Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Christian View of Work 4: Work is Partnership

Work is partnership

We have shown that work is not to be avoided. Another misconception of work is that it can be pursued alone. Work (even when you are working on your own!) is to be a partnership.

The Lord set Adam in the garden to be his servant and do his work. But Adam can’t do it on his own:

The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:18-25).

God says an extraordinary thing in this passage: “It is not good for man to be alone.” After a whole chapter filled with God declaring that things are good, he declares that something is not good.

People generally know that these verses in Genesis 2 are helpful in understanding the purpose of marriage. Unfortunately, this passage is often read in isolation, rather than in the context of the whole chapter. Some may read, “It is not good for Adam to be alone,” and think, “Yes, poor Adam. He must have been lonely. He needed a companion. A pet dog or rabbit or rhinoceros wasn’t a suitable companion.”

But loneliness isn’t Adam’s main problem. His primary problem is incompetence. It was not good for Adam to be alone because he had work to do that he couldn’t do by himself. He needs a helper, not merely a companion.

The purpose of marriage, therefore, is to share in the Lord’s work. If you are married, the primary purpose of your marriage is work that brings glory to God’s name. Whether that be the work of discipling children, or the work you do together in the church, or the secular work to which each of you is called. Marriage is a partnership in the work of the Lord.

If you are married, this means a couple things. First, marriage is not one of your responsibilities before the Lord that competes for your time. Marriage is the partnership in all your responsibilities before the Lord.

This means that we are called to take an interest in our spouse’s responsibilities, not just because we love them and are interested in their lives, but because we are partners in each other’s work. Husbands are responsible for their wives. Wives are called to help their husbands.

Because all work is a partnership in worship, it means that spouses have the opportunity to encourage one another to see all the work they do as an act of service.

Secondly, the shape of the marriage is to be determined by the calling God has given in creation, not merely by the shape of your personalities. God is a God who works to bring order out of chaos. Importantly, he has established order within the marriage relationship. Adam names his wife. Eve helps her husband. Our faithfulness to this order is an exercise of worship. Husbands who neglect their responsibilities and wives who assume authority demonstrate a lack of trust.

If your single and pursuing marriage in some form, realize that marriage is a partnership. The compatibility you seek with another should center primarily on the compatibility of service. Does the person in whom you’re interested have a heart for Christ and the church? Above all, consider whether you can see yourself serving faithfully with the other person for the rest of your life.

Regardless of our particular stage of life, each of us is called to work for the Lord, and in so doing, we bring glory to his name. We are called not to do this alone, but in partnership.

The partnership that Adam has with Eve was not only significant of the partnership of marriage. Adam and Eve are not only the first family, but also the first people of God. Thus they are a paradigm not only for marriage but also for the church. The church is the family of God. Gospel ministry must always be in partnership with the church, and only normally in the partnership of marriage. I'll look at this in a later post.

Let’s ensure our lives are used for work that clearly proclaims the Lord’s rule in fellowship with others.

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