If we don't worship through our work we will either worship work itself, the money or status it brings or treat work as a mere means to the end of rest or a hedonistic retirement (Gordon Preece in Martin, 2017, p.xv).
Work in some form, paid or unpaid, is part of adult life. It is a fact of life. Ogden Nash says 'if you don't want to work, you have to work so that you earn enough money so that you don't have to work' (Martin, 2017, p.27).
While many know real fulfillment through their work, others experience the grind and demands of the daily work routine as more of a curse than a blessing. This is no surprise when we look at the origins of work in the Bible. From the creation we know that God worked and took delight in His work as a good thing. He worked for six of the seven days of creation. When man was made he was made in the image of God and he too was invited to join in the work, to name the beasts and to work the ground. However, after disobeying God’s instructions working the ground became onerous work.
Several factors contribute to the balance of delight or curse in our experience of work: the interest and challenge of the job, feeling that we are making a difference, the relationships with the people we work with and our health, as well as different demands and stresses in the workplace. Perhaps the most significant factor in the way we experience our work, however, is our attitude which is based on the way we understand and approach work.
Do we understand our work as secular; something separate from faith? Or do we understand work as something we do for the good of the world and the glory of God?
Do we understand our work as secular; something separate from faith? Or do we understand work as something we do for the good of the world and the glory of God? (Martin, 2017, p.23). Paul even encouraged slaves in Colossae to see their work (which was often onerous) as part of their service to God. His advice was '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' (Colossians 3:23). If we separate work out as a secular activity rather than a spiritual one, we have adopted a dualistic understanding that is aligned with Plato, who saw the body and soul as separate (Martin, 2017, p.1), rather than a Biblical understanding. Kara Martin says if we are thinking dualistically, our work is missing out on the wisdom that faith brings – our colleagues are missing out on a critical witness of the power of faith to transform every part of our lives.
Martin also warns us of a personal cost to adopting a dualistic mindset. She says 'when we cut God off from our work, diet or relationships, we end up not making those things subject to His control. We allow them to replace God at the centre of our decision making, as the source of our identity, pride and security' (Martin, 2017, p.3). For some the end result may be workaholism which research validates results in reduced physical and mental well-being as well as long-term heart disease, stress, burnout and addictions (Martin, 2017, p.3).
As an alternative to a dualistic approach to life Kara asks the question 'what difference does it make thinking of your work as an act of worship?'
As an alternative to a dualistic approach to life Kara asks the question 'what difference does it make thinking of your work as an act of worship?' (Martin, 2017, p.7). In answer to this question her book Workship provides a guide to awaken and equip us for our increasingly complex roles at work where we spend much of our time and effort.
Martin, K. (2017): Workship: How to use your work to worship God. Singapore: Graceworks Private Limited.
Online Professional Learning Courses
This article provides an insight into some of the content of EdComm's online Professional Learning course: Workship: Integrating faith and work
Workship: Integrating faith and work gives four hours of NESA-accredited learning at the Proficient level.
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