Most men derive their identity from their work. When two guys meet for the first time—especially at one of those arranged ‘couple’s night out’ things that our wives schedule for us—the first question we typically ask is, “So…what do you do?” Our job, career, profession, vocation, business is how we identify ourselves. It’s how we, as men represent our value and worth to the world.
But when we suffer a job loss, layoff, or the shutdown of our business, we also lose an integral part of who we are as men. We feel ‘less than’ and wonder how people will see us, most notably our spouse. Beyond the practical and genuine concerns about how we will meet our financial obligations in times of diminished or no income, the emotional toll is something we rarely dwell on. Instead, we stuff it away, put on a brave face, and get busy trying to figure out how to get back to work.
Some of you reading this have lost your job or had to halt your business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your savings are dwindling with each passing day, you cannot leave the house, and there is no relief in sight. Maybe you pray, maybe you don’t, but you can’t let anyone, not even your wife, see what’s going on inside your heart. You are broken, and you desperately need help.
The bible has a lot to say about work. It tells us that God designed humanity to work. It says work is a way for us to provide for our family and those in need. It teaches that work is good for us.
But even more curious is what the bible doesn’t say about work. It doesn’t say that we are defined by what we do, or that our value is determined by how much we make, and it definitely doesn’t teach that we derive our identity from our job.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24 ESV
This verse teaches us that our attitude toward work is just as important as the work we do. The Apostle Paul chose the adverb ‘heartily’ because it communicates that the way we think about what we do affects how we do it. If we are enthusiastic about our work, we will do it well. If we are eager to do our work, we will be joyful. If we are earnest about our work, we will persevere through difficulty.
Paul also teaches us that the work we do is not for us, not for our families, and not even for our employers. It is for Jesus. The work we do, properly understood, is an act of service to Jesus Christ. Let that sink in.
Pastor Bob Thune said it better than I can:
“Most non-Christians see work simply as a means to an end. Work provides beer money or a fat retirement pension or a better life for their kids. Unfortunately, many Christians see work in exactly the same way. We may be pursuing more Christlike ends: money to tithe or an opportunity to witness to a co-worker, for instance. But our view of work itself is still fundamentally unchanged. We still see work as a means to an end. We are using work. We’re in it for what we get out of it. God may be honored in the results of our work, but he is not supreme in our view of work itself. And that’s a problem.”
If you understand that work is an act of worship, then you must shift your relationship to your work. Instead of identifying yourself by your job or career, identify yourself by the person for whom you work. We work for Jesus Christ. We worship our Savior through our daily efforts. Our identity is as children of the Living God, not the title on your resume.
If you are a follower of Jesus, let that be your identity. Let that define who you are. Be mindful that everything you do is an act of worship. You’ll find that whether your daily efforts are spent working, looking for work, or prayerfully waiting on the Lord to act—it all can be an act of worship if we have the right understanding and attitude.
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