Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., kicked off a six-week sermon series on the topic of "Doing Business With God" over the weekend, and explained that, contrary to popular belief, Adam and Eve worked in the Garden of Eden and people will work in heaven as well.
"Some people actually think that work is punishment from God. It is not ... because there was work for Adam and Eve to do in paradise," said Warren.
He continued, "The Fall, the cause of sin, actually just made work more difficult ... but work in and of itself is a blessing, and it's part of what it means to be a human being. Even in paradise, even in the Garden of Eden, God had work for people to do. You weren't put on this earth just to do nothing...God has a plan, a life mission, a life work for you to do."
The work that will be done in heaven, he says, will not be demanding or demeaning – there will be no more "bad bosses" or "unsolvable problems" – but working is something God "wired" into human beings and will continue into eternity.
According to statistics provided by Warren, an average person will spend approximately 40 percent (or 150,000 hours) their life working, which highlights the need for a sermon series on the topic. There are six basic biblical reasons to work while on the earth, he says, and the most important of these is working to build the kingdom of God.
"In today's globalized economy, the new missionaries are businessmen and businesswomen," said Warren. Many countries in today's world are closed to Christian pastors and missionaries, he explained, but they will allow businessmen and women in.
A while ago, Warren said, he met with Erich Stamminger, who at the time was the president and CEO of Adidas. Stamminger had read Warren's best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, became a Christian and asked Warren if he should leave his post as the company's head in order to become a pastor.
Warren insisted that Stamminger should keep his position and utilize the influence he already had to reach others for Christ. Warren told him to pray for the non-Christian members of the company's executive board with the board's Christian members. He also told him to take care of his 25,000 employees, and to befriend the celebrities his company endorsed. Stamminger still serves on the company's board today.
In addition to working to build the kingdom of God, Christians should also work so they can give to charity, they can build a powerful testimony through their quality work, God can develop their character, they can express their talents and they can provide for themselves and their families.
"God doesn't want you being a leech. God doesn't want you being a parasite. God doesn't want you depending on other people unless you are unable to work," said Warren. The Bible says able-bodied Christians need to work to support themselves and their families, he explained.
But even those who are wealthy enough to stop working altogether should continue their work.
"What if I get to the point where all of my basic needs are met, ... can I stop working? The answer is no, because God did not put you on this earth to do nothing with your life, just to live for yourself a life of pleasure. You should find some kind of work that expresses who you are and you enjoy doing it and you keep making a contribution. If you're alive you can make some kind of contribution to this world," he said.
Warren says he and his wife, Kay, give away 91 percent of what they earn. The tremendous success of The Purpose Driven Life allowed the couple to financially retire 10 years ago, and since that time Warren's work as a pastor has been strictly on a volunteer basis.
"I could have gone and bought an island, and retired, and had people serve me iced tea with little umbrellas in it for the rest of my life. But when you write a book and the first sentence is, 'It's not about you,' then you kind of figure the money's not for you," he said.
Warren encouraged his congregation to attend the upcoming OC Business Summit, which will be held Friday at Saddleback Church. In addition to Warren, other speakers at the event will include Mark Burnett, producer of "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice;" Steve Case, former CEO of American Online; and Lynda Resnick, billionaire businesswoman and entrepreneur.