Are you on the right path of understanding?
In Creflo Dollar‘s 8 Steps to Your Destination series, he says that “your words should be determined by God’s Word; right words determine right thinking and wrong words determine wrong thinking.”
This past Sunday, our Pastor mentioned that Adam “worked in the garden” long before sin entered into Eden. I began turning pages in The Book of Genesis, trying to find where God’s Word says or even implies man was working before he ‘ate the forbidden fruit.’ I had the understanding that Man didn’t have to really ‘work’; after he disobeyed God. Where did I get such a notion? Was I the only one who ms-understood? It was all because, I had the wrong understanding; my words instead of God’s words had determined my thinking and I was headed in the wrong direction.
My favorite thing to do in the Northwest is enjoy my dahlia garden in late summer and early fall. The planning, the ordering new tubers, adding compost and fertilizer to the soil, planting and waiting for the dahlias to bloom into magnificence. I love all of it! However, what I thought “work” meant came from a different source than from Scripture. Gardening duties versus a ‘job’–sitting at a desk, answering the telephone, managing people was work and running my fingers through the dirt in the planting beds was not. It was likely the fact that I was being paid for my job and not for putting out snail bait as dahlias began poking their heads through the soil. Having fun in the garden seemed counter-intuitive to being at the workplace.
A Cultural dilemma
The word work can be defined by paid employment. The matter of ’employment’ can certainly define who we are in the eyes of our culture. If we have that definition in our thinking, we need to understand what work means biblically, then possibly change our thinking.
Today’s thinking doesn’t line up or connect well with ancient world’s ideas concerning work. The Biblical writer’s world was home and employment, relationships and activities as not separate entities but had real everyday connection. So in order to read scripture correctly, we need to develop a broader definition of work.
Here are but two examples that I found of people trying to accomplish this concept:
“Human activity designed to accomplish something that is needed as distinct from activity that is satisfying in itself.” By Paul Marshall–
“The expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God.” By John Stott–
I never thought raising dahlias was actually WORK. It is satisfying, there is the expenditure of energy both manual and mental but I never considered it work. I had wrong thinking and understanding.
The Nature of God – God is a Worker
A starting point for understanding the biblical view of work is found in Genesis 1. The week of creation was a week of work! An interesting exercise that I did this morning was to read the first few chapters of Genesis and underline (or high-light) the verbs that describe the activities engaged by God or others (action words).
Genesis 1:1 “IN THE BEGINNING God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) and created the heavens and the earth” [AMPLIFIED Bible]
“God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4).
“And God made” (Gen. 1:7).
“And God made the two great lights–the greater light (the sun) to rule the day and the lesser light (the moon) to rule the night. He also made the stars” (Gen. 1:16).
“And God set them (stars) in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth” (Gen. 1:17)
“God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 AMP).
I think you get the idea, that at the very beginning of the Bible, we are faced with the inescapable conclusion; God Himself is a worker! It is part of His character and nature.
Creation–Born to Work in Partnership with God
God’s creative work tells us much about who He is and what He is like. It is not a complete picture by any means but it gives us a glimpse of His character. Particularly, His creation of humankind. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make humankind in our image according to our likeness…”
The implications are not just that we have been made to resemble and reflect who God is, but if that is the case, then work is a part of God’s nature; the work is intended to be a part of us as well.
My wife will sometimes remind me , “Mel, you are acting just like your father when you say and do things that he has done.” That statement can have positive and negative meanings. But the point is, our work ethics should be like our heavenly Father. When was the last time someone who knows about you personally said, “….you are acting just like your heavenly Father.”
We are workers because we are made in the image of God who works. We have an imparted need to be engaged in creative and purposeful activities. It is fundamental to the essence of who we are or should be.
