Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Christian view of Work 2: Work is Good because it is a good gift from God

Human work existed before the fall. it is part of God's perfect plan for humanity.
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:28).
Humans have the job of ruling over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Not only did that work exist before the fall, we reflect God’s image when we work.
The idea of dominion lies very close to the heart of what it means to be a human being. Genesis 1 makes it absolutely clear that God rules supreme. The universe did not exist until his creative word called it into existence. He received no help from anyone. His own word did the work. And the work was fantastic! By God’s word, planets and stars and creatures sprung into existence in all their diversity and richness. So God is a God who brings order out of chaos. That’s what work is.
Bringing order out of chaos is precisely what human beings are called to do—to rule over God’s world in the way that he rules. Or, more precisely, we are to rule in such a way that it proclaims his rule.
We know from Genesis 2:4-6 that without man the land remains chaotic. Thus, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam is to be the one who will irrigate this land so that plants will grow. In other words, God deliberately left his creation an unfinished project so that human beings could work just like he works.
But why would God do this? God gave man work so that we can know him in a way that no other creature can. As God’s image bearers, we can know what it means to have responsibility and authority. We can know what it’s like to be satisfied at the end of a productive week because what we’ve done is good. We can look back with satisfaction at the field we’ve irrigated or the computer code we’ve written or the clothes we’ve washed or the diapers we’ve changed or the squeaky door we’ve fixed or the painting we’ve painted or the distraught employee we’ve comforted or the meal we’ve cooked. We can think, “That was a mess. My work has put it in order. That’s good.”
Moreover, we should work self-consciously aware that we are created in God’s image. Thus, we proclaim the rule of the Lord as we work. We should think, “I’ve brought order out of chaos, just like my Maker does. What a wonderful God he is, not only to have made me, but to let me share in his work.”

Imagine a mother baking some cupcakes. Rather than icing all of them, she makes some icing and gives it to her four-year-old daughter along with some candy. She says to her daughter, “You can decorate these cakes as you like. You’ve seen me decorate some, now it’s your turn.”
The daughter then gets caught up in the work of the mother. The mother hasn’t just provided the cupcakes. She’s given the daughter a part in the work. Consequently, the little girl enjoys the cakes that her mother has made. But more than that, she is able to identify with her mother’s work, participate in it, and so better appreciate her mother’s service to the family. In short, the little girl’s participation in the work is good for her relationship with her mother.
So it is with the task of dominion to which man is called. Our work enables us to participate in the creative purposes of God as we bring order out of chaos. Such is the nature of God-ordained work.
Work has nothing to do with whether or not we are paid. It has everything to do with whether we are bringing order out of chaos. We must all work whether we are employed, unemployed (much of our work will then be to seek work), or work in the home. You need to work even if you are paying to be a student.Bringing order from chaos, consciously for God’s glory, lies close to the heart of our calling as human beings made in God’s image.

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