23 Dec #048 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Kingdom—Lessons from Creation—Work Is Good
ESSENCE: For a leader to lead an organization to faithfully “do right”, they must look to Creation to understand the importance of work to the humanity of those they lead. God created work for humanity as a GOOD THING before the Fall, and people are more “fully human” when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity. A BIGGER GOSPEL reveals that the purpose of work and business is not to “make money”–it is to reflect the creativity and productivity of God in ways that increase the flourishing of God’s creation and the beauty of His Kingdom, which, in turn, glorifies the Creator.
We are exploring the idea of a BIGGER GOSPEL (four parts instead of just two)–one that starts with Creation and goes all the way to God’s restoration plan for His Kingdom on earth (with the Fall and Redemption through Jesus sandwiched in the middle), and we started digging into Creation with the assertion that it is impossible to understand God’s purpose for work or business without looking at Genesis! Our last posts were about Why Are We Here (the Creation Mandate) and Who Are We (Imago Dei), but we also need Genesis to understand that WORK IS GOOD.
Lessons from Creation: Work Is Good
It seems some otherwise Biblically-literate people mistakenly believe work is a curse that was imposed on humans because of the Fall (in our experience, they think of the Fall and God telling Adam that the ground would be cursed). Certainly, many people who have never read the Bible believe that their work is a curse to be limited by “Work-Life Balance” and finally eliminated through retirement. Nothing could be further from the truth!
God created work before the Fall. In Genesis 2:15, we learn “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Just as God creatively and productively worked to create all things, as God’s image-bearers it is in our very nature to be creative and productive workers. Through the Creation Mandate, God commands us to work to steward and cultivate His creation. In the words of Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavor:
The book of Genesis leaves us with a striking truth—work was part of paradise. . . . Again, the contrast with other religions and cultures could not be sharper. Work did not come in after a golden age of leisure. It was part of God’s perfect design for human life, because we were made in God’s image, and part of his glory and happiness is that he works, as does the Son of God.
Work was created as an essential part of the life of a creative and productive humanity. As we said in Post #006, people are more “fully human” when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity.
The Deceptions of “Work-Life Balance” and “Retirement”
As we noted in Post #022, our cultural obsession with finding “Work-Life Balance” is perhaps the best indicator that work has ceased to be the blessing God intended and has become a Burden. We no longer view work as part of our life–part of the rhythm of life. Because it has become all-consuming and spiritually unfulfilling, we see it as something that keeps us from life–an oppositional force. The deception of “Work-Life Balance” demonizes work and prevents us from being fully human:
- It makes us see work as an obstacle to life.
- It leads us to despise work.
- It gets ingrained through cultural phrases like “live to work” vs “work to live”, “TGIF” and “Monday morning blues”.
Is it any wonder that people long to “retire” and spend their remaining years as far from God’s life-giving gift of work as possible. Seeing work as opposed to life leads to the idolization of “retirement” as:
- A freedom from work.
- A well-earned ability to “live” and stop “working”
Here is an illustration of the the common cultural view of work in the context of life and faith, compared to what we believe is a Biblical view of work in the context of life and faith.
Work is part of life. In fact, what we learn in Genesis is that work is necessary to live fully and be fully human. Our goal should be “life balance”. “Live to work” and “work to live” are both wrong–we were designed to “live more fully through work”.
The book of Genesis leaves us with a striking truth—work was part of paradise. (Tim Keller)
In 1942, Dorothy Sayers wrote in her essay “Why Work?”:
Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.
At Integrous, we believe the reason we are obsessed with “Work-Life Balance” and “retirement” is because the work we are escaping barely resembles the work God designed to bring us life. We are escaping work as usual, which is a by-product of business as usual. That helps explain why many people actually do turn to creative and productive activities in “retirement” that fit a broader Biblical concept of work, but they do not think of it as work–BUT IT IS! To put “work” into perspective, we believe it helps to define work in a way that has nothing to do with earning money–separate PROVISION from PRODUCTIVITY.
- Work is the creation of goods or the provision of services that are of value to another human being or to a community.
Work “building for God’s Kingdom” is work that adds or restores truth, beauty or goodness to the world, thereby increasing the flourishing of God’s creation and the beauty of His Kingdom.
We believe this makes it easier to see why “retirement” to a golf course actually takes away an important part of our humanity.
Work is where we spend most of our waking hours, and it has moved far from its original design in Genesis as something good. At Integrous, we think that is “dehumanizing”. We believe it is time for “business a better way” in alignment with Biblical values and priorities–it is time to begin faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity. But a leader can’t lead an organization to faithfully “do right” without understanding and embracing a BIGGER GOSPEL with a full understanding of the importance of work to the humanity of those they lead.
SPOILER ALERT: In our final post about Creation, we will explore the nature of “work” (which may be very surprising).
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I pursued my career without any Biblical understanding of work (I believed in God and Jesus, but I really didn’t have much of a Biblical understanding of anything). I frequently said that I was a “work to live” rather than a “live to work” person, and that if I “hit the lottery” I would not be at work on Monday (provided it was a big enough jackpot). I certainly looked forward to “retirement”.
While I claimed to be a “work to live”person, I had no concept of “Work-Life Balance” or “life balance”. My career was one in which work became all-consuming (there were periods as an associate when a typical week was: 9:00am to somewhere between 11:00pm-1:00am, Monday through Thursday; 9:00am to 8:00pm Friday; 10:00am to 7:00pm Saturday; and 11:00am to 6:00pm Sunday), but I rarely viewed it as a burden (in fact, when friends told me I was crazy, I recall telling them they were crazy to be in a job where they were watching the clock until it struck 5:00pm–I loved what I was doing). Until I hit that big lottery, I couldn’t imagine enjoying any job more than the one I had.
I also did not have any understanding of work in the context of God’s grand plan for His Kingdom. I did have a stock explanation of the societal value of corporate law that I shared with all recruits. It went something like: “What is good for American business is good for America, and we help American business achieve its goals. So what we do matters.” I believed it. I do not recall using the words “truth, beauty and goodness” to describe what I did.
But when I came to a true Biblical understanding of “work” later in life, I found out that many people who professed deep and long-held faith and Biblical grounding also did not really understand “work”. I recall sharing with one such friend that “work” was created as a good thing before the Fall, and he replied “What? Show me where it says that!” We read Genesis 2:15 together. He also had never heard of a Four-Part Gospel.