Last week’s devotional focused on how to deal with isolation. While we are all facing the challenges of social distancing, there is another challenge that is facing many of us: learning to view work biblically during social distancing and stay at home orders.
There are a variety of challenges facing many of us:
- Some have jobs that are greatly affected by the bans and social distancing (teachers having to create distance learning plans, for example).
- Some have jobs that ,are not affected directly by the bans and social distancing (essential jobs or jobs that are primarily isolated).
- Some have jobs that have have not changed drastically in function, but have changed drastically in location (working from home rather and working remotely rather than with employees in an office).
- Some jobs have either been lost or have had their hours cut drastically.
- Some jobs have changed in intensity and practice overnight (first responders, nurses and doctors, local, state, and national government, pastors, and counselors).
- Some parents are now teaching their children at home while dealing with the affects of losing a job (or hours) or trying to manage distance learning and work from home.
I’m not writing this post from the place of an expert. Rather, I’m a fellow traveler on this challenging journey. In the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have had numerous conversations about many of these challenges. We’re dealing with reduced income, distance learning from home for our children, planning a schedule of working from home and the office, and attempting to balance work, family, and school while being in the same house nearly all the time.
While the Bible does not offer a one size fits all approach to every work scenario outlined below, it does offer some principles to guide us. My hope is that the timeless principles of Scripture will shape our perspective on work during these challenging times.
- God ordained work before the fall. Look back at Genesis 1:28. Adam and Eve had responsibility for creation (the Cultural Mandate) before they sinned in Genesis 3. God worked for 6 days (Creation) and rested for the seventh day. Work is something good that’s been given to us by God. This principle reminds us that work is a means by which to glorify God.
- Biblically, work is not a place to which we go, it is something we do. Not to get too historical, but the Industrial Revolution shifted our concept of work. Until then, many families shared their work responsibilities in a trade. As a result, moms and dads shared the schooling of children, work around the house (farm in some cases), and the trade. It was not until after the Industrial Revolution and really even into the 20th century that going to work (especially for men) became commonplace. This principle has immense implications. See principles 3 and 4.
- Work in all of its aspects can be a means of glorifying God (see the wise woman in Proverbs 31). Running a business is not more God-honoring than folding laundry. Teaching children in home education or distance learning is not necessarily less valuable than the work of a lawyer or public official. We incorrectly associate income level or public prestige as a validation of one’s work. Consider that for most of the world, throughout most of history, paychecks have not been the norm. Work consisted of growing crops, raising animals, bartering for items, or trading for a service. While it has always been the case that certain jobs, trades, or careers provided opportunity for more publicity or income, God does not see us through those lenses. They are culturally constructed lenses. This means that doing laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning the garage, mowing the grass, closing a deal, writing a sermon, calling a friend, caring for a family member, reading with a child, teaching a lesson, managing a staff, making a sell (I could go on, but you get the idea), are all means by which we can glorify God.
- Whenever you work and whatever you do, you should seek to honor Christ (see Colossians 3:17). Whether you work remotely, have always worked at home, or your job completely changed, embrace whatever job is in front of you today to honor Christ.
- Significance, not productivity should define your perspective in all types of work. You might be feeling guilty that you are not able to work as productively by working remotely. You shouldn’t. Productivity tips generally rely on normal, controlled environments. For many of us, our environments are anything but normal. However, we should look for ways to make all of our work significant and meaningful. We should look for ways to be productive and faithful. Yet, we should keep a healthy perspective. While your work output is likely to change, you can still be faithful and significant with what is in front of you.
- If (out of necessity) you find yourself working more than normal, remember to find your rest and strength in Christ. Some will be working overtime to manage the challenges of this pandemic (medical personnel, first responders, public officials, etc.). Strength for today and rest for tonight come through Christ. Remember, God rested at the end of the six days of creation. It is easy for the changes in your work environment or the responsibilities in front of you to overwhelm you. Rely on Christ. He is your strength, and he is your rest.
- Finally, find your significance in Christ. You cannot look for your significance in your job (or any other work for that matter). If you’ve been laid off, furloughed, closed your business, or shortened your hours, you need to know that God does not perceive you as a failure. Looking at yourself or others through this lends is culturally conditioned. Remember, Christ alone is your significance.
I trust these principles will encourage you. Whatever challenge your facing, know that God loves you and promises to be with you always (Mt. 28:20).