If you’ve been reading this column over the years, you know I think “work” is one of the best four-letter words around. The opening chapter of the Bible talks about God’s work, and right there at the beginning of time, God gives Adam and Eve work to do: “Fill the earth and subdue it,” He says. “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Before the fall, God told Adam to work the ground and name the animals. God designed work to bring fulfillment because, in it, we partner with Him. Done for Him, work is a form of worship, “…whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). Jesus worked. He served. He preached. He washed feet. He healed and taught and prayed.
Work is a good thing, and here at UGM, we see it as a significant step on the pathway out of homelessness. Seeing the work of your hands, knowing you have contributed to the wellbeing of the community, earning a paycheck, restores dignity. So, yes, work is a very good thing.
In this column, however, I want to make it clear that work is not the ultimate thing. Work is not what saves us. In Titus 3:4-5, Paul writes: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was shown, He saved us because of His mercy. It was not because of good deeds we did to be right with Him.”
More than a decade ago, UGM underwent a shift in philosophy. We started emphasizing transformation over conformity. We didn’t want people to be checking boxes – get sober, get a haircut, get a job – we wanted them to meet Jesus and be transformed. We wanted the overwhelming love of Jesus to be their motivation for moving forward, for giving back. Because that’s what it means to live an abundant life: Recognizing that Jesus died for me, that God did not hold back even His own Son but freely gave it all so that I might live in relationship with Him, I now take great joy in obeying Him.
Everyone gets off track from time to time, and when we do, we can start to think our work makes us worthy. From the time we are in grade school, we are rewarded when we do well, and we get things mixed up, thinking it’s what we produce that proves our worth. We swell with pride when we achieve good things and hang our heads in shame when we fail. But that’s a distortion of the truth.
Consider Dionne from our cover story or the men featured on page 5. They are working, not to receive the praise of men, but because they are excited to be a part of what God is doing. And that makes all the difference. God designed us to contribute to each other’s lives. Sometimes that’s through laughter or hugs or conversation, but oftentimes, it’s through work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Thank you for partnering with us to do the good work He has prepared each day for those who walk through our doors.