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Am I Free on a Monday Morning? (Excerpt from The Gospel at Work)
When it comes to our daily work, does the gospel give us any special freedoms? Here are three practical ways it does precisely that, from Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert's book The Gospel at Work. You can also read their first three tips here.
4. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to rest from your work.
God rested after the sixth day of creation. God granted the Israelites rest from their enemies in the Promised Land. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father after his work on the cross. Our Creator is a gracious God who calls us, not to endless labor, but to a healthy rhythm of work and rest. Regular rest is a natural restraint that God has built into our lives. It’s a gift that reminds us we are dependent on God and allows us to enjoy the fruit of our labors — even when our work on this earth feels endless!
Keeping rest in proper perspective is difficult, no matter whether our tendency is to be idle in our work or to make work an idol. Idleness in work leads us to think that rest is the only thing that really matters. “I work so I can play,” goes the slogan. This ignores God’s purposes for our work. It’s not just a means to the end of rest. God has purposes for us in our work itself. Rest is simply the reward that comes from a job well done.
When we idolize work, we resist rest. Rest becomes an irritant, a necessity that keeps us from achieving our goals, a reminder of our limitations. It’s a speed bump on the road to success, a forced exile from what really matters. But here’s the thing: God knows your limits. He designed them. You can trust him when he says you need to rest. Someone back in the early 1900s once remarked, “The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.” Do you think the world is going to collapse around you if you rest from your work? Is your life going to collapse? Are your dreams going to slip away? If you think so, even for a second, then you need to take that up with the God who created you and designed you with a need for rest. He designed you this way to teach you each night as you fall asleep that the things that matter most in life really don’t depend on you and your work.
There are many ways to put into practice this truth about rest. First, set some natural boundaries. While you’re at work, be focused, efficient, and intense. Once you leave, rest from your work. Don’t check your work e-mail. Let your boss know how he or she can reach you in an emergency, but otherwise show restraint. You’ll be back at work soon enough.
Second, bookend your days with prayers of dependence and thanks to God. In the morning, pray and ask him to give you wisdom to focus on the work he has for you. In the evening, thank God for the work he accomplished through you.
Third, set aside Sunday as a day of worship and rest — even if you fear that taking off an entire day will cost you profit or promotion. You may bear enormous responsibility in your work, but you need to recognize it is actually God who prospers your work — or declines to prosper it. God can grant success in surprising ways when we demonstrate our faith in him — even by not working!
5. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to do your work well.
Studies show that the correlation between compensation and job performance is consistent — up to a point. Eventually, earning more money simply doesn’t lead to better results. Once you have enough (whatever “enough” is for you), more money won’t seem very enticing. The threat of getting fired won’t hold much fear for you either. In other words, neither a carrot nor a stick will produce the best results. At some point, extrinsic motivation has to be replaced with intrinsic motivation. If you are doing your work for Jesus, you are free from the unsatisfying allure of the carrot and the painful whack of the stick. In doing your work for Jesus, you have the greatest intrinsic motivator you could ever have — the power of your desire to please him because of all he has done for you.
In the ancient Near East, working for the king was the highest calling one could have: “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank” (Proverbs 22:29). Skilled work led to majestic service. Like Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, and Mordecai, we also work for a king. In fact, we work for the King of kings. How much more, then, should our ethic, attitude, energy, effort, and excellence befit ser vice to him! We should do good work simply because we work for the King.
6. Working for Jesus gives you freedom to have joy in your work.
“ ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Working for anyone other than Jesus is discouraging. What’s the point? We build something but leave it to someone else who might mess it up. We gain great fame but die, and no one remembers us. We save up for retirement but the market crashes, and we lose the promised rewards of hard work. We have a mundane, invisible job that seems pointless in the grand scheme of things. No wonder the teacher in Ecclesiastes threw up his hands in despair!
The answer to the fleetingness of life, though, is simple: Live your life with reference to the One who is not fleeting. The resurrection of Jesus clearly reveals why living your life for the Lord transforms everything. Your relationship with Jesus will last forever. Even if nobody notices you are working hard, he notices, and that means your work for him has eternal significance.
This was an excerpt from The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert.
'Chock-full of insights and tips, The Gospel at Work is a helpful contribution to the vital recovery of the place of faith at work.' —Os Guinness, author of The Call
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