Your work matters. All work matters to God, humanity, and for eternity.
Culture says works is about surviving, status, and significance. Scripture tells us something different.
Your work matters to God.
Work is not a human invention. God worked when He created. Then He called the product of His working good. In Genesis 2:15, God then tells Adam to work. He gives him manual work (cultivating the garden) and intellectual work (naming the animals).
Why did God give Adam work? Because we are made in the image of God, the Creator who works. In Part 1, Meredith Kline, Tim Keller, and Henry Drummond made a strong case that the cultural mandate given to humanity in the beginning of time was the dominion of creation for the purpose of building civilization (Gen. 1:28-30; 2:15, 19-20). That civilization-building activity (work) requires humanity (us) to be both co-creators and co-cultivators in God’s creation.
So, work is the expression and fulfillment of being made in God’s image, and we have the distinct privilege of continuing and completing the work God began.
The bottom line is this: all work is sacred work
The implications of this are huge. First, all work is sacred. There is no sacred/secular divide, especially when it comes to work. Here’s how Dorothy Sayer’s puts it:
“How can any one remain interested in a religion, which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company, which chose its staff exclusively for their piety. Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt. God is not served by technical incompetence; and incompetence and untruth always result when the secular vocation is treated as a thing alien to religion.”
Ouch. Does that sound familiar? She wrote that decades ago! This is why work matters.
The second implication is that work creates. The carpenter Sayers spoke of makes good tables, thereby creating value and something useful to society. What that means is we can transform culture through our work. Through your work, you are bringing the Kingdom of God into your specific time and place. You are building into what God originally intended for humanity, whether you are a farmer, plumber, businessman, educator, doctor, or lawyer. Every profession contributes uniquely to a place’s culture.
The key question is what kind of society are we creating through our work?
Work matters to humanity.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-13, the apostle Paul writes to Christians who decided to stop working! They were waiting on Jesus to return instead. He rebukes them and tells them to work because it shows their love for others. They contribute to what is happening in the world, providing for themselves and others. The Reformer, Martin Luther, references Psalm 145 and 147 to demonstrate that God provides food for all living things through work (plowing and planting) and secures cities through good city planning and hard working administrators.
In the 1986 NBA playoffs, Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the mighty Boston Celtics. Marveling at Jordan’s game, Larry Bird said, “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” As Christians in the workplace, who are at work on purpose, we are distributing the gifts of God through our work, contributing to the common good of those around us, to our city. May it be said of Christians working everywhere that the level of work they do must mean they are “God in disguise.”
People who love Christ must be people concerned for the common good. Work produces goods and services that enable communities to flourish. This is altogether different from a survival or status understanding of work, and it redefines the significance understanding of work we often adopt.
Lastly, work matters for eternity.
The work you do is part of a grander story. A story where you play a role, but you didn’t write the script. Our work now will be flawed and difficult because of the Fall. But it is still good, and it matters. And it will matter for all time.
At the end of time, the result of the co-laboring between God and humanity is clear: it is a city where God, humanity, and all creation dwell together in union and flourish in justice, fulfillment, and delight.
In Genesis 2, God gives Adam a playground to cultivate, to continue creating. And at the conclusion of Scripture’s narrative, Revelation 21:1-2 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” We have moved from a garden in the beginning to a city in the end.
One of my favorite artists, Shane & Shane, wrote a song called “In A Little While” that expresses the hope and longing we have as we await that Day–when we see how our work matters eternally. Check it out:
Do you have a bigger vision for how your work contributes to this grander story—the story of the Creator inviting the crown of His creation to work alongside Him toward the ultimate completion of His grand vision?
Arts – vision to express God’s creation and heart beautifully
Business – vision to create wealth and prosperity
Education – vision to teach, grow, and pass on knowledge, wisdom, character/values
Government – vision of sound rule and protection
Health Care – vision to relieve suffering and provide care
Media – vision of telling the truth
Lawyer – vision of justice
Social Sector – vision of charity and care
Imagine what kind of city Evansville could be if all those who follow Jesus when about their work with this perspective every day. I believe we would have a transformed city—one that looks more and more like the city God envisions for Evansville.