Words about Work

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Note: Every week, I have to cut sections of my sermons. This is one such section unceremoniously slashed from my exposition of Ephesians 6:5-9. Enjoy!

In Ephesians 6:5-9, Paul commands bondservants' obedience, not because he seeks to dignify slavery as an institution but work as an occupation done for the heavenly King. For the Biblical writers, work is neither a cancerous growth on the human condition, nor just a necessary evil in a fallen world. It is part of God’s perfect plan. 

Well before sin marred God’s creation, Genesis 1:28 called for un-fallen Man to subdue the Creation. The scope of this mandate is quite staggering: it calls for scientific discovery, agricultural experimentation, technological innovation, artistic creation, and a thousand other good endeavors. Every job that flows out of this mandate is legitimate work that may be done for God's glory. Further, in Genesis 2:15 God placed Man in the Garden of Eden to “keep it.” The first couple's Eden was not a workless resort, but garden they had to maintain. They were given the gift of purpose and mission in God's world. 

Work is ultimately about taking dominion over God’s creation under God’s Kingship as God's image bearers. It is about discovering the possibilities programmed into creation and leveraging them for man’s flourishing to the glory of God. It’s about exploring its nooks and crannies, understanding its capabilities, and discovering its potentials. 

Every vocation is, in some small way, a faint echo of the original music of creation. Builders, carpenters, architects, and farmers all build and cultivate things. Why? Because we’re made in the image of a God who builds and cultivates.

Artists, writers, musicians, poets, graphic designers, glass blowers, and painters likewise mirror the creativity of the Creator. When we use our imagination to create literary worlds, compose violin concertos, paint landscapes, improvise music, or arrange flowers, we are, to use Tolkein's delectable term, acting as "sub-creators." We're mimicking in a creaturely way the creativity of the Creator. 

In our mimicry, we worship God. While many human sub-creators forget their God, the reality is humbling. We are merely arranging the colors He created, organizing the musical notes He invented, speaking the languages He encoded, and building with the materials He gave us. 

Because of the Fall, Creation now groans under a curse (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:19-22). Because of sin, we become lazy. Work becomes laborious (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23). Creation works against us. Entropy conspires against our best laid plans. Weeds grow unbidden, leaks spring unrequested, and conflicts with co-workers explode unannounced. 

Yet, the original creational goodness of work remains. True, it is like erased words on a page—dim, but still visible. Scribbled over by the toddler's crayon, but still legible.  

Many fields of work push back on the cosmic invasion called “the curse.” In a sense, such work is little-r redemptive. Doctors, nurses, and medical researchers minimize human suffering. Accountants ensure that money isn’t stolen. Law enforcement officers preserve public order. All make life on this soon-to-be-remade planet a little more enjoyable and a little less painful. 

We can do our work for Christ, under His Lordship, because work itself is good and therefore forms the stuff of worship. Though surely not all of our mission in life, it’s part of it. 

It might not feel like your Excel spreadsheet is particularly meaningful or your daily routine is of eternal significance. But it is. It’s the small part we play in carrying out the Creator’s mandate for the Creator’s glory. 


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