Here’s a song about work.
How do you feel about your work? We all have good and bad days at ‘the office’. It can make us feel alive one day, and overwhelm us the next. It can bring joy or despair. Maybe it makes you feel in control, or maybe it controls you. Maybe you’d love to work but are unable.
We humans have a complicated relationship with our work. For me, the Christian understanding of it is the one that makes the most sense of our lived experience. Christianity says that we were made to live in relationship with God, to be like him, and to create like he does (Genesis 1:1). But because we have rejected him and live without reference to him, our creativity is frustrated. It often achieves nothing (‘in vain’ v1) and causes great stress and strain (‘toiling’ v2). However, God is still involved in our work. No matter what Donald Trump might claim about himself, there is no such thing as a ‘self-made man’. Any success we achieve in the world, we have because God has given it to us; and if he took it away from us in a moment, there would be nothing we could do about it.
The antidote to this frustrated experience of work is twofold: to acknowledge God’s involvement in our work, and to do it with him (v1). The best example of this is conceiving children (v3-5). Our participation is necessary, of course – and is not usually considered ‘toil’! – and yet, the birth of a baby is a miraculous wonder of human biology, every time. It is a beautiful picture of God and humans working in harmony, with great joy and fruitful blessing.
The one person who truly understood all this was Jesus. He spoke regularly about working in harmony with his Father in heaven (John 5:17), and he was the most fulfilled person to ever do a day’s work (John 4:34). His work was nothing less than bringing redemption to the universe; and he wants to redeem your experience of work.
Finding fulfillment in our work begins by seeing it from God’s perspective. If work causes you frustration and toil, and if you long for comfort and help, turn to God and ask him for it. He longs to see us flourish in our human experience, he sees our work and values it, and he loves to grant us the satisfaction of rest after a good job well done (v2).
PRAYER Thank you God that you are the giver of all good things. Anything I’ve achieved is a gift from you. But thank you that you care about my work, and you want me to flourish. Help me to see and acknowledge all you do for me, and help me to know what it means to do my work with and alongside you. Amen.
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.