Theology 101

Be a Gospel Signpost Through the Work of Your Hands

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There is a website called Despair, Inc. which makes fun of the signs and motivational posters that adorn the walls of so many offices. My favorite is one that shows a picture of a sinking ship.  Under the picture the caption reads, “It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

All kidding aside, what does the purpose of your life at work tell other people?

In his book Aspects of Christian Social Ethics, Carl Henry writes,

According to the Scriptural perspective, work becomes a way station of spiritual witness and service, a daily traveled bridge between theology and social ethics. In other words, work for the believer is a sacred stewardship, and in fulfilling his job he will either accredit or violate the Christian witness.

Believers can and should think differently from everyone else in our culture about all aspects of life, especially work.

Jesus’ Miracles as Signposts

Is your life, what you do on a daily basis (especially your life at work), a signpost pointing to the way things could be?

In Mark 1:15, Jesus declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” During his life on earth, Jesus’ miracles revealed his divine nature and announced his kingdom. 

In John 2:11, the apostle called Jesus’ miracles “signs,”

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

During his ministry on earth, Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and fed the five thousand. But did Jesus heal everyone that was sick, and did he feed everyone that was hungry?

No, he did not.

Could he have?

Of course. As the son of God, he could have done anything he wanted to do.

Then why didn’t he?

Theologians suggest that Jesus was demonstrating his power and authority in these signs and wonders. This is correct, but there is another reason, too.

Jesus’ miracles were a sign showing the way things could be, and, because of his life, death, and resurrection, the way things are going to be in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

We read in Revelation 21:4 that the fourth chapter of the four-part gospel story, Restoration, is coming, a time when,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

We who are called to imitate Christ should live out our lives as a sign, an example pointing to the way things could be in every aspect of our lives.

Because we celebrate human creativity as evidence of our being made in the Creator’s likeness, Christians must encourage one another to do work worthy of our best efforts and worthy of our high calling.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23).

As Dorothy Sayers put it in her essay “Vocation in Work,” we must challenge one another to seek “the kingdom of a divine understanding of work” which can, if we find it, give us a mysterious and glorious view of vocation.

Your Work as A Signpost of Shalom

This idea of your work serving as a signpost reflecting Christ’s kingdom might leave you with a few questions on what that really looks like in the day-to-day grind. It will look different for each person. One clue is to look at the biblical concept of shalom, which is usually translated “peace.”

In the Garden of Eden before the Fall, there was perfect shalom. There was universal flourishing, and things were the way they were supposed to be. Man’s fall into sin had a devastating effect on the whole of creation. It was as if the very fabric of the created order began to unravel, and the whole creation began to experience a lack of shalom. Christ has set about reweaving this shalom, which will culminate in his coming kingdom.

In his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga explains shalom as:

…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

For me, in nearly every one of my roles, I’ve had the opportunity to use my gifts and passion to be a coach and encourager of others. I was created, designed, and destined to fill this particular vocational calling based on my God-given gifts and talents and the opportunities presented to me by God’s providence. God consistently used me to do very much the same thing in many different settings. I pray that through my coaching, others have gotten a glimpse of the way things could be and will be in God’s kingdom.

How has God designed and called you? Do you see your work as a “signpost” to point people to God’s picture story? How can you give others a glimpse of shalom through your work?

Editor’s note: Learn more about the biblical meaning of work in How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.

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