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Why Work?

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With the right understanding, you can turn your work from a curse into the blessing God intended!

Millions of Americans cheered last year when the United States Congress approved increased unemployment benefits to help needy workers survive COVID-19-related job losses. For many, extra government benefits protected their families from homelessness and hunger while avoiding potentially dangerous illness as their nation took unprecedented steps to slow the spread of an unfamiliar coronavirus.

However, as the COVID threat lessened and the nation’s economy began to recover, businesses observed a striking phenomenon: In many job sectors, the number of jobs available far exceeded the number of workers seeking to fill them! On June 8, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing that in April 2021, a record 9.3 million jobs were unfilled across the nation. Additionally, a record-high four million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs during the month.

What is going on? Part of the answer is that with unemployment benefits raised to unprecedented levels, many workers have been better able to care for their families by cashing unemployment checks than by accepting jobs that pay less. But that’s not the whole story.

 More and more, reports are emerging of workers who spent a difficult year out of work or working from home and gained a new perspective on employment that made them reluctant or even unwilling to return to formerly tolerable office jobs. As jobs return to the office, many workers are leaving those jobs! Why is this happening, and what can we learn from it about work itself?

A Very Brief History of Work

The book of Genesis tells us that God worked to create our world. Six times, Genesis reports that God looked at the work of His hands and found it “good”! At the end of the week, after His work was done, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

God was not distressed by His work; He enjoyed it! But God did not want to enjoy the creation process alone; He wanted to share His world and its development with others. One key reason He created human beings was to share the joy of His work. “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.… Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:8, 15).

God wanted Adam, Eve, and their descendants to have the pleasing and exciting challenge of tending the Garden of Eden—and, ultimately, of beautifying the entire earth! But they rejected God’s truth, His sovereignty over them, and His way of life. What was the result?

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17–19). Work—intended to be a blessing for those obeying God—became a curse for disobedience.

Adam and Eve gave up an ideal job—a wonderful environment with great working conditions and unbeatable benefits! They chose to rebel against God’s command and were driven out of this hospitable and supportive environment. Billions of human beings have struggled to subsist ever since.

Work today is not what God intended it to be! Since our ancestors left the Garden of Eden, the experience of work has not been pleasurable or even comfortable for most people. Even today, for most of earth’s population, work is a “necessary evil” in the struggle to survive! If a government gives people the opportunity to survive without work, we should not be surprised when people leave or refuse to take jobs that they see as unprofitable or unpleasant.

Workplace Regulations… and Scripture?

Good workplace statutes can promote safety and health—and even save lives! In the U.S. the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers regulations estimated to have cut work-related fatalities by more than 60 percent (All About OSHA, 2020). However, long before OSHA existed, God established regulations to provide for a safe and healthy environment.

For example, “if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, the owner of the pit shall make it good” (Exodus 21:33–34). Another statute prescribes a sound construction practice: the need to build railings on flat roofs to prevent accidents. “When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it” (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Yes, God Himself reveals that there are standards and guidelines that help to create a safe environment. When the prophet Ezekiel described life under God’s government, he did so in a remarkable way: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.… I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

God’s statutes were meant for health and happiness. In the soon-coming Millennium, under the reign of Jesus Christ, the earth will experience a vibrant, healthy economy regulated not by human greed or foolishness, but by God’s own law. Ample goods and efficient services will be the result of people engaged in their work and enjoying it! As people put God’s principles of love and service into practice every day through the power of His Spirit, they will experience in their work a peace and fulfillment beyond description!

That future time will be exciting and wonderful. But would you like to experience a stronger sense of purpose and excitement in your work and life today? You can!

Learn How to Work Better

One way to have a better work experience is by becoming a better worker! Thirty years ago, James Patterson and Peter Kim found that American workers admitted to goofing off up to 20 percent of their time on the job. Almost half admitted to calling in sick when they were well, one in six regularly drank or used drugs on the job, and only one in four said they gave their best effort (The Day America Told the Truth, 1991)—and it’s likely that statistics are no more encouraging today! What about you? Are you dedicated to putting in an honest day’s work?

Do you find it difficult to get along with others—your coworkers, your employees, or your boss? What if you have an especially difficult boss? God shows how to handle such situations: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully… when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:18–20).

Certainly, there comes a time when you should stop enduring the abuse of a belligerent boss and move on to a new job. But before you leave an unpleasant workplace, make sure you have done all you can to make it better. Make an effort to help your boss achieve his or her goals. Seek cooperation rather than confrontation. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Learning constructive ways to work through conflict lessens your stress level, improves your sense of well-being, and results in a better work experience overall.

Do you have trouble getting along with people you supervise? Take time to better encourage and motivate your employees—even the “difficult” ones! Scripture tells managers to give workers what is “just and fair” (Colossians 4:1), and to “give up threatening” (Ephesians 6:9, World English Bible). Fairness, patience, and an honest effort to understand your employees’ goals and needs go a long way in building workplace morale. God is watching how managers treat others, because He is their Manager (v. 9).

Seek Purpose and Joy in Your Work

To have true success in work—and in life—people need to enjoy what they are doing. Baseball promoter Mike Veeck commented, “People have a driving need to be happy, and it’s a tough act to pull off if it’s not genuine” (Fun Is Good, 2005).

Most of us know someone who has a contagiously sunny personality, and we have seen how a cheerful word or spontaneous laughter can break the ice of tension or stress at just the right moment. Long ago, Solomon was inspired to write, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).

To a true Christian, even the most difficult and dead-end job can be filled with purpose and significance—if we remember for whom we are really working. Paul instructed, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5–6).

Your work can take on greater significance when you realize that you are not merely working for human beings, but to please God. Doing our work—whatever our work—with commitment and zeal increases our motivation, drive, and enjoyment of the task. And understanding that we can please God with our work is perhaps the greatest motivator of all.

Working for God!

Jesus Christ talked positively about work. Consider the parable of the talents:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them…. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.” His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:14; 19–21).

This parable also hints at a wonderful truth—God is training today’s Christians to rule with Him in His Kingdom. The prerequisite for working with Christ in His Kingdom is not that we achieve wealth and status in this life; rather, we must learn character and obedience to God, love for our fellow human beings, and total faith in His Son, in whatever circumstances God desires or allows for us.

To learn more about the coming Kingdom of God and about the future transformation of all work from a curse to a blessing, read The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? You can read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org, or request your own printed copy from our Regional Office nearest you.

Whatever your circumstances, make the most of every work opportunity you have—with zeal, determination, joy, and love. Do not squander an opportunity to let your current work prepare you to work for God in His Kingdom (Matthew 25:24–28)!

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