Why do I work?

Why do I work?

Why do humans work? Most people spend the majority of their waking hours working or traveling to work, but to what end? If pressed for an answer, many would respond with statements such as, “To make money,” “To provide for my family,” or, “To make a name for myself.”

Although valid reasons, are they enough to see us through the inevitable tough times that come with having a job? Even if they are, is there a better reason? A reason that is embedded within the nature of humanity so deeply that it is often passed over like buried treasure?

Dorothy Sayers once wrote, “Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do.” (Creed or Chaos? p. 73) Have you ever thought about you work in that way?

The Biblical view is that work is not only a means to an end, but is itself, fundamental to what it means to be a human. This view is derived from the first two chapters of the Bible: Genesis 1-2. There, God demonstrates that he, himself, works, when he creates the world. Further, he passes this function of work on to the only part of his creation made in his image—human beings.

In other words, God works, and humans are made in his image, therefore humans work. Or, as Pope John Paul II says, work “constitutes [humanity’s] very nature.” (Encyclical Letter on Human Work, p. 5.)

Furthermore, when we look to the future, and the new creation, it is clear that humans will continue to work, as Isaiah states in his vision of the new earth:

“They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:21–22)

Therefore, human beings live to work and will continue to live to work for eternity, even as they are transformed into a new creation. So, if work is fundamentally a part of what it means to be human, rather than some means to an end of money or success, how might that change the way you work? I believe that when we recapture God’s intended purpose for our work, it sets us free from the tyranny of work as a means to some other end and allows us to enjoy our work in a fundamentally different way.

If you want to read and study further about this, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller. In it, he addresses in much more detail the topic I’ve merely scratched the surface of above.

I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and I look forward to connecting with you at some point either in-person on online through our worship services.

Pastor Ellis