How do you view your work? Do you see work as good, a broken mess, or an opportunity to make things better? If you are thinking “all three” you are practically and theologically correct.
From the beginning of time, we were meant to work. God created humans – men and women – in His image and gave them work to help Him rule the earth as co-creators (Genesis 1:26-28). Humans were given perfect dignity and purpose by God in the very beginning. Yet, for our entire history humans have fallen for the lie that somehow God’s gifts of abundance, dignity, and purpose are not enough. Claiming to be wise, we have become fools and have gone against God’s will and sought our own (Romans 1:21-22). This selfish ambition caused brokenness. Therefore, God sent His one and only son to repair this brokenness and redeem the world so that we might not perish (John 3:16) for our sins of going against God’s perfect design, but instead have life – and have it abundantly (John 10:10). By the blood of the cross, Jesus redeemed us, reconciled our relationship with God (Colossians 1:20), and restored our purpose – to live, work, and rule with Him.
Our daily work is filled with all these gospel truths and the tension between how things are and how they are meant to be. The gap between how things are and how they ought to be exists just as much in our own hearts as it does in daily life. The world has so many needs it can be overwhelming. “The only way to not be overwhelmed by the needs of the world is to find what God is asking you to do about the world…He [God] is asking you to do — to discern, step out discern what He is doing ” Jon Tyson. When we know God’s will and design, we can recognize it in everyday life and work.
In this three part series, we are going to look closely at God’s design and see that Work Is Very Good (this article), we will also look at how Work Is Broken, (Part 2), and finally how we can join God in making all things new through Work Is Redemptive (Part 3).
Work Is Very Good
In the very first chapter of the Bible, we find the creation narrative where God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). In the first five days, God created day and night, the sky, the stars, the earth, the land and sea, the plants, and the animals of the sea and sky. Each day, concluding that “it was good.” On the sixth day, God created humans and gave them incredible dignity and purpose and concluded that it was “very good.” Let’s look closely at what God says about how and why he created humans – male and female.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground---everything that has the breath of life in it---I give every green plant for food. ” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning---the sixth day. - Genesis 1:26-31
From these verses and other core truths of the Bible, we can see why God calls his design for men and women as well as their work “very good.” Here are a few of those key truths and ways we can follow God's design in our daily work:
- We are all made in God’s image - God made every human in his likeness to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7) with their life and work. We all have equal spiritual opportunity even in the most mundane activity. Anytime we approach our work as He would with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control we give Him Glory (Galatians 5:20).
- To create is very good - When we use our hearts, minds, and bodies to create products, services, systems and structures that help the world and other people thrive, we give glory to God.
- To cultivate is very good - When we care for the earth, our cities, neighborhoods, organizations, companies and our families in the way that helps them develop for good, we join God in subduing the earth.
- To multiply is very good - When we get married and multiply through children, we are doing God’s will. Another way to multiply is through loving our neighbors and teaching them about God through our work and words – creating spiritual children (3 John 1:4).
- To name is very good - When we give children names we assign them with dignity. Likewise, when we name companies, churches, cities, animals, products, and places we put them in order under God.
- To subdue this earth is very good - to give things order, to invent new ways to grow food, train animals, to make products and see that they are accessible to humans are all ways we subdue the earth and glorify God.
- A stewardship mindset is very good - All that we have is not ours – the Lord has leased everything to us. When we see our resources as gifts from the hand of God and use them to advance his kingdom, we glorify God (Matthew 25:14-30).
- To rest from work is very good - to be able to rest, walk away from work once a week, and help others do the same glorifies God by showing we are set apart as holy and points to God as our true sustainer of life (Genesis 2:2-3).
Of course this list is just a start. If these truths and ideas lead you to have more ideas, then you are doing work that is very good!
God’s design for our work is perfect. He gives us endless opportunities to partner with Him to lead others, create products and systems, keep and cultivate the earth, and develop communities that bring people closer to God and each other. Of course, God gives us free will too. We can decide to follow His perfect design or one of our own choosing.
Eugene Peterson addresses our choice in his commentary on Psalm 131 in his book A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.
Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation, accepting God as our maker and redeemer, and growing day by day into an increasingly glorious creature in Christ, developing joy, experiencing love, maturing in peace. By the grace of Christ we experience the marvel of being made in the image of God. If we reject this way, the only alternative is to attempt the hopelessly fourth-rate, embarrassingly awkward imitation of God made in the image of men and women like us… I will not pretend to invent the meaning of the universe; I will accept what God has shown its meaning to be.
When we accept God’s purpose for our lives and join Him as a co-creator, we find the meaning of life. God's way is full of joy, meaning, and satisfaction. God’s way is the abundant life that lasts forever.
Here are some resources and a worksheet to help you apply these to truths to your work: