Working it out – Smashing the world’s view of work


Ben Pfahlert & Tara Farrugia

Anyone can do it, somebody has to do it, nobody wants to do it but everyone does it. Work consumes us. Three in four Australians take work home with them at least once a week*. It is vital for us, living in this world, to understand the Bible’s view of work.

What does the world see as work?

People assume work is what you get paid to do between 9am and 5pm. Or, work is what stops you from doing what you would like to do. Occasionally, we also hear work in reference to the stay at home mum who has the task of raising her children. The way our culture views things often infiltrates the views of our churches. Work is a great example of this. So how does the world’s definition of work compare to God’s?

What does the Bible see as work?

Adam is the first worker recorded in the Bible. In Genesis 2, we are told his work was to obey the word of God. Michael Hill also describes work, in The How and Why of Love, as bringing order out of chaos, or bringing order to God’s creation.
These Biblical definitions help us to shape our view to God’s view of work. Work is more than 9 to 5. This allows us to measure work; we can measure whether order is brought to chaos. This is why we can say a prostitute is not a worker, and neither is a surgeon performing abortions. Both bring disorder and increase chaos rather than order it. Both disobey the word of God rather than obey it.

What does this mean for our work?

The Multiplicity of work(s)
Imagine Barry, a 42 year old Christian father who was an engineer constructing the Sydney Harbour Bridge when work began on the 28th July 1923. Firstly, he is building a huge bridge that will bring massive order out of chaos to traders, travellers, commuters, family members etc. What a fantastic “work”. The second work Barry has to do is what’s mentioned in Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. One of the big problems in AD63, 1923 and 2003 that many Christians fail to remember that they have multiple works to do.

The priority of works

In the example above, which of the two works mentioned is more important? In some ways it is an unhelpful question to ask. We hope Barry would both build the bridge and build up his kids. Let’s imagine he was struggling to prioritise well. If we learnt that Barry was at the bridge opening on the 19th March 1932, that Barry worked 50 hours a week over 9 years of construction but had read the Bible to his kids on average once a month, what would we think? We’d think Barry had got it round the wrong way! Barry’s Ephesians 6:4 work takes priority over his bridge work. If Barry was failing to build up his kids in the Lord, then he should have quit the bridge building job and sought employment in a less stressful organisation. God will ask Barry on the final day about his Ephesians 6:4 work, but he probably won’t ask about the bridge.

Which work works best?

In the final analysis we all ask – “I have 112 hours per week that I’m awake, or 407,680 hours in my life (if I live to 70). What is the work that will bring the most order?” The Sydney Harbor Bridge brings order… for a time. That’s great. When we share the gospel of Jesus with someone, and they trust Him, a humungous amount of order is brought to the chaos of a person’s life. A deep order – they have the character of Christ; a wide order – their relationships are transformed as they love God fervently and their neighbour as themselves; and a long order follows – the person experiences a more peaceful life for decades on earth and millennia in heaven. Which work works best? Which work brings the most order per hour of effort expended? The proclamation of the gospels and the “making of disciples”, Matthew 28:16-20. Does that mean we should all quit our jobs and preach on street corners? Not necessarily. But this may bring about a minor revolution in our lives. We may decide to do one of the following:

  • Leave our day job at 5:00pm instead of 7:00pm so we can get home on time to do our Ephesians 6:4 work.
  • Reduce our day job days from 5 to 4 so that we can teach scripture in our kids school or have the time to have non-Christian mates over for dinner once a week.
  • Take one week of unpaid leave from our “day job” to run an evangelistic soccer camp in our town/suburb.

What do you need to do to make your work, work better?


*Fact taken from: All Work and No Time To Play – Penny McLeod The Australian