Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
What does the gospel say about work?
To understand what scripture says about work, we need to delve into what Jesus calls us all to do.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says to the disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
What Jesus called His disciples to do in the first century is the same thing that He calls us to do in the 21st century—be the light of the world by genuinely displaying God’s love in all our words and deeds.
Work is an important vehicle for doing just that. Work gives us the opportunity to use our endowed talents to showcase God’s love for the world. In fact, work was the first task that God assigned to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15).
Our God is a God who loves to create—to do wonderful things in our lives and in the world—one day ushering in a kingdom far more glorious than we can imagine.
While our work should be an expression of our passion for God and desire to serve others, it’s clearly not where we derive our identity—we know that no matter how hard we try or aspire, it’s only God’s grace that saves us.
However, one of the ways we can show how grateful we are for this undeserved grace is by devoting our time and energy towards His purposes.
Indeed, we cannot claim to live in the light if we are not bearing the fruit that comes with the light.
As Jesus says in Matthew 7:16-20, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
Does this mean that there is “secular work” and “church work”? Surely not!
When we use our energy and God-given talents to produce something valuable, we are advancing God’s kingdom. God created each of us with different gifts. For example, Paul says in Romans 12:6: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”
Imagine if society consisted of programmers, but no innovators—or innovators, but no programmers?
Put simply, whatever work God has allotted to you for this day, year, or decade, do it for His the glory with the zeal and diligence that is granted to us through the Holy Spirit.
What are some practical suggestions?
The quote from Ephesians makes clear that our days are finite. We are living in a sinful world—a world that is more often than not incompatible with the lives Jesus calls us to live.
And yet, we should hardly be sad about the state of affairs since we know how it will all end—with Jesus’ return. In the interim, however, our responsibility is to redeem the time and devote all our efforts to God.
There are several ways that I’ve found as vital components of operationalizing these insights.
1. Hold yourself accountable.
Time can easily get out of hand. Track—either explicitly or internally—how you’re spending your time and whether you’re getting closer to the objectives that you feel God has put in your path.
Mistakes will happen, but the key is getting back up and learning from your past.
2. Scrutinize your schedule.
Fellowship is good, but there’s a clear line separating genuine fellowship and socializing.
Since the vast majority of the latter doesn’t really take seriously the passage from Ephesians, we need to refocus whenever we’re in circumstances where we might be misusing our time.
Sin is not just about commission, but also omission: am I using my time in the best possible way?
3. Pray unceasingly and with expectancy.
While it’s easy to allocate our time to some activities that we know God is calling us towards (e.g., if we’re students in school, studying), others are more ambiguous.
Does God want me to start a doctoral program? Does God want me to spend more time at work or serve more in my church? These, among millions of others, are not easy and the answer will be person-specific.
Whereas God may want to use your talents and personality in the church, He may use someone else to shine a light at work amidst co-workers.
When we pray for God to straighten our paths, we need to do so with expectancy—knowing that He will answer.
What do you find challenging when it comes to choosing how you spend your time?
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