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Introduction

          Work is a problem for all of us. We do not go around saying, “Thank God it’s Monday.” When we overwork we feel guilty about the way work robs us of time for other areas of life, including family activities and devotional exercises. At other time we feel guilty for disliking our work. So how should we react toward work in our life? Through this essay we are going to learn the right understanding of biblical view of work by looking at what is the definition of work, why should we work and how we as Christians should react toward work itself.             

 

 

I.   Definition of Work

Work is divided into three categories:

  1. Obligatory activities
  2. Discretionary activities
  3. Semi leisure activities

 

 

a. Obligatory activities: Activities that are required to sustain life

     Example: Personal care (sleeping, eating, clothing)

                    Job that produces one’s income

                    Task-related studying

                    Housework (preparing meals, cleaning the house, cutting the

                    lawn)

                    Social obligation (helping a roommate, overseeing a child’s

                     homework, helping a friend)

b. Discretionary activities: activities that are usually placed into the category of leisure

     Example: Entertainment

                      Sport

                      Recreation

                      Hobbies and other free time activities

 

c. Semi leisure activities: activities that do not fall into neither categories.

                                         They are either a mixture of obligation and

                                          leisure, or they fall into one category or the

                                          other depending one occasion.

     Example:  Gardening

                      Decorating room

                       Traveling

                       Physical exercise

                       Building bookshelf

                       Reading a book in order to keep informed

                       Caring for pets

 

 

We can picture our daily activities as falling somewhere on the following scale:

 

Obligation                        Semi leisure                    Freedom

   (Work)                                                            (Leisure)

The scale above has a special relevance to Christian activities. Many spiritual and moral acts that Christians performed have a combined sense of duty and pleasure. Christians pray, attend bible studies and worship services, serve on committees of Christian organization, and volunteer their time to help people in need, partly because they regard these as obligation of Christian life, and partly because they want to do them. The whole area of "Christian ministry" occupies a huge part of the middle of the scale for many Christians.  

 

 

Work and job

We need to distinguish between work and job. Jobs are the work that we are paid or by which we earn our live hood. So work, then, includes our job, but it extends well beyond it. 

 

Definition of Work: Activities that we do include all that we are obligated

                                  to do to meet our physical and social needs.


II.  Christian Theology of Work

 

 God the Worker

First of all before we start talking about work in Christian perspective, we have to know that our God is a worker.  We know this from Genesis 2:2: “God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done”.  Then in New Testament, Jesus is a worker too.  As he said, “We must work the work of him who sent me” (John 9:4), then he said to Jew: “My father is working still, and I am working”

 

We also know that God created people in his image (Genesis 1:26-27).  The link between God’s work and humanity’s work is explicitly written in the fourth commandment: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work…..for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them (Exodus 20:9. 11).  People work because the God who created them in His image works.  Then, work also is a part of God’s provision for human well being.  It is based on Genesis 1:26 : “Let them have dominion …. Over all the earth”.  Certainly in order to conquer the earth, people have to work.  Work is also a natural law as God created this world.  Psalm 104 says “When the sun rises, man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening”.

 


 Work after the fall

Work neither began nor ceased with the fall of the human race, it simply took a different shape.  It became a curse rather than an unmitigated blessing.  Work becomes distasteful and wearisome.  Then, work also become subject to abuse like overwork, exploitation, idleness, etc.  However, we realize that work also already redeemed.  Work itself retains some of the quality of a curse, but the attitude of the worker can transform it.

 

 

Sacred and Secular dichotomy

The reclamation of work in a fallen world begins where the Protestant ethic began-by declaring the sanctity of all legitimate work in the world, no matter how common.  This means, no vocation, including church work, is regarded as more “spiritual” or more pleasing to God than other types of work.  To believe that all of life is God’s open the door for all types of work to be glorifying to God.  This how Bible portrays work.  Paul urged Titus to remind Christians “to be ready for any honest work” (Titus 3:1).  Paul was also a tentmaker as a way of earning his living (I Cor 9:12-19).  Many people of Bible that we know had common work such David as a shepherd and king Saul as a farmer plowing and a king also.  Then other else God-ordained occupations such as God called Bezalel to be an artist (Ex 31:1-5) and Moses to be a national leader, which is a political leader (I Chronicles 9).

