At Work

Seeing God’s Presence in Government Work

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I want to share how I have experienced God’s presence as a government employee. Many readers of my blog know I refer to God’s presence in our various professions as “Immanuel Labor.”

I hope to ground my experiences in God’s word and encourage others working in government at any level with the notion that God can use them for his good purposes right where they are, as agents of common grace, bringing shalom to all who are made in his image.

Government Is Ordained by God

Scripture is clear that God designed and empowers human government to protect and preserve society at large. In the Old Testament, there were the patriarchs, priests, judges, and kings, under God’s rule, who took care of his people. Yahweh used these leaders to ensure that righteousness was rewarded, evil was punished, and resources were distributed fairly.

In Matthew 22:15-22, we read of Jesus’s statement regarding paying taxes to government, even a secular one. He points out that Caesar’s likeness (image) is on a coin, just as God’s image is on us. He said, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

In Romans 13:1, the Apostle Paul tells believers to submit to governing authorities. He explains in verses 2-7 that it is God himself who appointed them as his servants in authority over us to minister to us, with the understanding that they are under his authority as he ministers to us.

The Theology of Work Commentary elaborates:

Knowing that the systems of Rome’s rule were not in line with God’s justice, this counsel must have been hard for some in the Roman churches to hear. How could obeying the idolatrous, ruthless Roman emperor be a way of living in the Spirit? Paul’s answer is that God is sovereign over every earthly authority and that God will deal with the authorities at the right time. Even Rome, powerful though it might have been, was ultimately subject to the power of God” (vol. 5; pp. 36-37).

Peter tells his readers the same thing in 1 Peter 2:13-17. Christ-followers are to be subject to the governing authorities and to honor them because they were sent by him “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”

Martin Luther had something to say on this subject. In Gustaf Wingren’s book, Luther on Vocation, we read:

A good government, which fulfills its duty of office, rules the people in opposition to a contrary power which would control. The authority of the government is not derived from the fact that it gives expression to a people’s genius, but from the fact that God has ordained it to thwart the devil. Government is of God, created by him.

The Mission of Government Employees: Restoring Order, Serving People

I have been employed by the US Army for over thirty years. I spent twenty years, six months, and seventeen days on active duty, a year and a half as a civilian contractor, and over eight years as a Department of the Army civilian employee. Every day I sense God’s presence with me.

God has called me and enabled me to do a variety of tasks that contribute in some small way to this country’s defense. I serve the men and women who work for me and with me. I serve the officers appointed over me. I truly understand that I support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Some days I do this one PowerPoint slide at a time. Some days I accomplish only a few small missions and only take care of a handful of people. But there are many days I realize with gratitude that what I do eight hours a day enables others to do their jobs more effectively, making our Army a little stronger, which allows all citizens to experience peace (shalom) in this great nation.

No matter what job we have, we are truly co-workers with God. We bring order out of chaos. We participate in fulfilling the creation mandate to fill, subdue, and rule the earth. As his agents in human government, we can demonstrate what it means to submit to God’s authority in his kingdom, which is not of this world but is most definitely in our midst. As we accomplish our missions and take care of people who are eternal and beloved of God, we are ministering to many. These are the thoughts that get me out of bed every morning.

I hope that this small snapshot of biblical truth combined with my own experiences will encourage those who are also employed in civil service at every level: local, state, or federal.  Your work matters to God!

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Further readings on At Work

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