Blog - Doing Earthwork

God as Garment Maker

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clothing multitasks. It covers bareness. Keeps the body warm or cool. Protects from hazards (straw hats and bulletproof vests, for example). It can identify gender, rank, or role. It expresses preferences and personal style.

The making and selling of clothing creates work and an income for many people. The global apparel manufacturing industry provides jobs for more than 9 million. In the U.S. alone, women’s, men’s, children’s, and family clothing stores employ nearly 1.2 million.

But the work of garment-making is no mere human invention. God himself provides both spiritual and physical clothing. In speaking of the coming Holy Spirit, Jesus said his disciples would be "clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). And Paul assured baptized believers that they had been "clothed” with Christ (Gal. 3:27). God also worked as the first manufacturer of physical clothing. Fashioning the original garments from animal skin, he covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve.

But as in so many other areas, God has put work he himself might do into the hands of those to whom he delegated much of the earth’s upkeep. For instance, although God can feed people directly—recall the manna and Jesus’ feeding of thousands—he supplies most of our food through the work of people like you and me.

Martin Luther saw the works we do as the "masks of God.” As he put it, "God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting. But He does not want to do so. . . . What else is all our work to God—whether in the fields, in the garden, in the city, in the house, in war, or in government—but just such a child’s performance, by which He wants to give His gifts in the fields, at home, and everywhere else? These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.” (Exposition of Psalm 147)

One of those masks is the work of providing our clothes. From the experience of Adam and Eve, we know God values the work of clothing people. And if doing so is important to the King, such work becomes Kingdom work. In The Mission of the Church, Rene Padilla says: "All human work that embodies Kingdom values and serves Kingdom goals can be rightly termed as Kingdom ministry.”

To those worried about physical clothes, Jesus said if God clothes flowers and grass, "will he not much more clothe you” (Matt. 6:30). He will most likely do that indirectly through the work of people. So if you design, sew, sell, or mend clothing, do so wholeheartedly. Your work began with God. It still matters to him.

"I needed clothes, and you clothed me" (Matt. 25:36).

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