Work Topical Study

<p><span class="body-copy">Done rightly, work is purposeful activity that generates useful goods or services.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Work in Scripture</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The creator God is the original worker.&nbsp;</span><span class="body-copy">The six days of creation represent God&#39;s great work, and the seventh day of rest signals God&#39;s enjoyment of that work. Jesus also describes God, and himself, as workers in the creation and redemption of the cosmos </span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%201%3A28">Genesis 1:28</a>, be fruitful and multiply, have dominion. . .&nbsp;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%202%3A15">Genesis 2:15</a>, God took the man and put him in the garden</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Chronicles%2015%3A7">2 Chronicles 15:7</a>, &quot;But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded&quot;</span></li></ul><div><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2090%3A17">Psalm 90:17</a>, &quot;Let the favor of the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands &mdash; O prosper the work of our hands!&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%20127%3A1">Psalm 127:1</a>, &quot;Unless the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/John%205%3A17">John 5:17</a>, God is always working</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Thessalonians%203%3A10">2 Thessalonians 3:10</a>,&nbsp;Paul also advises that &quot;anyone unwilling to work should not eat&quot; </span></li></ul></div><div><p><span class="heading-sm"><strong>Humans as Workers</strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="body-copy">Humans, made in the image of God, are also workers. They tend, cultivate, manage, and exploit the material of creation to serve God, themselves, and others. Adam&#39;s tending of the garden and his naming of the animals represent the breadth of physical and intellectual human work within the works of God in creation (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%C2%A02">Genesis&nbsp;2</a>).&nbsp;</span></span></p></div><p><span class="body-copy">After the fall of humanity, work remains an essential human task, but it is shadowed by pain, difficulty, and setbacks (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%203%3A17-19">Genesis 3:17-19</a>).</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><span class="heading-sm"><strong>The wisdom literature</strong></span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">In the wisdom literature, the Bible frequently points to the works of God in creation and redemption, but also to the work of humans to sustain and bless human life. In Proverbs, &quot;wisdom&quot; is pictured as God&#39;s companion in the work of creation.&nbsp;&quot;And I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race&quot; (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%C2%A08%3A30%2C%2031">Proverbs&nbsp;8:30, 31</a>).</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">For the Glory of God</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">For the Christian, work is done for the glory of God and not just for selfish gain.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%206%3A10-11">Proverbs 6:10-11</a>,&nbsp;&quot;A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior&quot;</span></li><li><span style="font-size: 16px;"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Colossians%203%3A17">Colossians 3:17</a>, &quot;And whatever y</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">ou do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord</span><span class="small-caps" style="font-size: 16px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 16px;">Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Colossians%203%3A23">Colossians 3:23</a>, &quot;Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.&quot;</span></li><li><span style="font-size: 16px;"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%206%3A7">Ephesians 6:7</a>, &quot;Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord,&nbsp;not people.&quot;</span></li></ul><p><strong><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="heading-sm">John&#39;s Vision of the Kingdom</span></span></strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;">In John&#39;s vision of the kingdom, the work of humanity is not overlooked. The glory of the nations and the splendor of the kings will be brought into the city of God.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%2013%3A4">Proverbs 13:4</a>, &quot;The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%2014%3A23">Proverbs 14:23</a>, &quot;In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ecclesiastes%203%3A13">Ecclesiastes 3:13</a>, &quot;It is God&#39;s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in their toil.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%205%3A16">Matthew 5:16</a>, &quot;Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/John%204%3A34">John 4:34</a>, &quot;Jesus said to them, `My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.