What Does The Bible Say About Our Work?

Photo by  frankrizzo805

Photo by frankrizzo805

“Work.” The word immediately brings a number of thoughts to our minds: Hard. Busy. Long. Monotonous. Many of us simply chalk up our jobs and the work we do to just a normal fact of life; a “necessary evil” in order to pay the bills. But is this the way that God views our work, or is it possible that our occupations, household chores, and even our service on a vTeam are meant to accomplish a greater purpose?

God Is the Original “Worker”

In the opening chapter of Scripture, the author of Genesis summarizes God’s creation of the universe in an intriguing way:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

Rather than stating that God had finished his creation, the text literally says that God “finished his work.” This word for “work” in Hebrew is used elsewhere to refer to one’s occupation or service. From the beginning of time, God has viewed himself as a worker. Jesus even affirms this during his earthly ministry, saying, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). Whereas every other theistic religion in the world depicts a god who commands people to work for him, the God of the Bible is the only one who models the nature of man’s work perfectly in his own character.

We Work Because God Works

Because God has made man and woman in his own image, and God himself is a worker, we have all been created with an innate desire and calling to meaningful work. It is part of how God made us, and we will always suffer a sense of loss without it. Even in the Garden of Eden, God conveys this “cultural mandate” upon man:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 2:15, 28)

This mandate for man to work well and steward God’s creation doesn’t nullify God’s continued working today, however. Our frequent resistance to work can be described as laziness, but God works today to provide in the same way that he worked originally to create. Theologians call this the doctrine of God’s “providence.” God worked to create people in his image who would thereby work, and now he works in and through us to accomplish his plan for his glory and our good. Our work is not simply given to us by God to achieve on our own. When it is done from a proper identity in Christ, God participates and completes all the work that he has called us to. All good work is God’s work. As the Psalmist pointed out, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Work Is Inherently Good, But Not God

This inevitably leads us to the conclusion that our work is something that is inherently good. When God observed all of his work in creation in Genesis 1:31, he did not just assess it; he delighted in it. Pastor Tim Keller, the author of Every Good Endeavor, puts it this way:

In the beginning, then, God worked. Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration.1

At the same time, however, it is important to notice that meaningful work exalts God and not the other way around. Keller goes on to address this point, saying, “You will not have a meaningful life without work, but you cannot say that your work is the meaning of your life.”2

This is a major reason why God rested on the seventh day of creation and modeled “Sabbath” for his people. This rest is not simply so that we can “restore” our energy and continue working again. That was obviously not the case with God here. Instead, God rested to reflect on all that he had done, and our periodic resting from our work allows us to do the same, acknowledging our dependence upon God and God’s continued active providence in our lives.

Whether you are working for a company, studying as a student, or serving your church on a volunteer team, you can glorify God by imaging God as you work for God and reflecting on how he is constantly working for you.

Vintage Church is currently in an ALL-IN Campaign, highlighting our various vTeams. If you would like to volunteer on one of our vTeams, please email info@vcnola.com for more info.

1Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor (New York: Dutton, 2012), 34-5.

2Keller, 40.