I ran across a post recently on a website dedicated to success. It was filled with quotes from athletes, business leaders, and other notables, all designed to inspire your “inner winner.”
Interestingly enough, several of the quotes fought against each other. There were ones that said losing was bad, and others that said it was essential. There were quotes that said winning was the only thing that mattered, and others that said it really didn’t count for much when all is said and done.
But the one message that was consistent in all of those quotes, no matter which slant they took, is that your “inner winner” better be ready to roll up its sleeves and work.
That’s right. You are created to work.
Now, for several months I’ve been sharing battle-tested wisdom I wish my 25-year old self would have known as she prepared to take the world by storm. She would have done well with a little more patience, a little less autonomy, and a lot more grace (and maybe a nap or two). But there was one thing she discovered at the tender age of 12, when she asked her dad if she could spend her weekends helping out at a butcher shop called Ranchland Meats. She thought it would be fun to wear a white jacket and help people select steaks, and she thought it might be fun to earn a little money. Her career as a butcher was short-lived; she wept like a baby when she saw rabbits in the refrigerator case one rainy Saturday morning, and for a season she even became a vegetarian in protest.
That 12-year old butcher shop worker became a 16-year old restaurant employee who dressed in costume and spoke like a cartoon character every night. She then became an 18-year old clothing store manager. In college, she took advantage of internships to gain practical experience. Before she launched into the world of marketing, she was a fitness instructor. She even once tested her skills in an accounting department. It was good for her to fail at something. She learned humility.
And she kept learning things.
That 25-year old continues to teach me about the purpose of work. Again, you are created to work – whether that work is serving people a good meal or serving up solutions for a global giant. You and I need work in our lives to be healthy and whole humans.
You might be wondering why work is needed, beyond the obvious reasons of providing us with money to pay bills and benefits like insurance, options, and some good exercise climbing the ladder of success.
Here are two important reasons inspired by scriptures that you might not have considered.
GOD IS A WORKER
If you’ve read the Bible, you’ve read that on the seventh day, “God rested.” We humans really like that statement, especially on a Sunday afternoon when the sofa is comfy and the television is lulling us to sleep. God does know the value of rest, and He encourages us to take a breath and take some time to be quiet. He’s built our bodies for rest – things heal more quickly and we can manage life a little better with a good night’s sleep. But God is a worker. He created the universe, hand-crafted humans, and daily serves up answers to prayers and new mercies and the restoration of people and relationships and time. And if God is worker, then we are designed to work, too. Created in His image and likeness means we have within us some pretty powerful DNA (Ephesians 2:10).
We are creative creations created by a creative Creator (I can’t lay claim to those words – I heard a pastor say them years ago). Retirement is found nowhere in scripture. We are better humans when we are doing good with our hands. We become more creative, and our brains start to work on things like efficiency and productivity. In fact, research has shown that the old adage, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person” is true. We have the capacity to contribute more when we are actively contributing something.
WORK REFINES YOU
The Bible encourages us to treat our work as if God is our employer, to be diligent and trustworthy (Colossians 3:23). But work is more than doing a job to receive a paycheck. Work is one of the ways we are refined as humans, if we allow it to teach us. Hard work teaches us about persistence and faithfulness (1 Corinthians 15:58). Working with others informs us of the value of community and accountability (Matthew 5:16). Our hard edges are softened when we learn to treat others as we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31), or when we learn to fight with integrity for injustice in the workplace (Deuteronomy 24:14), or we learn to listen first so that our responses might be well-seasoned with grace and truth (Ephesians 4:29).
Work is a great training ground for teaching us and others about true leadership – leadership that has the best interest of others at heart, leadership that serves others well (Philippians 2:3-4). Given an opportunity, the work we do even does its work within us off the clock, as it teaches us how to treat those around us (even those who don’t see things the same way as we do).
Still not convinced that work is something we are designed to do, and that it has a greater purpose for us and for others? Check out these words from Romans 12. There’s no “if you decide to work” here. Instead, the only “if” is the kind of work you do.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” (Romans 12:6-19)
If my 25-year old self could speak to you right now, she would say this,
“Work. Work hard. And let work do the work within you. You are created for this.”