‘Beer’, Benjamin Franklin once declared, ‘is proof that God loves us.’ Coffee, apparently, is proof that he wants us to stay awake. And Genesis 2:19 is proof that work matters to God.
It was an amazing moment. Out of nothing, God had created the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, birds, fish, animals, not to mention innumerable galaxies extending billions of light years into space. And then, with all of space and time and matter to delight in, God pops down to a garden in the Middle East and brings the animals and the birds to a lone human being ‘to see what he would name them’.
Really? God, the creator and king of the universe, is interested in what this single human chooses to call that big-eared quadruped with a nose that doubles as an arm? Interested in this ordinary, little task that he, in his grace, has delegated to his steward? Surely not.
But there it is: Genesis 2:19, proof that God is interested in how the lone human would use his powers of observation and language skills to differentiate this from that, and then this from that and that and that…
And as with Adam, so with us. God is intensely interested in how each of us uses the talents, resources, power, opportunities and freedoms at our disposal to complete the tasks we’ve been given to do. And why wouldn’t he be? He loves us.
Your particular work matters to God because you in particular matter to God.
OUR WORK HAS A PURPOSE
Your work also matters to God because it has a purpose. Work is an essential component of God’s mission – the reconciliation and restoration of all things (Colossians 1:15-20). Our work, after all, either contributes to making the world a better place or a worse one. And just as in Eden, where God’s work provides, creates order, brings beauty and releases potential, so through our work we can do the same.
Through our work we get to provide – people fed, clothed, housed, educated, cared for; the heart nurtured, the spirit lifted, the mind stretched.
Through our work we get to create order – an elegant algorithm that makes payments easier, an injection that prevents the spread of disease, an arrest that keeps someone safe.
Through our work we get to bring beauty – a course of bricks perfectly laid, a street that is cleared of litter, an eye-catching dress in cerulean blue.
Through our work we get to release potential – turning sand into crystal glasses, nurturing children into adulthood, merging two companies into something stronger.
And through our work we get to relate to other people – marvel at the richness and diversity of those made in God’s image, lament our shared brokenness and sin and seek to show and share the way of grace.
OUR WORK IS A GIFT
Of course, there is the fall… the project fails, the part doesn’t work, the colour runs, the people do what people do. And yet in every task, in whatever circumstance, work is a gift God gives us to serve him and others with hand and mind and heart. It is a context for worship, for spiritual growth, for prayer; a context for Christ to work in you, through you, with you; a context to love extravagantly, pursue justice, adore truth, show mercy, lavish generosity, bless, minister, transform…
Take, for example, the large primary school in Hertfordshire with a very, very long corridor – a corridor that the children would regularly run down with all the exhilarated glee and heedlessness of boy racers gunning down the A1 at 3am. And the head teacher wondered what she could do to make it safer and calmer. And she prayed.
And after a holiday break the children returned to school to find a red carpet all the way down the very, very long corridor. In morning assembly, the head teacher asked the children, “Who walks on red carpets?” And they replied, “film stars”, “the Queen”, “the Prime Minister”. “So who do you think this red carpet is for?” They paused. “You miss,” someone said. And she replied, “No, it’s for you.” “Oh.” “And how do film stars and Prime Ministers walk on red carpets?” “Slowly.” “Gracefully.” “That’s right.”
So it came to pass that the children in that primary school stopped running down the very, very long corridor and learned that they were as special as film stars and royalty.
OUR WORK IS MISSIONAL
And that’s godly work – rolling out the red carpet for the people we work with and for, showing compassion, honouring them, having their best interests at heart and praying for the creativity to find ways to do it which point to our Father.
Because work is not a bolt-on to ‘real’ mission. The work of God’s people, our work, is an intrinsic part of God’s missional plan.
So, whatever our job, he calls us to a richer, more expectant way of working, which not only invites his transformation but joyfully and humbly participates in it.