It’s easy to see prayer, church attendance, fellowship, mission work and financial giving as forms of worship. But work? It seems like a bit of a stretch at first glance, but something about that idea took root in my brain and got me to thinking about it more deeply.
I must confess this quote, “Work is a form of worship,” is from Deepak Chopra that I recently saw on a website. I’m not a fan of Deepak Chopra – in truth I know close to nothing about him – but I thought that was really brilliant nonetheless. I did some research on the quote to see if it was a Chopra original, or if he was quoting someone else.
The answer to that was not clear, but it does seem to be part of a lot of Christian doctrine. In fact it’s easy to trace its roots back to the Bible.
Work for the Lord
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . . – Colossians 3:23 NIV
You may be familiar with that verse from Colossians, making the point clear – work is a form of worship. The “as working for the Lord” part cements it. But there are other verses in the Bible that add support.
In Ephesians we read:
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. – Ephesians 6:7-8 NIV
We have a clear declaration from Jesus on the topic of work as he practiced it:
In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working. – John 5:17 NIV
If you are not particularly happy with the job you have or the career you’re in you may be tempted to skip over these verses. But since they do appear in Scripture, we have to assume that they’re there for a very important reason, and we need to take them to heart.
God isn’t just hearing our prayers and watching us in church; he sees all that we do in every area of our lives. And since work is a big part of our lives – one that has a material impact on many other people – we should assume that our attitude and performance will matter to God.
Work is a Chance to Witness
Work is a chance to witness to others. It gets us out around people in a real world environment where witnessing can be especially difficult. But work is a place where we can witness with our actions rather than with words. As St. Thomas Aquinas is credited with saying, “In all things witness, where necessary use words.” I may be stretching the meaning, but I think that work is one of the environments he had in mind.
When we are out in the world – and that certainly includes work – we are acting as ambassadors from God. What we do is a reflection of the one who sent us.
If your coworkers know that you are a Christian, and also notice that you are punctual, helpful, considerate, respectful, and willing to go above and beyond your job, you will be putting your faith into action. People can’t help but notice this. You will be witnessing to them through your actions – through your work – and that can be a more effective witness than any words that will ever come out of your mouth.
On the other hand, if they see that you are lazy, uncooperative, prone to gossip, and more than willing to pass your responsibilities on to others, you can only hope that they will see you as a bad Christian. More likely, they will see you as a representative of all Christians, and that will be negative witness.
When we are willing to witness through our work, especially if that work is difficult, it is a form of worship. We’re saying that we trust in God no matter what is happening, so much so that we are willing to display godly behavior in a place where it may not necessarily be welcome. That kind of trust, that willingness to go against the grain, is a form of worship.
Work is a Blessing
Unless you inherited a lot of money or win the lottery, you’ll probably spend most of your life working. Because it is necessary, you may see it as mostly something that you need to suffer through in order to survive. But we can also choose to see it as the blessing that it is.
Work is our means of survival in the world. God has given each of us specific talents that will enable us to earn a living. Work enables us to be out in the world, connecting with others, and providing valuable products and services that will contribute to the economy and the well-being of other people. Work is even a big part of our relevancy in the world.
When we embrace these concepts, we are reveling in the blessing of work. We’re being thankful for the opportunity to work, and thanks is a form of worship.
If, on the other hand, we grumble and resent having to work, we are rejecting the blessing – and that reflects a very different attitude, one that we do not want to carry.
It’s not so much that work is inherently an act of worship, but we can make it be that way if we choose.
But Don’t Overdo It!
As much as we see work as a blessing, something to be thankful for, and a platform to witness from, we also have to be careful not to overdo it.
Like virtually everything else in life that is good, if we overdo it we risk turning it into an idol – a false God. The things in life that are good ironically hold the greatest potential to become false idols. Work or a career is certainly in this category. We can come to view it as the provider of all good things in life – money, security, recognition, and the chance to self-actualize. At that point it can begin to compete with our faith in God, who is the real provider of these benefits, while the job is merely a vehicle he uses.
There’s a balance that can be difficult to achieve, but as part of that balance, we do need to see work as a form of worship . . . as the blessing that it is.
Have you ever thought of work as a form of worship? Is this a concept you struggle with? Leave a comment!