In the beginning, God - went to work
How do you feel about your work? How has God changed or affected the way you work?
My aim is to give you a theology of work which will help you express your Christian faith through everything you do.
GENESIS 1 AND 2
We spend a lot of our time reflecting on the few short years in Jesus’ life that consist of his ministry. But he spent at least 15 years as a local builder in Nazareth. Working. And many of his parables turned on stories about the workplace – fishing, building, farming, house-cleaning, catering.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
An aspect of work is evidenced in the very first verse of the bible. Work is the source of our world and life. Without work, nothing is.
Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all creatures that move along the ground.”
Most religions had images – idols – Judaism forbade this, God can have no image of that kind but he chose to make mankind to represent him.
Male and female are to be represented in all aspects of life that is in his likeness
Creator – creativity - work
Ethical – moral responsibility
Spiritual – spiritual nature
Relational – being relational
Different from the rest of creation.
There is a hierarchy with man/woman placed in charge of part of God’s creation. Implies work.
Regent, ambassador – representative of what he is like.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
A special moment because, unlike elsewhere in Genesis 1, God specifically blesses mankind and gives them the instruction – right from the beginning there is that personal relationship between God and the person whom he has created.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
It's the ordinary word for human work. We work, just like God.
The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Work is intrinsic to human life – paradise does not equal unemployment, unemployment doesn't equal paradise either.
God makes us in his image, his likeness and sends us out to work. It is in his nature to work – he is the creator and sustainer of all life. And we are in his likeness. It is hard-wired into us from the Beginning. Work gives us purpose and value.
For further reading have a look at this month's Christianity maazine - you can get some of the material online here
IDENTITY - WHO AM I?
Last week I pressed you to re-think your identity. Not just to identify yourself as a mother or a businessman or as an invalid or as strong or as straight, gay, male or female but as a person made in the image and likeness of God. Remember that you are first and foremost his child.
And this applies in the workplace doesn’t it?
It is so easy to look in the mirror and measure ourselves by our success or failure at work.
Never made it to the top, I am out of work, I am a loser.
Or I have done really well, aren’t I the man, look at me and my success.
None of us have fully fulfilled our vocation, some haven’t found it, and yet he loves us anyway and is there to help us do the very best we can. Your identity is not in your work but as a son or daughter of God, created in his likeness to represent him in the world.
WHAT COUNTS AS WORK?
Does it have to be what earns money or takes hard application? On Thought for the Day yesterday, Rob Marshall said that work is our contribution to the common good.
Work is the instrument God uses to get the things done he wants done: the planet cared for, people educated, housed, the mind expanded through study, the heart lifted through making and playing musical instruments, the poor fed and the sick healed. Mark Greene
Whatever it is, when you do your work, you are being “like” God. You are his image – his regent/ambassador/representative in the world. Imagine a chain of office draped around your neck as you go about your work (might get in the way if you are an athlete).
· The company Director or the company cleaner.
· The mum looking after her children or the nurse looking after the patient.
· The young man learning to write code or the retired man delivering meals to the housebound.
· The unemployed person volunteering at a charity or someone fixing the plumbing.
· The pastor preparing to preach or the artist painting in her studio.
· Almost everyone can find themselves at work.
He is a God who works and who has given us the command to work. He may be transcendent and above all things but we believe that he is also immanent – amongst us. We take his presence with us into every aspect of our lives, including work - whether it is paid or unpaid, in the home or in the factory. He makes all work spiritual.
The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly “as to the Lord”. This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow. C.S.Lewis, Weight of Glory
There is a temptation to have a hierarchy of holiness: missionary, pastor, nurse at the top, further down to being a Premiership footballer, further still to being a financial adviser at the bottom. It's not true. God is the creator of all creation, and he is immanent within it, and so he is also God of every workplace and within every piece of work.
The spiritual life begins, seriously begins, when we get a job and go to work… work is our Spirit-anointed participation in God’s work. Eugene Peterson.
One work is not more spiritual than another. One day of the week is not more spiritual than another. When you decide to follow Jesus, his Holy Spirit fills you and goes with you every minute and metre of the day – that makes everything spiritual.
What does FTCW stand for?
It is usually applied to missionaries, evangelists, pastors – full time in Christian work. It doesn’t always mean that they are paid, just that is what they do. But I am a pastor and yet work part-time here and part-time in my business. Am I a FTCW? A Full Time Christian Worker?
It depends on the pause. Where do you put the pause?
Full Time (pause) Christian Worker (one who is a Christian Worker, whatever it means, & does full time)
Full Time Christian (pause) Worker (someone who is a worker but is a Christian full-time)?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving.
A better translation might be Work for the true master, Christ.
In this verse Paul re-connects our work back to the one who gave us the work to do in the first place (Genesis 2:15). Although our payslip may not say “God” on it, although your boss may not see the good you do, or indeed the bad you do; God is watching and you are working for him, at his instruction.
God is watching as we live and work. When you decide to follow Jesus you give him the whole of your life. Full time. Every nook and cranny, every hour and minute. It may take a while for you to let him into every compartment - but that is the deal. There is no such thing as a part-time Christian. If you follow Jesus, you are a Full Time Christian.
If you are a worker that makes you a FTCW.
EVANGELISM AT WORK
I find many people get themselves into a tiz over being a good Christian at work because they think it means you have to share the gospel with everyone all the time. You beat yourself up if you haven’t mentioned Jesus to someone at least once each day.
St Francis of Assisi is sometimes credited with saying “Preach the gospel always and, if necessary, use words.” Whether or not he did, I like the message. Your life and work is a huge testimony to Jesus without you needing to talk all the time. Indeed, if you are a poor worker your great explanations will mean very little.
How to become an evangelist at work:
1. Do good work
Whatever work you are in, through the Holy Spirit you have access to the Great Worker – who is better at your job than you are. The ultimate coach. With his help, seek to be the best you can be. No cutting of corners or shoddy work.
2. Model godly character
Courage to make difficult choices, avoding gossip, doing the right thing when it is not the accepted or cool thing.
3. Minister grace and love
Love the unlovely, speak well of others, don’t hold grudges. Be the one who is different.
4. Teach Jesus’ ways
Wisdom for life, e.g. reconciliation. You don't have to bible bash but there is huge wisdom in scripture and from the Holy Spirit about how to do life well.
5. Do truth and justice
Micah 6:8 To do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. You might need to whistle blow or stand up for those who are wronged, to seek justice in business and office politics.
6. Messenger for the gospel
And then you will find yourself in a place where you can be an effective messenger of good news about Jesus. You will be given the opportunity to pray for the sick, bring comfort in sorrow and lead people to Jesus.
Effective evangelism starts with being a good worker
In the beginning God – went to work. The creation and sustaining of the universe is his work and we are in his likeness, workers with and for him. We are called to tend to this world, to make our communities and cities places where humans can flourish.
So let’s be the best workers we can possibly be. May the people of the Vineyard be known for being great workers in Leeds. And then you will get the chance to show people the way to Jesus, to pray for the sick, share the good news and see people rescued and saved.
You and I have not only been saved from sin and the prospect of hell, we get to become co-workers with God in his mission for the world. Now that’s a job worth doing.