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The Doctrine You’ve Never Applied to Your Work

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Google “robots” and you’ll discover dozens of articles forecasting the future of our economy. One study projects a potential 800 million global jobs lost to automation. We can see the trend already in the self-service lines at stores, the rise of chatbots, and the touchscreen kiosks sweeping the country’s fast food chains. Though the changes leave some hopeful about the possibilities of automation, others are uneasy at the prospect of being replaced.

Whether or not you fear that your current role being taken over by a robot, the truth is many of us go through periods when our work feels unneeded. Our workload is filled with dead-end projects, our tasks feel monotonous, or there is enormous competition in our field. It leaves us wondering: Does my work matter?

God Didn’t Need You

As we consider these questions, we can find hope in a seldom-discussed attribute of God. The opening words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1). Here we get the first look at God’s aseity (literally “from self”).

The aseity of God means that he wasn’t created by anything, dependent on anything, or in need of anything. He always existed, and he is fully satisfied in himself.

The news that God doesn’t need us isn’t another declaration of our uselessness; it’s a precious gift.

It’s easy to slip into the thinking that God was filling a void when he created—maybe he needed a friend? But God didn’t progress through each day of creation until he finally got it right. Each day was called good not because the prior day wasn’t, but because he created and made it so.

We see this theme echoed in the humbled cries of King Nebuchadnezzar, who concedes that man is nothing and God does according to his will among the heavens (Dan. 4:35). Additionally, Paul references divine aseity at Mars Hill, recounting the God who isn’t served by human hands, as though he needed anything, but who gives life to everything (Acts 17:25).

The news that God doesn’t need us isn’t another declaration of our uselessness; it’s a precious gift. The doctrine of aseity allows us to marvel at the incredible love of God in creating us. For he made us not out of need, but freedom.

In God’s aseity we’re also freed from burdens too heavy to bear. Neither the goodness nor power of God rests on our weak shoulders. The amount of worth we receive from our work doesn’t change his character, catch him off guard, or render him any more or less glorious than he is right now.

God Gave Work as a Gift

Not only did God freely create us, he also chose to give us work. He tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28). If we read these words without a proper understanding of God’s aseity, we set ourselves up for disappointment when we feel stuck in the menial. Our dead-end job doesn’t feel like we have dominion.

You have a stronger hope, and a fuller mission, than simply finding the you-shaped hole in the universe.

We might think we were made to be an Esther, birthed into this world “for such a time as this,” but we forget the humbling first half of that well-known verse, when Mordecai tells Esther that God will save his people with or without her (Esth. 4:14). The truth is God doesn’t lean on us to fill a void he can’t fill, since he has no void and his plans will never be thwarted (Job 42:2).

Instead we can look at our work through the lens of God’s aseity and see the command God gave us to fill and rule over the earth not as a burdensome need, but as a gift to obey—no matter how small the task seems. As we labor in faithfulness, we acknowledge that our work is a form a worship, and that ultimately it’s God who makes any of it good.

So we can sit through eight hours of meetings, take food orders, or mop floors that will only be dirty again because God uses our work to glorify himself. He doesn’t need us to pick up Legos or take pictures or even write articles, but God gave us these tasks as a gift to participate in his good work in the world.

God Gave Us Co-Workers

Along with faithfulness in our work, God calls us to faithfulness to those who do need us—our neighbors in general and Christ’s body in particular. God called each day of creation good, and yet it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18).

This need for community is repeated throughout the New Testament, and echoed in the very picture of Christ’s body. A body’s various parts are all dependent and connected, whether they seem weaker or not (1 Cor. 12:15–26). So, too, we as the church need each other—to serve, to teach, and to encourage each other to stay faithful in whatever callings we’ve been entrusted.

You have a stronger hope, and a fuller mission, than simply finding the you-shaped hole in the universe. Maybe it’s okay that a robot could do your job, or that there are hundreds of other workers just like you. Your ordinary work, after all, is a chance to worship the God who made you and gave you everything you need—not because he had to out of lack, but because he wanted to out of love.

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