In this post I am going to be writing about the issue of work and how we, as Christians should approach the topic of work. This is a three part post and today I’ll be writing about the glorification of God in our work.
If we go back to the beginning we see how the Bible talks about work. In fact, we note that The Bible talks about work before it talks about anything else:
In the beginning God created …
The following two chapters see God work so that:
on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
Here are some of my observations about God’s work:
- The work that God is did is described as “ordinary human work”. That’s the Hebrew word that is used through the first two chapters of Genesis to describe the work that God did. This will become significant later as we think how we glorify God in our work.
- The work that God is did was delightful to God.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
God stands back, as it were, and takes it all in – His handiwork – and declares it is good. It’s good because the One who created it is also good. There is a sense here in which God delights in it because He sees Himself in it. He sees His glory – His own reflection – in it. The psalmist wrote that The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:2).
- The work that God does, He continues to do in order to show great care for the things He has created. So in Genesis 2:7 He creates a man, then in verses 6-8 He creates a garden for the man, then in verse 21 He creates a wife for the man. Psalm 104:10-22 & Psalm 145:14-16 both tell us that this work continues and Jesus concurred when He said:
My Father is working until now, and I am working.
So God is a working God, who delights in his work because in it He sees his own glory and He continues in showing care for his creation by continuing to work. That’s the theology of God’s work. OK, so where do we come in? Well, in Genesis 1:26 God said:
Let us make man in our own image
This is called the “Imago dei” meaning that we are made in the image and likeness of God. A crucial part of our being made in the image and likeness of God, or the implication of it, is the calling God gave mankind to exercise dominion. To Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 God said
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
So firstly God made us like Him and then, secondly, gave us a job like His. This means that in every job and in every task we have the privilege and responsibility to imitate Gods character as His image bears. We work because God is at work. We’re not just randomly here on earth trying to “make a living”. We are here on purpose: to stand and represent God to all people. When we manage and administrate we are reflecting God’s rulership over creation; when we create and plan we are reflecting God’s rulership over creation; when we repair a car or rewire a house we are imitating God’s wisdom; when doctors or nurses or medical practitioners care for people they are reflecting the mercy of God; when teachers teach they are imitating God’s desire to give knowledge and understanding.
Then, in Genesis 2:15, we are given a specific task:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Those two words – work and keep – can be translated “to cultivate and protect”. To cultivate means to grow and develop something. Now, these things leave us with some striking truths and the first is that we are designed to work.
Tim Keller, in his book Every Good Endeavour says
if you ask people in nursing homes or hospitals how they are doing … they feel they have too much leisure and not enough work. The loss of work is deeply disturbing because we are designed for it
Why? because we are destined to work. But not only that … and this is probably more disturbing to many of us … work was part of paradise. Work was part of the pre-fall plan of God of mankind.
Ben Witherington, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labour put it like this:
It is perfectly clear that God’s good plan always included human beings working, or, more specifically, living in the constant cycle of work and rest
Oh, incidentally … the plan was a 6-day work week! None of this weekend stuff. The idea of a weekend in our culture didn’t appear until 1879 when the weekend was described as the Saturday afternoon and Sunday that you used to travel to be with friends who lived far away. No matter how much we value and cherish our weekend, God’s design is a 6 day work week.
We have been made in God’s image and likeness and received this world and we are called to develop it’s potential.
Albert Wolters in his book Creation Regained: A Transforming View of the World said this
God formed .. and filled [the earth] – but not completely. People must now carry on the work … by being fruitful they fill it even more; by subduing it they must form it even more … as God’s representatives
We are called to continue what God ha started. Think about the naming of the animals story in Genesis 2. Why didn’t God just name the animals himself? He had already called the day “Day” and the night “Night” so why didn’t he name the animals? Well maybe is was so that Adam could be invited to continue his work, the work that God had already started, as a representative of Him on earth.
So, the first way we redeem work is that we recognise that our work is a calling from God to reflect and imitate God Himself. It’s to display His glory. It’s for us to act and be like God wherever He has called us to be.