Why Work When I Could Escape to Byron Bay?
At 15 years old I applied for a job at a furniture factory that was about a half hour bike ride from home. It was a job for over the holidays and my motive was singular – money. I rode my bike in the early morning cold and, over the next two months, I earned every cent I received, and for the amount of work I did I was grossly underpaid! I can remember getting yelled at by my foreman “This is not a convent kid, get to work!” I felt constantly pressured and intimidated, I longed for the knock off bell to ring and couldn’t wait to get home, and a day before the big free Christmas party they sacked all the school aged employees!
As I rode my bike home on one of those occasions I had a troubling thought race through my mind. “If this is what work is like, I don’t know whether I’ll be able to endure it FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!” So I did what any normal person would do to avoid work… I became a pastor! (Only kidding!)
I wonder if you have ever felt the same. Maybe you’ve thought life would be better if you didn’t have to put up with work. You might wholeheartedly agree with Oscar Wilde who said…
“Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do.”
Maybe you’ve thought of trying to escape work altogether. Maybe the urge to hitch-hike to Byron Bay and live on the beach, in the surf or in a hippy commune in-land away from the responsibilities of work is so strong it’s scaring you.
Is there any hope for the rest of our working lives? Or should we do an Anthony (born 251AD. one of the first known desert monks) and leave the temptation of wealth and the worries of work behind for a life of prayer and solitude? Should we sell everything and run for the monastery?
Well, before we stand by the highway with our backpack and leave for a life of leisure, before we sell everything and withdraw from this world or work for a life of retreat and prayer, let’s discover what God says about work and see if we might be helped by what is written in the Bible.
Work in the Bible
The earliest thing we discover about work is that God is the Creator. God works and rests. He creates for six days and on the seventh he rests (Gen 2:2). We find that human beings were made in God’s image (Gen 1:27) then given work to do (Gen 1:28-30 & 2:15). God saw all that he had made and it was very good. This is before the fall. So God works and he gives us work to do.
The Bible teaches that though work has been made harder by the fall (Gen 3:17-19), it is good to work. In fact God not only wants us to work because it is good to work, God also wants us to work in such a way as to glorify Him. You can whistle while you work but God delights when we bring him glory while we work.
Paul declares that in whatever we do we should “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31) and work, often taking a third of our time, and almost two thirds of our awake time, is certainly part of whatever we do. So in your work – do it for the glory of God!
The big question is “How?” I want to suggest three ways the Bible teaches us how to glorify God in our work.
We glorify God in our work by working diligently.
Paul writes to slaves and says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col 3:23). If slaves were urged by Paul to give their all for God’s glory, how much more should we! He urged Timothy to work in such a way that he could stand before God as one approved, a worker who would not need to be ashamed. This brings glory to God when we work in a way that pleases him.
We work diligently when we refuse to make excuses about why we cannot work.
Solomon almost comically advises us that the sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion in the streets!” (Prov 26:13). That’s like saying I might have an accident on my way to work so I’m staying at home today. Don’t make excuses, roll-up your sleeves.
We work diligently when we fight laziness.
Again Solomon in all his wisdom describes the sluggard who lies in bed as being like a door that turns on its hinges, rolling over lazily from one side of the bed to the other (Prov 26:14). The truth is everyone wants to harvest and few want to plough.
Instead, get to work on time, if not early. Do what’s expected and more and you’ll be glorifying God as you work.
There are many people who say, “Well I’m not really good at anything, I’m not gifted like others. I have a boring ordinary job. It’s not important. It’s not rewarding.” I would say anyone can do those kinds of jobs but few can do them well. If you have a job, it’s a privilege, do it well. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… Ecclesiastes 9:10a. It was Helen Keller who said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” You will find that you’ll get more to do if you do what you are given well no matter how menial or insignificant it seems. People reward hard work. That’s why Solomon wrote All hard work brings a profit. Proverbs 14:23. The only time that success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Some of you are here today, many of you, who don’t have paid employment. Some are parents whose primary role is the work of raising kids, some are home schooling, some are volunteering in the community, some are doing all kinds of unpaid work. Do it diligently for God’s glory.
