Blog - Doing Earthwork

Connecting the Daily Work Dots

Friday, January 21, 2011

Remember how, as kids, we connected numbered dots to see a picture take shape? As adult Christians, though, how many of us are not seeing a vital picture because we have not connected the dots between our daily work and God’s "Creation Mandate”? Late last year, I listened as the CEO for a large group of companies spoke on integrating faith with the practice of business. When he invited questions, I asked, "How do you see your work as helping to carry out God’s first commission, to rule over and take responsibility for the earth?” He paused, then said he had not given this matter any thought.

Last week, a fellow believer and I began preparing for our church congregation a video-taped report from his workplace. Before we met, I emailed him a set of questions, including this one: "How does your job help carry out God’s work of caring and providing for life in this earth?” Later, over coffee, we met to discuss plans for the taping, and he told me he did not understand the question.

This man trains others—known as "loadmasters”—how to distribute and secure cargo inside the gigantic C-17 aircraft. If its center of gravity is out of kilter or if its payload shifts during flight, the plane can crash. My friend trains loading specialists to follow procedures designed to prevent such tragedies. But he found it difficult to connect this "dot” of his everyday work with the "dot” of God’s original command to take care of the earth. How does training others to pack a cargo jet have anything to do with God’s first work assignment?

As we sipped coffee and talked, I soon detected this man’s intense concern for the safety of the C-17 crews. He recalled that years ago, while he himself was being trained, four cargo planes had gone down within just a decade. Three of those crashes might have resulted from improper loading.

After learning of his concern, I began suggesting how to connect dots. "Do you remember the biblical story of Joseph?” I asked. He did. "Do you recall what Joseph, now a government official in Egypt, told his brothers when he finally revealed who he was?” I reminded him that Joseph had told his brothers not to beat themselves up for having sold him into slavery. Why? Because "it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Gen. 45:5). God, I said, is in the business of saving lives. Joseph’s work saved lives. So does yours.

Then I mentioned the law God gave Israel concerning those who built homes with horizontal roofs. "When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof” (Deut. 22:8, NLT). Why? To prevent people from falling off and being killed. God, I assured him, is in the safety business. As you train loadmasters, you too are in the safety business.

God’s first commission, to rule over, take responsibility for, and care for his earth (Gen. 1:26; 2:15), still stands. Our work, if legitimate, helps maintain conditions on earth that make it possible for human beings, animals, and plants to live and thrive. Yes, God works for our spiritual welfare—as we see in his sending Jesus. He lets us take part in that work by sharing the good news of salvation. But God also is concerned for our physical well-being. And here too he honors us by letting us participate in this kind of work.

With the dots connected, my friend saw the picture at once. "I’m humbled,” he said, as he reflected on this unrecognized dimension of his everyday work—the work itself—as a way of serving God.

Comments (2)

Ron Kuest (1/22/2011 9:15:54 AM)
One of the fundamental roles of our church experience, it would seem, is to help understand, prepare, organize and orient personal faith with our faith walk. Interesting how common it is that it is so easy to compartmentalize the two.
Christian Overman (1/24/2011 2:09:59 PM)
Larry,

What you are explaining so well here is one of the greatest "missing links" in the minds of followers of Christ today.  Well said!

Two days ago, I had a conversation with a young man in his 20s who is a very committed follower of Christ, and a graduate of Bible school.  He loves to participate in evangelistic outreaches, and does so among strangers on the street.  He has a gift for this. When I asked him what profession he wanted to pursue, he turned his head to the side, looked up at the ceiling, quickly uttered the words, "Forgive me, Lord," and then said: "I want to fly helicopters."

He really was excited about the idea of flying helicopters to lift logs out of forests in logging work.  He was feeling great tension in his life because he did not see how flying helicopters in logging operations connected with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. In that Commission he saw a mandate to save souls, and he took that very seriously, but didn't see how flying a helicopter in logging operations could be a way to "observe all that he commanded us" (another part of the Great Commission).

I asked him if he was aware of the First Commission, the one that came before the Great Commission. He had never heard of the "First Commission," so I shared with him about Genesis 1:26-28.

We then talked about God's first "job assignment," to govern over the material world, including fish, birds, and trees. We talked about how flying a helicopter in practicing responsible logging techniques fits beautifully into the fulfillment of our first "job assignment." He suddenly saw how flying a helicopter in a logging operation was part of fulfilling God's First Commission to human beings, and the lights went on in a big way. He said he never thought of it like that before.

He is not alone.

Keep writing, Larry.

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