Just as a statue represents a person’s likeness, we too represent God. Fundamentally, we are representatives of God. We are here for his glory. We are made in his image so we might reflect him.
But this life call can seem so spiritual and intangible that it becomes hard to reconcile with the mundane grind of everyday life. How am I representing God when I am packing boxes on a factory line? It can leave us thinking in order to bridge the gap, maybe we should become a pastor or a missionary. Maybe then we will feel that our faith is connected to our work.
This is an issue for the everyday Christian. So then what does the Bible have to teach us?
The first worker
We don’t have to turn our pages too far to find answers. The story we know well, the creation account, holds many foundational truths. Hidden in this is the Biblical order of work.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis chapter 2, verses 1 to 2)
God was the first worker. He made the heavens and the earth in six days, then rested. This is the same model of work we follow.
“Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” (Exodus chapter 20, verses 9 to 11)
Yet, when God created the heavens and the earth, he didn’t snap it into being all finished. Instead, he created it “formless and empty” (Genesis chapter 1, verse 2). In other places in the Bible the Hebrew phrase used here is translated as wasteland.
Isn’t that strange? Why would God create anything to be like a wasteland? Why would God create something formless and void?
The answer - For his glory! And by this, I mean so his attributes would be revealed! God created chaos, God created a wasteland so that when he rectified it, we would know he is the undisputed God of order.
This is the Biblical view of work. Bringing order from what was once chaos.
The creation account is full of God bringing order by making divisions. God is dividing up waters, he is dividing up the night from the day and thus creating time. God is working.
Work is creating order out of chaos for the benefit of others.
Benefit and service
God planted a garden, cultivated it, planted trees, filled it with life, all so that his glory would be shown. But who benefited?
Work is inherently selfless. Work is all for the benefit of others. This distinction may be particularly challenging for those who are using work as a means for their own advancement.
Work is providing service for others.
Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s being, when he came to earth, he came to serve. One of the ways he did that was through his profession. Through being a carpenter.
Work is service to others. And providing service to others is another way in which we can love our neighbour.
I think of how each economy is reliant on employees like truck drivers. They are doing tasks that are incredibly important, but not everybody wants to do them.
The working class are the servants of our society. The work of a mechanic, of a carpenter is all great in God’s eyes. They are servants, and God calls servants great. (cf. Matthew chapter 20 verse 26, Mark chapter 10, verse 43)
Work is for the benefit of others. Work is for serving others, and this is the mandate of the believer.
God creates divisions in the earth. He then plants a garden.
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground…” (Genesis chapter 2, verse 9)
Out of the dirt, God creates new things. He takes raw resources, and creates something magnificent. Similarly, he also charges the man to bring forth the potential of his creation.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis chapter 2, verse 15).
Adam is given the responsibility to cultivate the earth.
God also tells Adam and Eve to subdue the earth.
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis chapter 1, verse 28)
To subdue an apple tree, is to nurture it so it will bear much fruit. God’s intention is that we would be good stewards of the earth, that we would create from the resources of the earth.
Plastic is made from natural resources like crude oil and through work, it is harnessed to be made into bottles and containers etc.
We can harness the potential in other ways. A teacher is a clear example of someone harnessing potential too. They nurture a child’s growth.
As we harness the potential of this earth, we fulfil our vocation as humans and reflect God.
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” (Genesis chapter 2, verse 9)
Our creator God, created something purely because it looked good. This gives permission and confidence to the fashion designer to do what they do. Isn’t it awesome that the Biblical model of work isn’t just for the labourers and professors, but for those with the gift of seeing and creating beauty! God is pleased with the creative architect, the painter, the decorator.
Reconciling our faith to our work, may take some time, but considering we can work from the ages of fifteen to sixty-five, we can afford to be patient with the process.
Ultimately, we are here to reflect God. We are here to be representations of God. And work is one of the ways we can do that.
I recommend the following prayers:
- God, how does my work bring about order?
- God, how is my work bringing benefit to others?
- God, how does my work provide services and develop my servanthood?
- God, how does my work bring forth someone’s or something’s potential?
- God, how does my work bring beauty to your world?
If we pray these prayers, maybe we will find our faith is more deeply connected to our work than we originally realised. Maybe we will see how we are reflecting God and his work done in the garden. Maybe one day we can truly have a deep harmony between the eight hours we toil and with the faith we profess.
Roden Meares enjoys playing basketball, reading comics and going to the gym. He has a passion for evangelising and helping others in their faith through writing.
Roden’s previous articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/roden-meares.html