What comes to your mind when you hear the word work? Drudgery? Frustration? An angry boss? Or something you can’t wait to do?
Recently I found myself in my “sweet spot.” For me, that is sitting in the driver’s seat of my combine harvesting corn. It was an unusually bright, sunny, and warm November morning; perfect combining conditions. The machine was working very well, the corn was flowing easily through the combine, and the view of God’s creation out my cab window was inspiring. My four year old son was with me and he was enjoying himself too- making drum sticks out of corn stalks, throwing corn cobs and playing in the combine bin full of shelled corn when I took a few minutes to do some maintenance. As the morning progressed I thought to myself, boy l love this, I wish every day was like this. Then I thought of heaven.
The Bible teaches that there will someday be a new heaven and a new earth, and yes we will be given work there to do. Most of us won’t be playing some boring harp as depicted in cartoons, instead, we will be serving God and worshiping him through work, work especially designed for us and us for it. Contrary to our frequent experience in this harsh and broken world, work on the new earth will bring us great joy and pleasure. In Randy Alcorn’s book on heaven, he describes work in heaven that is “without the hindrances of toil, pain, corruption, and sin.” Our work will be stimulating, significant, and it will last. This is because our work will be exactly in tune with God’s plan and purposes in a world where there is in no decay, destruction, or death. As depicted in Jesus’s parable in Luke 19:11-19, the reward of our faithful service in this life, will be greater responsibility (work) in heaven and on the new earth.
But what about work now? Work in this present world is still good and we can find God’s purposes for us in it. This is because work was created before sin entered this world, before the fall of man and the world was broken. Genesis 2:15 records how God gave Adam the job of working and caring for the Garden of Eden (I would have liked to have seen the corn crop he was able to raise! =] ) You see Adam was created to work, and as Ephesians 2:10 says, we also were created to do “good works” here and now in our present world. That is why we can find satisfaction and purpose in our work even in this broken world.
Unfortunately, there is another truth about work in this present world. And that truth is that our work here on earth is cursed. This should not be a surprise for anyone who has been in the working world very long, since work in this world can be extremely hard, cruel, and unrewarding. I just need to continue my combining story from earlier to demonstrate the curse. For the very next morning after my day of harvesting fun, I lost engine oil pressure in the combine and it was determined that the engine needed to be removed and overhauled. The warm sun disappeared and by afternoon a steady cold rain dominated the remainder of the day. Days later, as I write this I am still trying to fix combine, but now outside in blowing snow! That is the way it is with our work in this present world. And why? The answer is found in Genesis 3. Here we read of mankind’s first sin and the resultant curse God placed upon our work. Verses 17-19 state “cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” Adam and Eve’s sin was a big deal and it broke this world! Yet, before we jump to putting all the blame on the parents of the human race, we should ask ourselves how we contribute to the problems at work. Do you cut corners at work or fail to make an effort to communicate with your coworkers (laziness)? Do you spend time on the internet (for personal reasons) while you’re clocked in, do you “borrow” items from work then fail to return them, do you fail to pay people on time or just fail to give others credit and words of appreciation when it is due? (These are all forms of stealing) Are you quick to blame others or criticize others out of jealousy or frustration? Do you hold unrealistic expectations for work out of greed or because you have made an idol out of work? The list could go on, but I think that if we are honest we would all have to admit that in big or small ways we have contributed to problems at work. This is because, as the Bible says in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned..” and that sin permeates all aspects of our lives. And as it was with Adam and Eve, our sin is a big deal to God. We have brought evil into what he made holy (our work and our lives) and God declares in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Fortunately for us, God did not stop there, and the second half of that verse states “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And how is it “in Christ” that we have eternal life? Simply put, Jesus took our punishment by dying on the cross in our place. This allows God to forgive all our sins and declare us “not guilty.” All we have to do is to humbly admit that we have sinned and ask the Lord for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Then we honestly seek to know the God of the Bible. It’s as simple as that.
You see, What God really desires is for you to know Him and for you to enjoy Him. When it comes to work, what really makes or breaks your work experience are the relationships at work. I enjoyed my day in the combine more because I got to share it with my son, Brendon. When we get to heaven, not only will all the people we work with be perfect people, we will get to work alongside Jesus! The best part of work in heaven will be the sweet conversation with our Lord, and the amazing privilege of just getting to spend time in the presence of Jesus and our Great Father. Though I believe our skill level and work quality in heaven will be far better than anything we’ve ever done here on earth, our work will be like that of my son playing with the corn stalks when compared to the work our Lord is and will be accomplishing. It is the Lord who is really getting things done, yet, like a father enjoying his little child, God will enjoy our presence working alongside of him in heaven.
So in light of heaven’s future work, what should we do now? First, don’t miss heaven! If you are not a believer in God, run to the Lord Jesus now while you still can. There is another eternal reality much, much worse than your worst day at work. If you are a believer and therefore a child of God, do your best to bring heaven to your current job through your words and actions. Even in this present evil world, we are actually working for God (Colossians 3:23-24). Lastly, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, thank God for the work he has given us now, the work he has waiting for us in heaven, and especially for the fact that every day at work our Lord is working right there beside us, and will be for eternity.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does,…