By Drew Narmour, YBL Director, Jackson, MS

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  Genesis 1:27-28 

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15 

“On a scale of 1-10 how much do you think God cares about your work,” I asked a 22-year-old in our ministry. Clearly the question is something he had been wrestling with. Instead of answering with a number, he shared something that came across his mind the other day at his desk just before his next sales call: ‘Should I just quit and go to seminary?’ He questioned whether his work as an associate producer at an insurance company carried any amount of significance in the grand scheme of things.  

On some level, I think we would be lying if we didn’t admit we’ve had similar questions. It may surprise you to hear, as someone who has been in vocational ministry for the past decade, that even I have had doubts about the meaningfulness of my work. After all, the “real work” is being done in the unreached parts of the world, not the bible belt…right?  

When we think like this, we are proving that we have created a false dichotomy between work that is either sacred or secular. Either I’m going to do something with my life that satisfies me by making enough money, or I’m going to do something with my life that satisfies me by making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Do I want some sort of comfort financially or existentially? 

One of the underlying issues creating this false dichotomy is a failure to understand work biblically. For many, their work is meaningful to the extent that they are sharing their faith with their co-workers or giving a certain portion of their paycheck to missionaries. While evangelism and financial gifts are wonderful, biblical things to do, no doubt, it is short-sighted to gauge the meaningfulness of work through only these categories.  

Looking back to the garden of Eden we see that Adam is given responsibility to continue the creational work of God. Al Wolters writes:The earth had been completely unformed and empty; in the six-day process of development God had formed it and filled it—but not completely. People must now carry on the work of development: by being fruitful they fill it even more; by subduing it they must form it even more … as God’s representatives, [we] carry on where God left off. But this is now to be a human development of the earth. The human race will fill the earth with its own kind, and it will form the earth for its own kind. From now on the development of the created earth will be societal and cultural in nature. In other words, the task ahead is civilization.”

Seeing work in this light forces us to reconsider what we might ordinarily view as mundane tasks as participating in the ongoing creational work of God. Insurance gives people financial security in the midst of tragedy. Sanitation workers keep neighborhoods clean diminishing the risk of disease and preserving the beauty of God’s creation. Truck drivers sustain society through the transportation of goods. All important aspects of civilization.  

This isn’t to say, ‘if you’re feeling down, you just need to realize how much you’re helping people.’ Yes, that’s certainly true, but it’s much more than that. Your work is connected to God’s work. As Tim Keller comments, the emails you just sent before reading this are one way in which you are developing, maintaining, or repairing the fabric of the world. Like Adam, we are all in a sense, gardeners cultivating God’s good creation for his glory. As image-bearers of God, through our work we bring order out of chaos as he did in the beginning. And that is meaningful.