I want to begin by covering some ground I hope we can all agree on. It’s not about work, but it will get us there. Because it’s a foundation to stand on, that hopefully always gets us thinking about life with God’s heartbeat guiding us: scripture.
As Christians we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That it has been crafted and inspired by the Holy Spirit in partnership with humanity. I’ve heard people beautifully describe it as God’s love letter to us, the story of his relentless love affair with creation (and creations tendency to try see other people). It contains all kinds of literature, speaks to all facets of life, and for Christians, it shapes the way we live. Because we believe that it has power, as God’s Word, to speak to us and form us. We believe it is both alive – speaking to us where we are, and grounded in history, needing to also be read in context to reveal what God was saying in time and space in times gone by.
And the scriptures begin with a book aptly named “beginning” – Genesis. We are told through poetry some theological realities about creation. You might say it’s not speaking to factual truth about how creation happened, but rather, it is trying to reveal somethings that are true about what was created, and most importantly by whom. In Gen. 1: 18 we hear that humanity was created and called by God to be fruitful: to make some babies, to “fill the earth, and subdue it.” We are told that humanity is called to rule – to govern – the earth, and the living creatures in it. Later in chapter 2:15, as the book goes into more detail about the creation of humanity, the writer of Genesis writes that humanity was put in the garden “to work it and take care of it.”
These words all have implications. And the implications are work. Filling the earth and being fruitful…takes particular kind of work. And the result: raising children – is work. Subduing the earth, and governing it, requires that we tend to the plants, look after animals, and that has the potential to look a little like farming. Governance requires organisation, forward thinking, conversation, care, and effort. You can’t be passive, if you are to embody these words. They are verbs by nature. And finally, if it wasn’t clear enough, we are told to work the garden, to take care of it.
Work is part of the way that we were made as humans. It’s part of the what that the whom made. And if we are made in God’s image, the image of the great worker in all things, to reflect the image of God is to work (and to rest mind you – Gen. 2:2-3).
The early Christians had many perspectives on what kind of work reflected God’s glory. They tended to stay away from military positions, prostitution, and the halls of power. That aside, it is not as though they only preached and prayed. Paul was a tent maker, as well as a missionary. Even Jesus grew up as a carpenter.
So the challenge is laid before us: to reflect God is in part to work. To create. To take what we have and produce something else after toiling, after trying, after experimenting, after enduring.
I genuinely believe God can call us and does call many of us to change our professions because we have been transformed by God’s love. Sometimes God leads us from one job, to another for specific purposes. Sometimes our position compromises our values, and so we remain in the same line of work, but move to a different organisation. Sometimes we are called to big change. But often, actually, we are can bring God glory, be who we were made to be, and usher in the Kingdom of God here and now by changing how we work where we are to conform to the ongoing work of the Spirit in our lives.
The question becomes, as a follower of Christ crucified, the homeless rabbi and king, what kind of lawyer, doctor, barista, uber driver, cycle messenger, student, union organiser, nurse, electrician, youth worker, pastor, will I be. And perhaps you are called by God to up and move into ministry, into full time mission, or become a youth worker, or whatever it may be. But actually, it’s likely, that the Mahi, the mission and ministry you are called to is the ministry of electrical work, the ministry of building, the ministry of making the best damn coffees in the world, the mission of nursing well, the mission of organising unions to get the best outcomes for workers possible. God’s Kingdom is breaking forth everywhere in unlikely places.
Watch for it at your workplace.
It might be in a conversation at the water cooler edging toward a bridge-to-life-diagram or a “have you met Jesus?” question (maybe), but just as, if not more, likely it is coming through you working hard, giving your all, and pointing to the one who made you to do just that. The Word of God – God’s inspired story of love – shows that to be the case right from its genesis.
About the Author:
Jeremy works part time as the part time as the Diocese’s Young Adults Facilitator and as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Northwest Anglican. Jeremy writes blog posts for the Grace Collective about Jesus, social justice, and all things related.