Love your work? Or love others though your work?
“You don’t love the hours. You don’t love the early mornings. You don’t love the competition. But the one thing that gets you out of bed every day is the one thing that got you started in the first place…you love your work”
What an evocative piece of advertising this 2014 MYOB commercial is. There is something about it that connects deeply with us. Perhaps it reflects your own experience – despite the frustrations, despite the difficulties, you really do enjoy what you do. There are some days when you’re even excited to get out of bed for work. Or perhaps it touches you deeply in another way – you wish you could say that about your work. You wish you could say that the job that you trained for years to do really does give you joy and pleasure. That you love it.
Why is it that our work can connect so deeply with us, regardless of whether we love it or hate it? The simple answer is because we’ve been “wired to work”. Working is an inherent part of being human. And the reason for that is that we have been made in the image of a God who is a worker.
The opening page of the Bible introduces us to a God who works; designing, constructing, gardening. And that opening page also introduces us to a God who makes humanity “in His image” (Genesis 1:26-28). And part of being made in the image of God is that we too are workers, given by Him the task to work (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). That is why work can be so deeply satisfying. That on those really good days we can say, “I love my work”.
You know those moments of satisfaction don’t you? The sigh of satisfaction…aaaaah…when you step back and admire your freshly mown lawn. That sense of pleasure finishing a monthly report or completing the design of a new program. That moment of joy when, despite the 2am start, you pull the freshly baked bread out of the oven and put it on display for the early morning customers. Stepping back and enjoying a completed task – at that moment you’ve done something very God-like. “God saw all that He had made at it was very good” (1:31). Aaaaah.
But for every “aaaaah” moment there is an “aaargh” moment isn’t there. A moment not where you love your work, but where you hate it. I think in part that some of the frustrations associated with our work are enhanced because of the fact that we have been wired to work. Because working is an inherent part of being human, therefore, to misquote the children’s rhyme, “when work is good it is very, very good, but when it is bad it is horrid”. The frustrations of work cut deeply because they cut at a part of who we are as humans.
This frustration with work is not unexplained in the Bible either. In fact just a few pages over in Genesis we find the reason for our frustration with our work – human sin. We reject God’s plans and purposes and order for His world and our work. We instead selfishly go it alone. As a consequence our work is now frustrating (Genesis 3:17-19).
How can we return to the way work was meant to be, filled with more aaaaah, not aaargh, moments? It starts with Jesus and then seeking to work like God works. It starts with coming to Jesus and acknowledging our responsibility for many of the aaaargh moments of work life….and indeed all of life. Selfishly pursuing our own purposes, our own plans, our own order. It starts with coming to Jesus and accepting the forgiveness He has won for us in His death and resurrection.
And then it continues with seeking to work like God. Not selfishly, but selflessly. One of God’s purposes for work was not so much that we would “love our work” – He certainly did intend that for us. But more than loving our work God intended that we would “love others through our work”. That through our work we would selflessly satisfy the needs of not primarily ourselves, but others. Our work was to be an act of service, an act of love. Why? Because this is precisely how God works. “The earth is satisfied by the fruit of [God’s] work” (Psalm 104:13). God works in order to selflessly satisfy the needs of others, serving their needs, loving them. And as workers made in His image this is how we too are meant to work.
So if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in a job which gives you joy and pleasure don’t feel guilty about loving your work. Love your work. But more than loving your work, love others through your work. And in so doing I think you’ll find that work in the long run is filled with more aaaaah than aaargh moments. And that in turn makes it easier to “love your work”.