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Why We Work

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. He then proceeded to spend six days making and filling it with a bunch of stuff, all of which was good. On day number six, he made man in His image, placed him in the garden and instructed him to till and keep it.

Most people are very familiar with the Creation account, as it is presented in Genesis 1 and 2, but let us consider the implications that this story has for how we should approach our work. Contrary to popular (and admittedly, comfortable and desirable) views, work is not merely a means to an end; it is good in and of itself. For example, in his recent article in The New York Times, Notre Dame philosophy professor, Gary Gutting claims that work “makes a living, not a life.” But wait! Perhaps the creation story can clarify for us what work truly is, and why we do it.

The story actually makes it pretty clear why we work: God told us to. Humankind has been given the responsibility to care for and cultivate the earth. This is not an unfortunate consequence of the Fall of Man-it is what we were made for. This argument is also supported by the fact that we are made in God’s image. This is the same God who spent six days making good things. As his image-bearers, our very nature dictates that we ought to work hard as well!

Of course, we should not forget that on the seventh day, God rested. He looked at His good work and was satisfied. We should do the same. Just like work, leisure is good. With this said, we must recognize that both work and leisure are good in and of themselves. Neither exists to serve the other. That is, we don’t work all week so that we can relax on the weekend. We work because it is good, and relax on the weekend because it is good too.

For a great example of this, let’s consider a certain wedding that was held at Cana near Galilee. This is a reference to the story of Christ’s first sign, as it is described in John 2. Jesus-the incarnate God who showed us what it is to be truly human and how to live a moral life-was at the party (leisure!). It must have been a fairly good party, because at some point during the night, the patrons ran out of wine. Even though his time had not yet come, Christ did everyone a favor and made more wine out of water (work!).

What’s that? Jesus made wine? Yeah, a lot of it! And it wasn’t just that nasty stuff that comes in a box; he made really good wine. The kind of wine served at the beginning of the party, when all the wine snobs are still sober enough to discern that what they’re drinking is of the highest quality. Because if Jesus is going to make something, he’s going to make it well.

So as you go about your homework, internships, part-time jobs, leadership roles and all other laborious activities that college students do, remember that this is what you are for. God made you to do good things well, and doing so is a form of worship.

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