Our Working Lives
From sun-up to sun-down, 81-year old Queensland wheat farmer John Larsen works and takes care of his 240 hectares of land. He and his wife Audrey have lived there since they were married in 1962. There they raised four children. He ploughs with an old tractor with no roof; digs out any rocks he hits by hand; feeds the soil with a mix of manure and lime and removes weeds with a handheld hoe.
A newspaper featured how he is known by his neighbours as the “Miracle Farmer” because “his crops are always better than everyone else’s”. The reporter discovered that “he believes the land, like him, was made by God”. The article also noted that John Larsen “sometimes calls on God” for things like rain and is “always specific in his prayers.”
What does this say to us about our working lives? Do we work to live or live to work? Do we work merely to pay the bills and support ourselves and our families? Or is there a greater purpose?
God’s Work of Creation
The first chapter of the Bible describes how in the beginning God did the astounding work of creating an entire universe. But there is more! After God had created the heavens and the earth, He created the first man and the first woman as the pinnacle of His creation. They were created to be like God to do amazing and various tasks. God said,
“Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
~ Genesis 1:26
On that sixth day of creation God declared that all He had made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Then on the seventh day we read that God “rested from all His work” (Genesis 2:3).
Work is a High Calling
It is clear from the Bible that work is not a curse. Before the Fall, God placed Adam and Eve in a garden which He planted especially for them “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Right from the beginning, God gave humans work to do that was in accordance with His will.
In the ancient world, the Greeks and Romans looked upon manual work as a curse; something for lower classes and slaves. But Christianity changed all that. Christians viewed work as a high calling; a calling to be co-workers with God in releasing the rich potential of His creation. Theologians down through the ages agree that our primary calling is the call to faith in Christ. But flowing from this are some secondary callings, including the call to work.
Paul wrote to the early Christians,
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
~ Ephesians 2:8-10
In celebrating the free gift of our salvation, we have the joy of doing good works for God as an expression of grateful hearts. Chuck Colson, the American founder of Prison Fellowship International and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, says,
“We worship a God Who laboured to make the world,
and Who created human beings in His image to be workers.”
Being made in the image of God provides the basis for our work and vocation. Dr Art Lindsley, the Vice President of Theological Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, states,
“Every person is created in the image of God, full of dignity, with unique talents and gifts to use for the glory of God in their work. Many Christians fail to discover their vocation because they don’t fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God.”
The Work of Our Hands
Because we are made in the image of God, we share some of His characteristics. For example, it is probably safe to say that because God is creative in His work, we can be creative in ours. But in our physical being, how has God designed us for work?
Perhaps no other part of the human body is more associated with work than our hands. Human hands can dig a hole with a spade or make an incision with a scalpel; hold a child or enter data on a keyboard; use a steering wheel or write with a piece of chalk. The list is endless.
God Himself speaks of “the work of my hands” (Isaiah 60:21). He also declared to His people that “like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6)
Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), most certainly would have worked with His hands. We read in the Bible that He was known as a “carpenter” (Mark 6:3) to the people of Nazareth where He grew up. Paul, who made tents to support his missionary work, said “we worked hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). In Proverbs, the wife of noble character “works with eager hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
The story is told of how a surgeon in a large city hospital was asked by a young doctor why he insists on a few minutes alone before he performed an operation. He answered,
“Before each operation, I ask the Great Physician to guide my hands in their work.”
Our Work Impacts the World
During the Reformation, Martin Luther preached that all work should be done to the glory of God. Whether ministering the Gospel or scrubbing floors, any honest employment is pleasing to the Lord. And out of this conviction grew the Protestant work ethic.
The bottom line is that when Christians understand and live out the biblical meaning of work, then lives, societies, and nations will be transformed for Christ.
Father God, thank You that in the beginning You did the work of creating the heavens and the earth. Thank You also that You created the first man and the first woman in Your image and gave them the work of taking care of a garden that you planted for them. Thank You that the Bible teaches that You care about our work and that “we are God’s fellow workers”
(1 Corinthians 3:9). Help us to do our best to work for Your glory. Help us to understand what it means to be made in the image of God, so that we can find and live out our vocations. Help us to worship You through the faithful work of our hands. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.