In 2006, as a barely-graduated-from-college-graphic-designer, I began this business. I had no idea what I was doing. (In fact, there are many moments I still feel that way, 11 years later.) I had no idea what my long term goals were or who my ideal client was or what services I should offer or how to manage workflows or invoice clients or manage my business finances. And while all of those things are really important and integral to running a business, I think one thing I knew but never fully believed, or maybe I just simply forgot, one thing that is more vital than all of those tangibles, is what God has to say about work.
Because God’s view, His design and His purposes, offer freedom and joy. Understanding God’s design and purpose for work reminds us that work is a gift, not a curse; that work is an opportunity, not bondage; that work is not actually about building our own fame and glory but about others and about God’s glory; that work is not about social media followers but rather redeeming the sphere of influence He’s given you; that work is one way God brings restoration to this broken world, through you.
The tangibles are great and they’re necessary, but when we forget the truths about work, it’s purpose and it’s value, work becomes burdensome and weary; we get fearful and competitive, we compromise, we quickly lose our priorities. We lose the big picture and become easily overwhelmed.
For many years I forgot the truth about work and it’s purpose. I forgot that work is a gift from Him and for Him. I forgot that God is a working God and because we are created in His image we are to be a working people. I forgot that God values work. And the work that He has put in front of us, no matter what it is, is valuable to Him. Forgetting those truths lead to pursuing work endeavors simply for the sake of making a name for myself or a vain attempt to prove my worth and value, both to God and to the world. Forgetting those truths caused weighty guilt as I believed I was doing something wrong by working and not being a 100% stay-at-home mom. Forgetting those truths led to my forging ahead without prayerfully asking God to lead and direct. Forgetting those truths led to defining my worth by the number of checkmarks on my to do list or number of clients on my waitlist or number of followers on my social media or number of dollars in my bank account.
In April our church did a teaching on The Gospel & Work that provided me with a renewed vision for the purpose of work in general and the value of my business specifically. And just in case you’re like me and you’ve forgotten what God has to say about work too I thought I would share those helpful truths with you here. (My notes below are directly from the sermon series linked above. I didn’t write these or come up with them on my own, rather I am just relaying what was taught by Pastor Ian Thomas. I am grateful for his wisdom on this subject and I would recommend listening to the podcasts as this is just a relatively quick recap.)
From Genesis 1-3 we learn a few really key and helpful things about work.
Creation & The Dignity of Work
- God is a working God.
- He works through speaking
- He works through performing (manual labor)
- He works through cultivating
- Humans are created in the image of God which means we are made to be working beings.
- Many of us tend to view work as a necessary evil; as a means to an end (i.e. a paycheck?)
- Truth: When you work you are imaging God, meaning that through your work others are able to see glimpses of God’s goodness and His glory!
- Truth: When you work that is pleasing to God.
- Truth: When you work you are bringing glory to God.
- The rhythm of work and rest is established.
- Rest: God enjoyed His labor. He took a break from all the working and enjoyed all that He had made.
- Are you taking time away from the work God is doing through you in order to rest and reflect and enjoy the fruit of your labor?
Fall & The Distortion of Work
- Work existed before sin entered the picture.
- Truth: Work is not the problem, sin is. As a result of sin (Genesis 3) work became painful and distorted and tiresome, and though a reminder of the curse, work is not the curse itself.
Redemptive & Distinctive Work
- What does it look like to work redemptively and distinctively?
- We seek to image God in our work.
- We remind ourselves that ALL work is God’s work. When you are working you are participating in God’s Kingdom. Whether you are a business-owner, a barista, a cashier, a pastor, a painter, a stay-at-home-mama, you have an opportunity to image God in your work.
- We seek to love God and love others in our work. We ask questions like “Can I leave the workplace better than when I started?” We ask God what does it look like to “seek the welfare of the city I am in” or the workplace you are in? (Jeremiah 29:7)
Martin Luther said: “Vocations are ‘masks of God.'” On the outside we see just the vocation mask, the ordinary faces- the business owner, the barista, the cashier, the painter, the mama, the pastor, but under the mask, God is working in and through those people, through your vocation, your work, to provide and care for humanity and for creation.
The work you do matters. It’s not about you and it’s not up to you, but it matters still. Because God says that through your work He is bringing restoration and hope and redemption to this broken and fallen world. It’s about Him and He will do it, and we get to come along for the ride! The pressure is off. What a joy to see our work in that light. What freedom that truth brings as we go about the business God has set before us.
Praying that truth encourages you today.