 


Purpose of Work

There are 3 main purposes of work in this world

1.       To provide for human needs.  Proverbs 28:19 “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty”.  Proverb 16:26 “A worker’s appetite works for him, his mouth urges him on”.  In 2 thess 3:12 Paul said;” work in quietness and to earn their own living”.  Proverb 19:15 : “an idle person will suffer hunger”.  Proverb 20:4 “the sluggard …..  will seek at harvest and have nothing”.  Proverb 20:13 “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes and you will have plenty”.

2.     To fulfill our humanity.  God created people according to his image.  God the creator works so does the people his creation.

3.     To glorify God

 

 

Motivation for Work

The motivation for work as Christian is to glorify God.  Col 3:23-24 says “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.  Eph 6:5-7.  The identity of the worker comes from his or her relationship to God not from the prestige or financial rating of the job or tasks.  The motivation likewise comes from a desire to please a heavenly master more than an earthly master.

 

 


Christian Calling: A necessary Foundation

          Unless we place work into the context of Christian calling, we have little to say about a Christian view of occupation. If however, we agree that work in general and occupations in particular can be viewed in terms of Christian calling, we can proceed to explore what this means in practical terms.

 

 

Practical results when we view work as a calling from God:

  1. Understand that God is the One who calls

God is the one who calls people to do their tasks, it follows that God wants people to work.

  1. Work as a response to God

God calls us to work, then to do the work is to obey God.

  1. Content with our work

Another practical result of viewing work as a calling from God is the potential it carries for inducing contentment and patience in work.

  1. Loyal to our work

When we understand that God has called us to do certain work, we will be faithful to that calling and understand the purpose of our work.  

 

 


Questions for discussion:

 

  1. Do you have the right understanding of work during this time?
  2. If not, how does different understanding of work change your perspective toward work?
  3. What will happen if a Christian doesn’t have the right understanding of work?
  4. What do you think will happen if someone doesn’t do any work at all?
  5. Do we still have to work if we have enough money in our bank account? Why or why not?
  6. What do we have to do if we don’t like our jobs?
  7.  How do we discover the right vocation for us?

 


Case Study

 

1.                   Budi adalah seorang manager di sebuah perusahaan sendok di Jakarta. Karena posisinya yang cukup tinggi, ada begitu banyak hal yang harus di kerjakan setiap harinya. Setiap hari dia di tuntut untuk bekerja dari jam 6 pagi sampai jam 8 malem. Di dalam keluarganya Budi memiliki seorang istri dan dua orang anak. Dengan melihat keadaan ini, apakah Budi bisa di kategorikan sebagai seorang workaholic? Apa yang kita lakukan apabila kita ada dalam posisi dia?  

 

2.                 Tono adalah seorang Kristen yang baik. Dia bekerja sebagai seorang engineer di sebuah perusahaan sumpit di Kalimantan. Di tempat kerjanya ada begitu banyak benefit yang dia terima, seperti: asuransi kesehatan, asuransi kecelakaan, bantuan sekolah untuk keluarga pekerja, dll. Di tempat kerjanya Tono sangat di sukai oleh teman-teman sekerjanya. Dia juga memiliki hubungan yang sangat baik dengan bosnya. Suatu hari Tono mendapatkan tawaran kerja di pabrik krupuk dengan gaji yang lebih tinggi. Di tempat yang baru Tono mendapatkan fasilitas yang sama persis dengan perusahaan sumpit yang lama. Apakah salah apabila Tono memutuskan untuk pindah kerja ke perusahaan yang baru?   

 

 

 

References:

 

    1. “Work and Leisure” by Leland Ryken
    2.