I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

Revelation 22:8-9

 

Layout of work materials: notes, office supplies, etc.Last week, we began to reflect on how our work can be worship. Two verses from Revelation 22 led us to this reflection. In Revelation 22:8, John fell down to worship the angel who had revealed the glorious vision of the future to him. But the angel rebuked John, rejecting his worship and telling him to “Worship God!” (22:9). Analogously, we can sometimes be so devoted to our work that we could be said to worship work. Yet, Scripture teaches us that work can be a way for us to worship God. Work is worship. Yes, sometimes. Work is idolatry. Yes, sometimes. Work is a mix of the two. Yes, sometimes.

So how can we know the difference?

Simply put, idolatry is worshiping something other than God. It’s worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. If worship, at its core, is offering your whole self to something or someone, bowing down to that which you honor as sovereign over your life, then we can see where our work falls on the worship-idolatry scale by examining our actions and our hearts.

Could you honestly pray at the beginning of your day, “Lord, I offer to you as worship all I will do at work today”? And could you pray with integrity at the end of the day, “Lord, I’ve worked for you today”?

 

What do the actions of our lives tell us about what or whom we worship? Do they bear witness to the fact that God is first in our lives? Or do they rather show us that work comes first? In part, this has to do with how we spend our time. If work gets the best part of my life and God gets the dregs, then it’s pretty clear what I worship. But, it’s not just the number of hours that indicates where I fall on the worship-idolatry scale. What I do in my work, the choices I make, and the reasons for these choices, the things that motivate me . . . these also reveal whether work or God takes first place in my life.

This leads us to the question of our hearts. When we honestly peer inside of ourselves, what do we see? Are we truly seeking to serve the Lord in our work? Are we seeking to contribute to his work in the world, to the common good of all? Do we want our actions at work to reflect God’s sovereignty and values? Could you honestly pray at the beginning of your day, “Lord, I offer to you as worship all I will do at work today”? And could you pray with integrity at the end of your workday, “Lord, I’ve worked for you today”?

Now, I’m not suggesting that we should always be thinking mainly about God as we work. Much of what we do requires and deserves our full attention. Yet, even when we are fully invested in the work that is before us, we can still do this work as an act of worship. It’s a matter of what motivates and empowers us. It’s a matter of our understanding of the ultimate purpose of our work. Are we working hard mainly for personal gain? Or to please the boss? Or to show up a colleague? Or simply to get the job done? Or to honor God and contribute to God’s work in the world? Whom are we serving when we do our work?

These questions are not answered easily, but they point us in the right direction. So, let me encourage you to reflect on the questions we have been asking as they are repeated below.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

What do the actions of our lives tell us about what or whom we worship? Do they bear witness to the fact that God is first in our lives? Or do they rather show us that work comes first?

When we honestly peer inside of ourselves, what do we see? Are we truly seeking to serve the Lord in our work? Are we seeking to contribute to his work in the world, to the common good of all? Do we want our actions at work to reflect God’s sovereignty and values?

Are we working hard mainly for personal gain? Or to please the boss? Or to show up a colleague? Or simply to get the job done? Or to honor God and contribute to God’s work in the world?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, we want to worship you in all that we do, including our work. So teach us, Lord, to discern wisely and well what motivates our work. Help us to identify ways in which our work is idolatrous? By your Spirit, may we learn to give all that we are to you as we do our daily work. May you be glorified in what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

To you be all the glory! Amen.

 

Explore online Bible commentary for Revelation 17-22 at the Theology of Work Project.