Some are unemployed and would love to work if you could. Make finding work your work. Do it diligently for the glory of God.
Some of you are injured and unable to work in paid employment, some are sick and need rest and recovery, off-work due to stress, depression, or any number of reasons. In this time try to find something that you can do, no matter how small and do it well for God’s glory. It could be praying, it could be doing the things that your doctor advises well, it could be the exercises that might help you to return to work. It could be painting, drawing, reading, something that you love. Do these things with diligence for the glory of God.
It could be that you are retired. Well you are free to do what you like! You have worked hard and now you can enjoy retirement. So find what you like and do it well for the glory of God. I would encourage you to find time each day to do something that is helping another that is showing love and care to others.
We glorify God in our work by resting well.
Most of us do everything we can to not kill or commit adultery but we are often quickly able to justify breaking the fourth commandment, remember the Sabbath. But God has more to say about taking a day off than he does about murder and adultery (Ex 20:8-11). He commands, not suggests, that we take a day off every week. Many smirk sheepishly and disobey God. We overwork and become exhausted, frustrated and difficult to get along with. It seems that one of our biggest problems in Australia today is to worship work instead of God. We overwork, neglect rest, relationships and recreation and wonder why we are stressed out, burnt out and down and out. But glorifying God by obeying his command to rest brings delight to the Father’s heart. Have a day each week to rest. Stop working for a day. Enjoy time with family, do the gardening, go to the footy, enjoy God’s creation, read a good book just for fun, play the WII, go fishing, pray, worship, sing, dance, enjoy life for the glory of God!
Finding daily rest too is important. I have found that there is no end to the work I do. I could stay at work for a week and still not complete all that I have to do. Resting well means that I have had to set an arrival time and a departure time to my working day. Like bookends to my day these help me set boundaries that protect me, my family and my work from becoming lop-sided. It means also that the time I have at work I have to prioritise and use wisely because the time is limited.
Resting well with a weekly day off and daily setting boundaries around daily work is also helped greatly by a monthly day to retreat, recharge and spend extended time in resting before God. I find this practice difficult to discipline myself to but I’m working on it!
We glorify God by working in a way that reflects the new life in Christ which God has given us.
As new creations in Jesus our work is now undertaken with Christ in us. This should have a positive affect on our workplace environment. When we are acknowledging and using the gifts and skills that God has given us for his glory we will know that our work is God given and of great value and people will notice. People who have never known much about Jesus at all will be able to see for themselves how one who follows Jesus works, loves and lives.
It may be on a kitchen floor,
Or in a busy shopping store,
Or teaching, nursing, day by day
Till limb and brain almost give way;
Yet if, just there, by Jesus thou are found,
The place thou standest on is Holy Ground.
How we value and care for those we work for or work with as people who bear God’s image will be seen clearly. The way in which our character is formed in the midst of the challenges and pressures in the workplace will be seen by all around. The values that we live by because of Christ living in us will become evident as people daily observe our lives. Jesus said that we are salt and light, and through our work we can help advocate for fairer pay, safer conditions, justice in the work place and a workplace where genuine love is shown towards each other.
Working diligently, resting well and working in a way that reflects Christ in us will help us glorify God in our work.
So can I urge you to reconsider hitch-hiking to Byron Bay? Go on, take the Uncanny X-men song “Everybody Wants to Work, Oh No Not Me” off your iPod, and consider how you can bring glory to God in your work.
Instead why not make a decision to pray at the start of each working day thanking God for the opportunity to glorify him through your work and asking for the strength to work diligently, the wisdom to rest well, and the grace to live a Christ-like life in the workplace for his glory.
You could have literally thousands of days ahead of you where you will be engaged in some kind of work. Imagine what a decision to work in a way that glorifies God would do to the rest of your working life!