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Work as Witness

By Aaron KaAaron M. Kauffmanuffman

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people” – Colossians 3:23 (Common English Bible)

I’ve had a number of jobs over the years. As an kid I mowed lawns and delivered newspapers. In high school I stocked shelves at a hardware store, and in the summers I helped install pipes in new houses. One summer I even worked the night shift five days a week cleaning the floors at K-mart.

I’m thankful for the skills and work ethic I gained through those early jobs. But I must confess that I mainly saw them as a means to one end: earning money. And like many Christians, I made little connection between my faith and my work.

This began to change as I entered adulthood. After college, I taught English to non-native speakers for about ten years. Contexts varied greatly: a public high school in Virginia, a Christian school in Colombia, a program for aspiring students at Eastern Mennonite University. But no matter where or whom I taught, I tried to view my work as having meaning and purpose beyond the paycheck I would receive. I wanted to teach with passion and creativity both out of respect for the art of teaching and in order to provide students with a tool that could improve their lives and open doors of opportunity. Most of all—at least on my better days—I wanted my work to give witness to my faith in Jesus Christ.

Too often we as Christians have adopted our culture’s divide between the spiritual and the secular. We designate what we do at church or in our personal devotional life as “spiritual,” and the rest of life as “secular.” Except for paid ministry, we rarely think of work as spiritual.

The Bible makes no such distinction between spiritual and secular. In fact, the creation account in Genesis tells us that work is a divine and therefore supremely spiritual activity. Work is so good that God decides to share it with human beings, placing us on earth “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). As we do so, we reflect the glory to God, whose image we bear.

In his book, The Missional Entrepreneur, Mark Russell identifies seven principles about work from the first two chapters of Genesis, paraphrased below:

  1. Work is part of stewarding God’s creation.
  2. Using and making tools is an integral part of work.
  3. Creation is a gift, but it takes work to tend and enjoy it.
  4. We are meant to appreciate the beauty and goodness that work produces.
  5. Work is something we are meant to do together.
  6. Work is about partnering with our Creator.
  7. Work brings satisfaction and makes rest enjoyable.

Yes, on this side of the Fall (Gen. 3), work can be toilsome or even oppressive. But it doesn’t have to be. As heralds of the new creation ushered in though Jesus Christ, let us recover the inherent goodness of work. Work becomes witness when we do it for the Lord.