I think at some point the question must come to all people - "Is Work Good?"
This question seems to be even harder to answer in this day and age. Given the "however-many" dip recession we're still experiencing belts are tighter, budgets leaner and business more competitive across the board. Work is harder to come by and harder to keep - with many people working 60 hours a week or more just to stay afloat. It is inevitable then that as a practising Christian we are found in a situation where we may feel that our occupation and our faith conflict, and that the struggle is to find some way in which they can co-exist.
It's my belief that this very question is the cause of much of the overarching guilt we feel. It is, at heart, the WRONG question.
You see God does not divide work into "for the church" and everything else. In fact God himself created the world and most importantly for me is that he highlighted that "it was good". We should not divide the worlds of work and faith. In fact, we should celebrate both in light of each other. These are not individual items but part of a far greater whole at the centre of which should always sit God.
In "Work: Prison or Place of Destiny"* David Oliver argues that it is the purpose of work that we should question and not work itself. The Bible mentions work hundreds of time - After all Jesus himself was a carpenter and so at the least would have been a small business owner. At no point in the Bible do we see him cast this off, or demean it. In fact his teachings are aimed not at the religious hierarchy but at the fisherman, the carpenters - the 'common man'.
In Genesis God does not put man onto the face of the earth to minister for or to him. He puts man "In the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."
Of course, it's all well and good to say that God expects us to work and will support us in it. We already know that God supports us in all endeavours. The question is of course how do we apply his teachings? This comes again down to the idea of separating work and worship.
The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours with many doing much more than this. We are contactable by our phone anywhere and often expected to dash off the odd email while on holiday or a quick conference call on the way into work. The point is that we will spend a huge part of our lives in the workplace. Often we think when we get home "Have i done God's will today?" and we'll panic and feel guilty - volunteering to help with evening activities, running prayer meetings or setting up for events and working ourselves even closer to the bone. I would like to ask you a question now - and answer honestly. What is the reason that you work?
I'm sure that there are many answers to this from supporting our family or achieving a financial goal. Although often we justify this reasoning as ethically correct it is my belief that this is a logical fallacy that sits at the root of much discontent. The purpose of work should be to "seek the Kingdom of God."
Work should be a calling but note that this does not mean work that is directly for the church. This is anything from stacking shelves in Tesco to running a multi-million pound company. As long as the primary drive is to be with God and work for him then whatever profession or industry can be God-Like. In fact the Bible doesn't define the Church as a holy building, or an organisation. It defines it as “A group of Christians;” church is a biblical word for assembly and so if we invite God into our workplace then there is no longer any requirement to separate work and worship.
That 60+ hours a week that you spend at work is no longer time away from God but time honouring and worshipping him. He will be by you on the shop floor or at your desk and he will be happy and support you in your work.
In conclusion, the question of “Is work Good?” is the wrong question to be asking. Work is as much part of our life as our family and our worship and by integrating them we will live fuller, more rewarding lives that allow us to “Seek the Kingdom of God.” The need to separate our work from our religion is false. This need shouldn't be there - the fact is that we can invite God into our workplace and benefit ourselves, our co-workers and even our business.
Greene M. 2000. Christian Life and Work. London. Scripture Union.
Oliver D. 2000. Work Prison or Place of Destiny. Milton Keynes. Work Entertainment Ltd.
Greene M. 2005. Thank God it's Monday. Bletchley. Scripture Union
Becket J D. 2006. Mastering Monday. Nottingham. Inter-Varsity Press.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible unless explicitly stated otherwise.