“Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” We’ve all heard this quote, and sure, it resonates with the part of me that doesn’t want to be a workaholic. But there’s also always been something about this quote that bugged me. Something that sort of needled me. First of all, how does he know? Lots of people have died, and somewhere, somehow, somebody probably said that, but that guy has the gall to say nobody said it. But that’s only the little thing that bothers me.
The real thing that bothers me is that it kind of implies that work is ultimately unimportant. It minimizes what you might accomplish. It implies that when your life is over, when you think back on what you will eventually regret doing, it won’t be the hours you spent getting things done. I’m not sure I agree. Isn’t it fair to think that at the end of our lives we will wish we had accomplished something important, perhaps something that matters and something that’s bigger than us? That’s fair to say, I think. But our culture misunderstands work. If we don’t think deeply about it, we will find ourselves running the wrong race.
Most of us view our lives as separated. We have our God stuff, and our stuff that we think God doesn’t have much to do with. We have who we are at church, and who we are with our friends. We have our church life, and we have our “everything else.” We have our spiritual and our secular. We live a compartmentalized life. God wants you to remove the imaginary line that divides. There really shouldn’t be a separation because the truth is everything is spiritual. That doesn’t mean everything is holy, but everything is spiritual. When God redeemed your life, he didn’t just redeem your church life. When he bought you back for a price, he didn’t own just part of you. He redeemed your work life, your career ambitions, your goals, your finances, your ego, your purity—all of it. Everything is spiritual.
In Jesus’ ministry, he got in trouble for working. He worked a lot, but let’s be honest—he had to fit a lot into three years of ministry. He had balance, he spent time with God and God alone, but he was often working when religious leaders said he should be resting, on the Sabbath. At one point, he was working on the Sabbath, and they called him out because the Jewish law had forbidden it. He said, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).
So, if God is always at work, then I’d say you have three choices. You can work against God, which I don’t recommend because he’s bigger than you and far more powerful. You can work independent of him, but that’s not smart either since Jesus reminds us that apart from the Father we can do nothing. ‘Nothing’ doesn’t leave very much, so that’s not a good choice. Or, you can work with God because he’s working too. If you work with him, you’ll fulfill the very prayer that Jesus prayed: God, let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We want to do things on this earth—through our skills and energy and talents—that bring heaven to earth. Even if you work in what you believe is a secular office, and even if you think your job has nothing to do with God. Psalm 139 says that God knit you together in your mother’s womb. In other words, he wired you up. He connected what matters to you. So when you find yourself in a work setting, and maybe you feel anticipation and excitement to be part of this project and you want to get busy and get at it—all of that is because God made you to be motivated by certain things.
If you’re a builder, you want to build structures, homes. You want to build something that stands the test of time and weathers well. You want to put up walls that are straight and true. That’s because God made you do things well. And you can honor God and be his image bearer while you have a hammer or a saw in your hand.
If you’re an attorney, then my guess is that God placed in your heart a burden for justice. You desire justice and truth in the lives of people and relationships. You do what you do because you want to be sure that everybody gets a fair hearing and a fair say, and you want to help facilitate that process. Our God is a God of justice, and he wants to use you as an image bearer to bring that about.
If you’re a teacher, your job as an image bearer is to peel back the curtain of the way God made the world and to help people see God’s fingerprints on everything. Whether you teach history or math or science, you are designed to help people understand God. Even without saying that, you can do it.
If you’re an artist, you create in such a way that people can see transcendent beauty in what you make. Whether it’s visual or auditory or some other medium—whatever it is, when people see it, something calls to them. They understand who God is because you are creating the way God created.
If you’re an accountant, the beauty that you create takes the form of business plans and balance sheets. You do the very thing that God did in Genesis 1—you step into chaos and you create order. Without you, who knows what kind of mess we would be in?
We could go through a hundred professions, but the point is this: God created you uniquely, and he wants to use you to create a world that is being made new. The Holy Spirit wants to be involved in what you’re doing, and he wants you to partner with him. We don’t have to work in a church or do anything that seems remotely spiritual. Sometimes the most spiritual thing is to love the person in front of us. That is as much praise to God as sitting in church and singing worship songs. May we worship the Lord with our work on Monday in the same way that we worship him with our songs on Sunday. Whatever you do this week, work as for the Lord. Be his partner.
Lord, we ask that you would use us. Whatever we do in this world, we want to be used by you. We believe that you created us with passions, talents, and abilities. We offer them to you right now, that they will be part of building your kingdom. Lord, please use us.