Matters to God, (Carol Springs, IL: NavPress, 1990).
Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2014).