Being ‘under employed’ means that we become deprived; we are robbed of something essential for our well-being. No one knows that feeling better than myself. I was employed in the construction industry in different positions for 35 years. Because construction employment has its highs and lows, management and office personnel is often terminated; let go; fired in the first wave. When that happened, I felt deprived and not just of a paycheck but of my well-being; I had been attacked, robbed of work and self-worth. Not only that, but the work God intended to be done by us is in partnership with Him; to help bring about His purposes. For having been ‘made in His image’, we are His representatives here on earth; we are the ‘body of Christ’ and a physical body has feet and hands to work!
The mandate God gives Adam and Eve is to share in His work (Genesis 1:26-30). God also tells man, “And the Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it [to work in the garden]” (Gen. 2:15).
God is prepared to entrust the garden to humans. It should become clear to us that God’s intention is for us to become His Co-Workers!
In Labor Together – “Incarnation is Fuzzy”
“LABORING TOGETHER [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them–do not receive it to no purpose]” (2 Corinthians 6:1 AMP).
Creation and incarnation are ‘go together’ themes in Scripture. They serve as starting points for understanding our work as a vocation in our lives. The Apostle Paul says that God created the world through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:6). John repeats this same affirmation with the Word of God in the beginning verses of John 1. They connect the incarnation with the creation work of Genesis 1.
Now it gets a little “fuzzy“ at this point. Incarnation involved divinity and choosing to engage with the world’s imperfections, confusion and compromise. Christians who desire to become “Christ-like” in the world find the same “fuzziness” becoming the agent for God in the midst of less than perfect workplaces. If Jesus is drawn to the places where sin is the most present, as believers, we then are to live and work in the “fuzzy” areas. Such as, in law, medicine, business, the entertainment industry, politics and other areas of cultural influence where sin is entrenched. Remember, you are not alone in this work. You are laboring together with God; you are God’s co-workers. Knowing who your helper is will give you the confidence needed. Where there are possibilities of redemption for God’s purposes; transformation of these pockets in the Kingdom of God on earth.
As I once heard on the television show “Dirty Jobs”, “You don’t clean up a cesspool by standing outside of it.” Having the Holy Spirit living inside of us as Christians, may require that we “get dirty”. Becoming ministers in that work of reconciliation, Christians will have to live and work in discernment. Even in a “fuzzy” environment; to preserve the opportunity to speak or act when it really counts. We can engage those places without fear (2 Timothy 1:7), knowing God wants to redeem those areas in our workplaces for His created purpose. Paul says in the Letter to the Colossians:
“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah)” (Colossians 3:23-24 AMP).
Could put the inheritance, your real reward in a garden wheelbarrow? I don’t believe that there is a “wheelbarrow” big enough!
Finding Jesus at Work
Jesus transforms our occupations into vocations linking God’s purposes with our daily work. Whatever our task might be, God is present in our work to give us purpose.
The message of Scripture is, God wants all of us to become “incarnational” agents. What do I mean by “incarnational” agents?
“And the Word (Christ Jesus) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us…” (John 1:14).
“And if the Spirit of Him Who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [then] He who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also restore yo life your mortal (short-lived, perishable) bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you“ (Romans 8:11 AMP).
Then as believers, we are “incarnational” agents in His church (Ephesians 5:23, 30). God wants all of us in His church to be His co-workers; who can change the world through continuing and managing His work of creation; in places of influence sometimes. Even some of us in jobs that seem routine, menial as netting and throwing fish.
WORK is where the disciples first met Jesus and Jesus makes His first post-resurrection appearance where people are at work fishing. Jesus instructs the disciples to lower their nets into the water in His presence. When they do so, the nets are filled to the overflowing. Upon seeing the miracle, John shouts out, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). The disciples return to the shore, feasting on their catch-of-the-day and find Jesus already on the beach cooking for them. Although all the fish in the sea are His, He asks for some of the fish they had caught. Why? Because God always works with our work to create and renew.
Whatever your circumstance at work may be, know this: We are the redeemed, we are God’s Co-Workers– “That us!”
“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself approved (tested by trial), a WORKMAN who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).