WASHINGTON (BP) — The first question of the 350-year-old Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” And many of you may be saying, “Yes, the weekend is almost here and I can start glorifying God and enjoying Him.” But, there’s also that word “forever.” Many think it means “into eternity.” It does mean that, but it also means “at all times,” including Monday through Friday.
While the Westminster Catechism is a document written by humans, it captures many important biblical themes. The answer to this first question is a good example. The Bible tells us: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
Yet, many of us can’t quite wrap this counsel around our jobs. We just don’t see how our jobs can possibly be part of this glorifying and enjoying thing. It’s funny, when you think about that, because most of us probably prayed that God would help us find our job, and most of us probably thank God for our job.
Many Christians don’t think about their jobs as part of their calling to glorify and enjoy God because they don’t fully understand their purpose in life. Many of us think that glorifying God and enjoying Him means singing praises, reading the Bible, and praying. You know, that personal, contemplative stuff.
That is certainly part of it. In fact, that part makes it possible for God’s people to joyfully and effectively serve Him. But our jobs are actually places where we should also be glorifying and enjoying God. God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden to take care of it — sounds like work to me, and that’s before the Fall.
Part of our purpose as humans, created in God’s image, is to work. The Bible even has many unflattering things to say about people who are too lazy to work. Now, I know that for many people the workplace is not very conducive for worship or praise. Yet, when we understand that God made us to work, every workplace takes on new spiritual meaning.
The Apostle Paul even counseled the slaves of His day about how to think of their situation. He said, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:7). I doubt many of us can say our situation is as dire as a slave’s in the first century.
To get to this place in our own lives, we have to start at the Garden. God made humans to be producers. Forget all this stuff about humans as consumers. We are not at our happiest when we are consuming things. We are at our happiest when we are making things, doing things — working. That’s because in working, we are fulfilling part of our divine purpose, and at a subconscious level, we know it.
Consider what you do by working. Yes, you have money to give to ministry causes, and you can support yourself and your family, and you have some walking around money. But you are also making a contribution to the lives of others. By your service, someone else’s life is made a little better. The restaurant worker helps someone relax and enjoy a meal. The businessperson provides a product that enhances lives. The sanitation worker removes the refuse that produces disease and sullies the beautiful. Every legitimate, moral form of work adds something to the benefit of humanity and helps God’s creation fulfill its purpose.
We are workers together with God in both Gospel outreach and daily toil. Your job is part of God’s calling for you. It’s not merely a means to an end — a paycheck. It is an integral piece of God’s plan for your life as He seeks to extend His Kingdom and its influence throughout the world. You make a difference through your work. May God bless you as you serve Him today wherever you are and in whatever you do.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).