Blog - Doing Earthwork
Connecting the Daily Work DotsFriday, 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.