Thinking Differently About Work

By Mark D. Roberts

February 6, 2019

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

Ephesians 4:17


In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we focused on the phrase used in Ephesians 4:17 to describe the thought patterns of unbelievers: “the futility of their thinking.” If we are to experience the fullness of God’s grace in Christ, then we must put aside worldly ways of thinking and learn to think in God’s ways. Yesterday, I talked about rejecting the “more stuff = more happiness” equation that is so common in our culture, if not in our own hearts.

Today, I want to touch upon another common example of futile thinking. This mindset sees work as drudgery, as something to be endured, as that which we have to do in order to live. We talk of “work-life balance” as if work were not a part of life, but something extrinsic to it. This devaluing of work plainly contradicts the biblical perspective, in which human beings were created in God’s image with work to be done (see Genesis 1 and 2). Work is essential to our flourishing as God’s creatures who have a unique, God-imitating role on earth.

Given that we were created by God the worker to be beings who work, it should not come as surprise to learn that work contributes significantly to our happiness, far more than having lots of stuff. Social science research indicates that much of happiness is determined by our genetic inheritance and our circumstances. But, beyond these factors, Arthur C. Brooks in “A Formula for Happiness” explains: “It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness.” Yes, notice that work makes the short list. Why? Because, Brooks writes, “Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others.”

Of course, there is another extreme in our culture, one that values work above all else. Success on the job means everything and is worth every sacrifice. This notion of work twists the biblical valuation of work, turning work into an idol. It also leads us to minimize three key aspects of life that, according to Arthur Brooks, are essential for happiness: faith, family, and community.

If we set aside worldly ways of thinking about work and embrace God’s vision, we will be able to live fruitfully, with our work as a primary means to serve God and our fellow human beings, as well as a way to enjoy the fullness of life God intends for us.

Something to Think About:

How do you think about work? Do you lean toward seeing work as necessary drudgery? Or do you tend to put too much value on work? Or are you somewhere in between?

What helps you to see your work—whether paid or unpaid—as an expression of your created identity?

Something to Do:

No matter what work you do, as long as it isn’t clearly immoral, you can offer your work to God as a way of serving him. And, through your work, you can also serve others in God’s name. Today, as you work, whether in paid or unpaid occupations, consciously offer your work to God.


God, thank you for creating me in your image as one capable of and called to work. Help me, I pray, to think of work in ways that reflect your vision. Keep me from seeing work as mere drudgery. Help me not to turn my work into an idol. Rather, may I learn to think about work as you think, so that I might live with a right balance of work, rest, and even play. May my work today honor you. Amen.


Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Pressing On: Through Futility to Faith

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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