Blog - Mirroring God
Your Long-Term MissionSunday, September 02, 2012
Happy Labor Day! The U.S. Dept. of Labor website says, "Labor Day [singular] . . . is a creation of the labor movement.” The Bible says labor days [plural] are a creation of God: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Ex. 20:9). Not one, not two, but six out of seven days are labor days. That’s more than 300 each year.
It seems God gives high priority to everyday work. Why do so many Christians not see it that way? Two weeks ago, my wife and I sat next to a Christian woman on a plane. She’s a caterer. But she travels constantly to foreign countries on one short-term mission after another. She explained: "I’m not too concerned about working, because I want to give my time to God.”
Could she and countless other believers
be suffering from a shrunken vision for human work? Eph. 2:10 says, "For we are
God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared
in advance for us to do.” The two preceding verses explain who the we includes: "For it is by grace you [plural]
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” (Eph. 2:8-9). So the we turns out to be those saved by God’s
own workmanship, those who are the outcome of the creating work he has done in
the "workshop” of his Son.
Why did God work to make us his new
creation in Christ? So that we would "do good works.” Which ones? Those he
"prepared in advance for us to do.” What
might those be? We see these good works most clearly when God’s will was done perfectly
on earth as in heaven. Before sin invaded, God evaluated everything as "very
In the pre-sin chapters of Genesis 1 and
2 we see at least three good works. First, we were made to commune with God. Adam and Eve enjoyed delightful conversations
with God. Second, we were made to build
community. Before sin, the only "not
good” thing was Adam’s aloneness. So God gave him a partner for community.
Together, they were to begin populating the earth with a community. Third, we
were made to steward the earth. Under
God, the humans were to act as his property managers—ruling, subduing, and
caring for the earth and its passengers.
In all three
areas, sin shattered our capacity for good work. It cut
off our communion with God. It made us community-wreckers instead of
community-builders. And it added agony to stewarding the earth—bringing on
thorns, thistles, sweat, and painful childbirth. But through God’s workmanship,
those in Christ are being mended to resume the "good works” God prepared in
advance for us to do.
Whatever your work—whether paid or unpaid—how can it become part of your daily communion with God? Can you begin your workday by offering your body—and the work it will do—to God? Can you send up silent "arrow” prayers as you face work-related dilemmas, decisions, and difficulties? Nehemiah, while working as official wine-taster for the King of Persia, did just that.
How can you, through your work, help build community? Suppose one of your co-workers, an unbeliever, undergoes cancer surgery. What if you and a few other Christian co-workers teamed up to provide meals for her and her family during those difficult days after she returns home from the hospital. That would demonstrate your unity as believers and your love for workplace neighbors. Unbelievers might see and want to pitch in. When God uses your example to open a door, you can speak to unbelievers about Jesus, helping build the community of faith in this way.
How does your work contribute to stewarding the earth? Maybe you provide services essential for life on earth (such as education, health care, hospitality, etc.). Maybe you help maintain order on earth through government services (such as law enforcement, courts, regulations, taxation, etc.). Or perhaps you make, transport, or distribute products that human, animal, and plant life on earth need to survive (such as food, clothing, shelter, fertilizer, and so on.).
If you’re God’s "workmanship,” created in Christ to do good works, then you may offer every one of your 300-plus labor days as worship to God. Serving God is not done only during off-hours, weekends, and on short-term missions. If you’re a Christian, God has called you to take part in his long-term mission that includes your daily work. Remember who you are: God’s workmanship. Remember why you’re here: Commune with God. Build community. Steward the earth.