&#39;&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Acts%2020%3A34-35">Acts 20:34-35</a>, work to support each other</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Galatians%206%3A9">Galatians 6:9</a>, do not grow weary in doing what is right</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%204%3A28">Ephesians 4:28</a>, theives must give up stealing and work honestly</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Colossians%203%3A17">Colossians 3:17</a>, &quot;Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span> Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Thessalonians%203%3A10-13">2 Thessalonians 3:10-13</a>, do not weary in doing what is right</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Revelation%2021%3A24-26">Revelation 21:24-26</a>, the nations will walk in its light</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="heading-lg">Reflections about Work</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Sin&#39;s curse on human work persists in many ways peculiar to modern life. From the meaningless and repetitive grind of industrial manufacturing to the soul-shrinking noise of mass marketing, humans manage to continually invent new ways to melt the nobility out of work.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Work is an important topic in Scripture. The word (or its surrogates such as &quot;labor&quot; and &quot;toil&quot;) appears 480 times in the Bible. Right at the front edge of the Bible, after blessing the initial human beings, God tells them to go to work: Fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Work is purposeful activity. Even children do it. They walk the dog to keep him serene. They pick up their room to keep it tidy. They do their homework to get educated.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">&quot;Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Madeleine L&#39;Engle, quoted in Bogunovic, Dragan P.&nbsp;<em>Heavenly Wisdom</em>.&nbsp;Author House, 2013, p. 203.)</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">To Christians, their main calling is to become a prime citizen of the kingdom of God. Various forms of work fit into their vocation. What we call &quot;getting a job&quot; or &quot;going to work&quot; is only one way of participating in the various interests of the kingdom. Volunteering to teach Sunday School is another. So is stepping into a voting booth and making conscientious choices there. So is deciding whether to marry or to remain single, and, if married, whether to conceive or adopt children, or do both. These are all vocational decisions for a citizen of the kingdom, and some of them are large.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">God is a working God, not a leisurely deity. Creative work is God&#39;s joy and delight. To be made in God&#39;s image is to be made for work. The question is whether human work will participate in God&#39;s joy and delight or be drudgery by the sweat of the brow. No one fully realizes that divine joy, but we can experience it more and more as we join in doing God&#39;s work, wherever, in the whole breadth of culture, that might be.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><span class="heading-sm"><strong>How about occupations?</strong>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy">To &quot;strive first for the kingdom&quot; in choosing a career, a Christian will ask himself particular questions. Where in the kingdom does God want me to work? Where are the needs great? Where are the workers few? Where are the temptations manageable? With whom would I work? How honest is the work I&#39;m thinking of doing? How necessary and how healthy are the goods or services I would help provide? How smoothly could I combine my proposed career with being a spouse, if that&#39;s also my calling, or a parent, or a faithful child of aging parents? How close would I be to a church in which I could give and take nourishment? Is my proposed career inside a system so corrupt that, even with the best intentions, I would end up absorbing a lot more evil than I conquer?</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">What would my career do for &quot;the least of these&quot;?</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Placing emphasis where Jesus placed it, a prime citizen will add another question: What would my career do for &quot;the least of these&quot;?</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">What all of these questions express is an interest in serving the common good. God has ordered human society in such a way that we all depend on each other. Before we give thanks for our daily bread, somebody has to have baked it. In fact, before a slice of honey oatmeal appears on our plate, a number of farmers, millers, bakers, distributors, drivers, grocers, and others have had to work together in order to supply our need. This is a commercial arrangement, but not only a commercial arrangement. As Lee Hardy has written, it&#39;s also a social arrangement that expresses and reinforces our dependence on each other. God intends &quot;that human beings should live in a society bound together by common needs and mutual service.&quot; <span class="body-copy-sm">(Lee Hardy,&nbsp;T<em>he Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Human Design of Work</em>, William B. Eerdmans, 1990, p. 60)</span></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">An ordinary occupation done conscientiously builds the kingdom of God. Jesus built the kingdom as a carpenter before he built it as a rabbi. Only a few of us will launch great reform movements, and even fewer of us will do it deliberately. But all of us may offer our gifts and energies to the cause of God&#39;s program in the world. When we make this offering by means of an ordinary occupation, we will sometimes feel as if our <em>lives</em> are very ordinary. No matter. An ordinary occupation done conscientiously builds the kingdom of God. Jesus built the kingdom as a carpenter before he built it as a rabbi. And he taught us in the parable of the talents that the question for disciples is not <em>which</em> callings they have, but how faithfully they pursue them.</span></p>