This is Part One of a six-part series that will look at Kara Martin's book, 'Workship: How to use your work to worship God.' Kara Martin is the keynote speaker at EdComm's annual Integral Project Dinner on October 25.
'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 fulfilment 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 hard 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
- our health and
- the different demands and stresses in the workplace.
Perhaps the most significant factor in the way we experience our work 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? (Martin, 2015, 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 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 and our colleagues are missing out on a critical witness of the power of faith to transform every part of our lives.
Kara also warns us of a personal cost in 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 them becoming workaholics, which research shows may often result in reduced physical and mental well-being as well as long-term heart disease, stress and 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?’ (Martin, 2017, p.7) In answer to this question her book Workship provides a guide to awaken and equip us for our increasingly complex work roles where we spend much of our time and effort.
Martin, K. (2017). Workship: How to use your work to worship God. Graceworks: Singapore.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.