Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Christian View of Work 9: Not Workng for God's glory is idolatry

B. Other work isn’t evil in itself, but when not done for the Lord’s glory becomes idolatry.

After Cain is sent off by the Lord, he starts to work. He builds a city.

So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. (Genesis 4:16-17)

Now God is not against the building industry. Read Nehemiah! But here Cain seems to build a city in order to shut out God, rather than to bring glory to him. Rather like those who build the city of Babel, he wants to make a name for himself and his family, not to proclaim the name of the Lord. One of his descendants was a poet. In terms of literary excellence there is hardly a better poem in ancient literature. But look at the subject matter.

Lamech said to his wives,

"Adah and Zillah, listen to me;

wives of Lamech, hear my words.

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for injuring me.

If Cain is avenged seven times,

then Lamech seventy-seven times." (Genesis 4:23-24)

God is not against poetry: Read the Psalms! But this poem glories in evil rather than the Lord. If our work is not done in service of the Lord, however pleasing it is to our senses, however hard we work at it, it will only add to our guilt before God.

There are many things that are not wrong in and of themselves, as means to the end of serving the Lord. Yet they make terrible ends. Like fire, they are good servants but bad masters.

Making a profit is an important part of any business. If a business doesn’t make a profit, then however well it is serving people and the Lord, it won’t do so for long. But if making a profit becomes the chief aim of our work, then we have ceased serving the Lord. Jesus himself said, “You cannot serve God and money.”

Working to have a clean and tidy home is a good thing, which could very clearly reflect the wonderful God we have who brings order from chaos. But if that tidiness is merely so that we can feel that we are living in an ideal home and can impress people who visit, then we are seeing both our house and people who visit as a things to serve our egos rather than seeing the house as something to use in service of the Lord.

It is ironic because it is when we serve anything in this world that the ephemeral nature of our work is highlighted.

Yet not all work is futile. There is work that has eternal consequences, and that is all work that is done for the Lord. We shall look at this in our next post.

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