Seeing God at Work
Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘I don’t work for the church and I’m not in ‘full-time ministry’ – so where does my job fit into God’s big ...
Is it their rows of theological books and large KJV bibles lined up behind them on Teams calls? Their framed calligraphy Bible verse? Their large crucifix wall-hanging, strategically placed for maximum effect? The way they sign off emails?
If you’re anything like me, you have literally none of these. Particularly if you’ve just recently started working from home, you might have only just worked out the best lighting for a video call and how to angle your screen so none of your colleagues see up your nose, and so the question of being a Christian as you work from home hasn’t even crossed your mind yet. Now that it has… well, where do we begin?!
To consider working from home in a Christian light may make us feel like we need to start all over again when it comes to a theology of work, because now our work floats somewhere in the middle of home, the office, and cyberspace.
When we look at the Bible, however, we find that right from the start (Genesis 1 and 2) it tells us that home and work were inextricably linked: God himself worked to create a home environment in which humans and all earthly species could flourish. Then he delegated the ‘stewardship’ of this home by calling humans to look after what he had created, and through careful cultivation, to bring all to ultimate fruition. In practice, this would have demanded working with vision for what might be, perseverance to see the project through, diligence and faithfulness to keep it going, creativity and problem solving, and a willingness to learn about natural processes in that first agricultural context. Building and sustaining this home needed team-work and close consultation with the Creator!
Order, harmony, unity, security, belonging, and clear ideas of authority were all hallmarks of this first home / work environment. And there was a clear balance and rhythm between work, rest, and relationship-building: six days of creation work with one day to rest and reflect, and Adam and Eve fellowshipping with God in the cool of the day – kind of like our mid-afternoon coffee breaks.
The ‘noble wife’ of Proverbs 31:10-31 further illustrates many of these same features in describing wise working from, in, or at home: working under delegated authority and serving others well (v. 11); being creative (v. 13, 19, 21-24); using wisdom and team work in pulling together a functioning ‘household’ (v. 15, 26-28) (e.g. managing staff/servants/family); being industrious (v. 14,16), hardworking and never lazy (v. 17, 27); operating a long-term vision for fruitfulness & commercial viability (v. 14, 16, 18, 24); being prepared and thinking ahead (v. 21, 25); making time for and displaying generosity towards neighbours and the needy (in a busy schedule no doubt) (v. 20); and most of all demonstrating a fear of God and faithfulness to the one who will issue the most meaningful sense of purpose or reward in the end (v. 30-31).
This idealised character carries much wisdom for those working in and from their homes in the worshipful way she ‘watches over the affairs of her household’ (v. 27) embracing both familial and commercial spheres.
These principles can still inform how we work in, at, and from our homes today. And they are not restricted to women in this type of hybrid role but apply equally to men who share responsibility for their household while also working for income.
Moving forward, we’ll consider the impact of working from home on us as individuals and on our own performance and perception of that. As with everything, though, the most important thing we can contribute to our work is prayer – offering our day, our selves, and our work to our Father, knowing that he is good and kind and faithful, no matter where we are.
The first part of ‘A Prayer for Working from Home’ by Will Sorrell:
Almighty God, Giver of Work and Rest,
I awake, and I am with you.
My commute is a trudge from bed to desk,
a stepping over toys and garments,
feet that feel like miles.
Ready my body to face unfamiliar tasks in this familiar place.
My eyes are prone to wander alone.
My ears are prone to hear my flesh over your Spirit.
My lips are prone to curse and lash.
My fingers and back are prone to cramp and complain.
My nose is prone to forget that every breath comes from you.
Let my eyes keep watch with you with care.
Let my ears hear the birds raise their carols to you.
Let my lips be patient on conference calls and voicemails.
Let my fingers and back find relaxation under tension.
Let my nose relish the home-brewed tea and remember.
O omnipotent and omnipresent Carpenter,
you who fashioned the lumber of the land,
you who breathed life into us from the dust,
you who are crafting this world anew,
build in me a confidence that I am your temple.
Make my heart believe that you are intersecting
the heavens and the earth in my very being.
Nell Goddard & Charles Hippsley