Since God first took Adam to work with Him in the Garden, He made it clear that we are created to work. We were made to use our God-given skills, inclinations and energies to be “fruitful”, productive. As a result of God’s common grace, we continue to witness astounding accomplishments of human ingenuity and hard work. Although we live in a world (and work in a marketplace) that became corrupted by Sin, God’s is in the process of redeeming everything, including Work. He means for our work to be useful and pleasurable, but not to be placed above everything and everyone. We must be acutely aware of the subtle process that constantly pulls at the affections of our hearts: the tendency to make our work an IDOL. That’s an obsolete word meaning “icon,” “hero” or “star.” Anything our lives are centered around or consumed by is, in practice, our “god.”
Deuteronomy 4:28 prophesied what became of the Israelites whom God so uniquely blessed—it is also a cautionary tale for us: “And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” Psalm 115:4 further elaborates: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
When I visited India, I observed Hindu temples and shrines almost every time I turned around. Statues and images of all sizes and shapes were everywhere. It seemed obvious that they have unseeing eyes, and unmoving feet, yet throngs of people earnestly paid homage to objects in which they put their hope for healing, prosperity, or protection. “Westerners” often feel sorry for those poor, misled people who don’t know better than to worship “man-made” objects; but are we really different, or just a little more sophisticated? We set our sights on a promotion, increased income, a car or a neighborhood. We center our thoughts, expectations and hopes on achieving or acquiring the current target. Without realizing it, our desire becomes an affection, then an attachment, then an obsession, then EVERYTHING (i.e. an idol). Yes, Work itself can become a deity. Take it from me, a recovering “deal junkie”, it can happen in the most innocent yet destructive ways.
The true test comes down to a matter of value. What has the greatest weight –Work and the benefits you derive from it, or God and the privilege of working for (and with) Him each day? Who or what are you banking on? Your ability to produce or God’s power that makes you flourish? Ultimately, there are two kinds of workers in the marketplace: slaves and servants. In a strange twist, we become slaves when we elevate Work above its rightful place. We become free, joyful, satisfied servants when we acknowledge that we work to please Christ, our Savior and Champion. By God’s grace, I choose the latter.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, search me and reveal the true affections of my heart. What do I really love the most? You need to expose anything I have elevated above You. In truth, when my mind is clear, there is no doubt that nothing compares to You . . . not my accomplishments nor any buzz I gain from performing well on the job. Lord, give me the ability to admire and love your glory more than mine. I am offering my best for You and Your purposes today.
Here is the great secret of success. Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work. Pray with all your might for the blessing of God; but work, at the same time, with all diligence, with all patience, with all perseverance. Pray then, and work. Work and pray. And still again pray, and then work. And so on all the days of your life. The result will surely be, abundant blessing. Whether you see much fruit or little fruit, such kind of service will be blessed…