Blog - Grasping Vocation
Turning Work into Ministry: Part 10--Stewarding the EarthThursday, March 28, 2013
God’s "to do” list for us, seen in Genesis 1 and 2, includes communing with him, building community, and stewarding the earth. This series of blogs explores how we can carry these out in our daily work. For Part 9, click here.
Your work, stewardship, and the economy. What do they have in common? We talk a lot about the economy these days. But few know that our words economy and economics come from the New Testament Greek word for stewardship. For example, in Rom. 16:3 Paul calls Erastus—a city official who managed economic matters in Corinth—a steward (Gk. oikonomos). As Christians, we are to steward or manage the property of God. That includes our work, so closely connected to our economy.
"Good stewardship,” wrote Lester DeKoster, who served as director of the Calvin College and Seminary library, "is good management of things in the world.” He adds: "All economic activity—such as owning property, buying and selling, employment, contracts, finance and investment, business and entrepreneurship—is ultimately grounded in people’s work” (Work: The Meaning of Your Life, pp. 65-66).
Is God concerned about the work that creates a nation’s economy? Yes, if we believe what the Bible says about it. Concerning the Israelites’ Year of Jubilee, God dealt with such things as buying and selling and setting fair prices (Lev. 25:14-17). In the New Testament, John the Baptist spoke about honesty in tax collection and being content with wages. Jesus worked in the carpentry business. Paul made tents for sale. And Lydia ran a fabric store.
Jesus said the second of the two greatest commands of God is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Have you ever thought of your daily work as one of the major ways you practice neighbor love? In the book just mentioned, Lester DeKoster says, "Work is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others. . . . That is why work gives meaning to life” (p. 1).
I suspect, though, that far too often we believers think of "Christian service” as something done in our off-hours. Sadly, that leaves most of our waking-working hours without much ultimate meaning. So once you begin to see your daily work—paid or unpaid—as a major part of your God-assigned stewardship, it unifies and transforms your life.
Dallas Willard emphasizes the importance God places on our everyday work: ". . . the specific work to be done—whether it is making ax handles or tacos, selling automobiles or teaching kindergarten, investment banking or political office, evangelizing or running a Christian education program, performing in the arts or teaching English as a second language—is of central interest to God. He wants it well done. It is work that should be done, and it should be done as Jesus himself would do it. Nothing can substitute for that. In my opinion at least, as long as one is on the job, all peculiarly religious activities should take second place to doing ‘the job’ in sweat, intelligence, and the power of God. That is our devotion to God” (The Divine Conspiracy, p. 286).
Suppose you begin to see your job as your devotion to God, as your stewardship? How might that change the way you:
- Choose and prepare for your life’s work?
- Deal with believers and unbelievers among your coworkers, employees, clients, patients, students, and so on?
- Make ethical choices that arise in the course of your work?
- Speak of your boss when he or she is not around?
- Determine how much "heart” to put into your work?
- Decide how long to continue working?