Late last year, the Academy Award winning film, “The Big Short,” hit theaters across the world. It tells the story of the 2008 housing market meltdown. In short, this rendition of the crisis pits Wall Street bankers and federal regulators against society-at-large, claiming it was merciless greed that crushed world economy. I highly recommend the film for its acting—Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling give outstanding performances—storytelling, and cinematography. But it is the bitter familiarity of the crash that truly makes this movie worth watching. Today, many are still haunted by the effects of the 2008 disaster, and “The Big Short” does an excellent job of portraying just how and why the crash came to be.
When I mention a Wall Street banker, what comes to mind? Maybe it is a group of fat men in pin-stripe suits, sitting around a Rosewood table, smoking cigars and drinking cocktails. Or maybe it is a group of refined young men and women, dressed in the latest fashion, slaving away in the looming towers of the New York skyline. Regardless of which image comes to mind, there is one word each of us tends to associate with Wall Street—greed.
“Greed is good,” or so the quote from Oliver Stone’s 1983 film, “Wall Street” testifies. As I recently watched “The Big Short,” and felt this quote bombard my brain, I could not help but think about why we work. I come from a generation that values much more than money. This is not to say that previous generations treasured cash more than the everyday millennial, but Generation Y seems to value things such as work-life balance, fitness, and exploration to a much higher degree than our forebears. Now, greed is broader than just avarice (the intense desire for wealth), so I contend that millennials also share this historic vice. It is just aimed in another direction.
For many in this world, work is a means to an end. Whether that end is money, power, and security, or the next meal, work is viewed as the necessary method of achieving what a person really wishes they could have or do. But, this is not what God had in mind when he created work. In the beginning, work was a good gift that God gave to man, in order that He might have purpose and joy in the world. God worked; therefore, His image-bearers would do likewise.
Enter the Fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed their work so that it would no longer perfectly reflect a sense of flourishing in Him. Instead, work became a miserably hard task, bringing pain and sorrow more often than life. This is the predicament we find ourselves in today. Work is hard. Work is miserable. Work is boring. Each of these statements tell the story of the Fall’s impact on our day-to-day lives.
Enter Jesus. When Jesus came to die, He came to redeem. Yes, this redemption ushered in the promise of eternal life for all who believe. But at the same time, it brought a very present restoration. Though our work is still cursed under the Fall, the power of Christ has enabled us to live restored lives. This extends to our work. Because of Jesus, our work is redeemed, and we again have the ability to effectively flourish in Him through our work. This means, that when we sit at our desks, filling out expense reports or answering emails, we are able to flourish in God.
God is at work in the world, even as we speak. Revelation promises that “He is making all things new,” and we, as His redeemed people, are an integral part of that process. Our work is a means by which God is making things new. For example, when a company supplies jobs to millions of people, prices responsibly enough for people to buy food and clothing, and pressures legislators to create laws that benefit consumers, this company is involved in this restoration.
Wherever we work, the death and resurrection of Christ has enabled us to take part in restoring this broken and devastated world. Greed, for whatever end, is not the reason that we work. No one can deny that weekends are great, money is necessary, and vacations are fun. Yet, the fundamental reason we work should not be for the weekend. It should be for restoration.
The death of Christ empowers us to die to our selfish motives and grumblings at work. The resurrection of Christ enables us to relentlessly pursue restoration in this world. As he has offered us redemption in our hearts, we must offer it to the world with our hands. Hard work is at its best when our motives are directed at restoring the world around us, as Christ has restored the world within us. Let us take part in this great work.
Two other authors contribute to the discussion of Revelation 21 & 22 in Missio on Redemption:
- On Wednesday, Baylee Molloy looks at Josh Garrels’ “Farther Along” and the Scripture’s call to work in “Get Dirty”
- On Friday, Will Thompson considers the redemption of fairy tales in light of the true “fairy tale” of Scripture in “The Undying Lands”
Ryan Burns works in government affairs and is a graduate of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program