This post was inspired in part by the book, Total Truth, by Nancy Pearcey.
An all-too-common blind-spot in the Christian worldview is that we unconsciously put up a dividing wall between our private and public lives. As a result, we tend to emphasize the sacred in our personal lives while failing to fully incorporate it into an increasingly secular world. Nowhere is that more evident than in our work.
Many young Christians struggle with the choice between choosing a secular career vs. serving in a full-time Christian ministry. With hearts motivated to serve the Lord they ask, “Am I wasting my life in pursuing anything except service to Him?” And older believers, perhaps established for years in their chosen professions, begin to doubt, finding a lack of meaning in their work, and wonder if it is time to transition into full-time Christian service? Or maybe they feel the need to add more and more responsibilities at church to balance out their otherwise secular work? Others may just find their jobs to be mundane, boring, unsatisfying, and pointless. They long for meaningful work to fill their days.
That tension is real. I know because I feel it frequently. My vocation consumes the majority of productive hours in my life and it seems natural for a me, as a Christian, to want those hours to count for something more than just a paycheck. But it helps me to remember that as total truth, the Christian worldview penetrates the whole of creation and all of human experience. It leaves nothing untouched, and that includes our work. In that regard, for the believer, there is no work that is not Christian.
As beings created in the image of God we were made with the capacity and desire for good work as was commanded prior to the fall. Before sin, Adam worked in concert with the natural world to produce a joyous bounty. But after sin, his joyous work turned into toil as he fought against the newly cursed ground to bring forth a crop. By the sweat of his brow, Adam tamed the wild land and brought forth produce. In subduing the cursed land, his work provided a small measure of redemption. While his post-fall garden would have been nothing comparable to the Garden of Eden, surely in it there were reflections and echoes of that past life that stirred longings for a future redemption of the entire world.
Likewise, Christians today should approach their work with an attitude of redemption as we await the full restoration of our bodies and the creation. As the redeemed children of God, we have been freed from the power of sin and because of that we can have a redeeming influence in the world. Salvation has begun in us – we are the first-fruits of what is to come. Because we are the “salt of the earth” we have a preserving effect in maintaining that which would otherwise be lost. As God’s hands and feet, we work in ways both large and small to stave off the curse that has affected all of creation. But like the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was insufficient to actually remove sins permanently, but only provided a temporary covering of sins, our work does not remove the curse but it provides a degree of covering. We wait, as did those in the Old Testament, for the appearing of Jesus, the one who provided forgiveness for sins at his first coming and who will end the curse once and for all when He returns again.
To show how our work today has a redeeming effect on a cursed world consider just a few examples:
- Fixing and maintaining that which is broken and prone to decay; mechanics, landscapers, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, painters . . . anybody who fixes and provides upkeep to anything subject to the declines and disorder resulting from sin.
- Upholding law and justice; lawyers, judges, politicians, police officers, military personnel.
- Meeting basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter; builders, architects, farmers, cashiers, clothing designers, shelf stockers, truckers.
- Improving quality of life; everything to do with technology.
- Preparing others for work through education; educators of all types, homemakers.
You see, it’s not just that Christians perform secular work with diligence and integrity, as important as those things are, but that our mindset is oriented toward redeeming some of that which was lost due to sin. As a physician assistant, each surgical wound I close serves to help restore a body that is failing under the weight of the curse. It is my small way of opposing and fighting the results of sin in the world through my vocation. As the barrier between the sacred and secular life dissolves in light of an all-penetrating Christian worldview, my work becomes more than just a means to a paycheck but a meaningful participation in the work of God. And in that context it can be carried out “As unto the Lord” with expectation that it will not be in vain.
Think about your work – in what ways does it reverse the curse?