A Christian Perspective on Work — Part 2

A Christian Perspective on Work — Part 2 June 12, 2012

“I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” It’s a commonbumper sticker and an even more common sentiment. But is it true? Is makingmoney (and paying debts) the only reason we go to work? Not really. We betrayour impoverished notions of work by our slogans and attitudes. According toGenesis, humans work because God works. Adam was charged with theresponsibility to work before he fell into sin. Even if we neverincurred debt—indeed, even if we were still living in Paradise—workwould still be only human. It’s part of what we were made for.

It’s certainly true that work, like everything else,was cursed because of the Fall. God rebuked Farmer Adam: “Cursed is the groundbecause of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thornsand thistles it shall bring forth for you…. By the sweat of your face you shalleat bread” (Gen 3:17-19). Even for non-farmers, this curse reverberates throughour lives, explaining why work is often tedious, unfulfilling, and hard.“Thorns and thistles” is exactly what it often feels like.

How encouraging then to realize that what the Fallruined, the cross restored through Jesus Christ! The brokenness of work is justone aspect of the great rupture, the disintegration which took place at theFall. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is all about the reverse of thatcondition. How? Through Christ, God has returned all things to their rightfulplace (Eph 1:9-10). What does work look like when it is brought under theauthority of Christ? Employee-employer relationships are transformed. It’s thetopic Paul develops in Ephesians 6:5-9.

For employees, Paul demands respect, integrity,conscientiousness, and cheerfulness (vv 5-8). God allows no place in the lifeof a Christian employee for brooding disrespect, subtle insubordination,half-hearted effort, or thinly veiled contempt for the job.

For employers, Paul commands that they apply the GoldenRule and renounce power as a means of control (v 9). In other words, Christian mastershave no personal superiority. They are called to offer fair wages, show concernfor employees’ health and wellbeing, and resist all temptation to power playsor coercion.

Paul’s instructions focus largely on attitudes, andit’s good, practical stuff. But it’s not uniquely Christian. That is, until younotice the reason “why.” Which is…?