At Work & Theology 101

If God’s a Worker, What Kind of Work Does He Do?

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By his very nature, God is a worker. He has created all things and he sustains his creation. Because God works, this gives our work value. We are called to be his coworkers.

Beyond his work in creation, what kinds of work does God do today?

God Does Different Types of Work

Amy Sherman, in her book Kingdom Calling, shares a concept of God as our vocational model, which she credits to author Robert Banks from his book Faith Goes to Work. Banks describes the different kinds of work that God does and how our human vocations can fit into this model:

  • Redemptive work: God’s saving and reconciling actions
  • Creative work: God’s fashioning of the physical and human world
  • Providential work: God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation
  • Justice work: God’s maintenance of justice
  • Compassionate work: God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding, and shepherding
  • Revelatory work: God’s work to enlighten with truth

The Ways and Means of God’s Work

So, how does God carry out this work today? Sometimes he works supernaturally. For example, he does redemptive and revelatory work through his Holy Spirit, in revealing our sin and leading us to Christ. However, it is also true that God has chosen to use human beings, both believers and nonbelievers, to do this work.

With respect to God’s redemptive work, Sherman identifies people who do this type of work as,

…evangelists, pastors, counselors, and peacemakers. So do writers, artists, producers, songwriters, poets, and actors who incorporate redemptive elements in their stories, novels, songs, films, performances and other works.

This makes me think about the song “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis, which has a redemptive theme. Through the song’s lyrics, Travis puts a spotlight on the life-changing ability of God’s word. He sings about four people who were in a bus accident: “a farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher.” Four were on the bus, but only one lived—the preacher. We learn that it was the prostitute who had the Bible the preacher gave her as he lay dying and that she raised her son with her newfound faith in Jesus Christ so that he could later become a preacher himself.

Sherman explains that it is through our work, whether you’re a songwriter, a businessperson, a teacher, or a barista, that God performs his work in the world:

In all these various ways, God the Father continues his creative, sustaining, and redeeming work through our human labor. This gives our work great dignity and purpose.

God Uses All Means to Accomplish His Work

It should not surprise us that God uses both believers and nonbelievers through their work. If God uses inanimate objects like rocks, trees, the ocean, etc., to praise him; if Jesus used living things like flowers, sheep, and birds to prove a point in a parable; and if the Holy Spirit can use a powerful movie or a beautiful sunset to draw people to himself, we should also know that he is more than able to use all people, even unredeemed ones for his good purposes. Consider, for example, the stories of how he used Nebuchadnezzar (see references in Jeremiah and Daniel) and Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:11-26).

Gene Veith, in God at Work, agrees that God is at work in and through nonbelievers:

It should also be emphasized that God is working even through those who do not know Him. In His earthly kingdom, God is active in the secular sphere, even among nonbelievers.

If human beings are coworkers with God as he works through them to meet the needs of his creation and his creatures, then we can accurately say that God uses your child’s teacher to meet his or her academic needs. God also uses doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospital administrators to meet our family’s medical needs. God works through road construction crews in order to meet our collective transportation needs. And so on.

Just about every job worth doing that you can think of could fall into one of those categories of God’s work mentioned above. That essentially makes us coworkers with God. R. Paul Stevens, in his book, The Other Six Days, agrees:

Every legitimate human occupation (paid or unpaid) is some dimension of God’s own work: making, designing, doing chores, beautifying, organizing, helping, bringing dignity, and leading.

I suggest another category be added to the list of types of work: Restoration work—God’s power to repair, clean, reset, establish order, and make new. It occurred to me that dental hygienists, mechanics, custodians, and anyone who fixes the things we need (hair, cars, plumbing, etc.) would be doing this kind of work.

As a civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, my job would fall into the category of justice work. Where do you think that your particular job would fit into this model? It would be great to get your response and see how each person’s job fits into the categories of work that God performs on this earth.

This is a radical and revolutionary concept, don’t you think? It just might change the way you look at your job every day!

 

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the biblical meaning of work in How Then Should We Work? by Hugh Whelchel, available in the IFWE bookstore

Help reach more people with the life-changing message that their work matters to God! Donate to IFWE today. 

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