Does our earthly work matter to God?
Yes it does, replies Darrell Cosden in his book The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. Central to his argument is the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which the church celebrates this Easter.
Cosden correctly asserts that Christ’s resurrection means three things for how we live and work in the world.
1. Christ’s Resurrection Affirms the Goodness of the Material World
God made us in his image, but we were made to be physical images as well. Our physicality isn’t a result of the Fall. We were created that way.
We were also created to be co-workers with God. Within this call to work is an expectation of human achievement. The idea of the cultural mandate is that God entrusts me with something and he expects me to do something with it, something worthwhile, something that he finds valuable. This is evident from the very beginning when God placed Adam and Eve on the earth.
This first calling of the biblical story is a calling that comes for the sake of God’s purpose to bless all things that he has made.
2. Christ’s Resurrection Demonstrates the Continuity between the Present World and the New Creation
The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22 isn’t a brand new creation made out of nothing (ex nihilo), but the old creation, renewed, restored, and transformed into something beautiful.
It’s a city—not the natural Garden of Eden, but the ultimate symbol of human culture—and “People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21:26 NRSV).
Cosden contends that the good things of human work and culture will have a place in the new heavens and the new earth. Our work matters because it will last.
3. Christ’s Resurrection Is a Sign That the New Creation, While Not Fully Realized, Has Been Initiated
Our work is valuable because the fruits of our labor, having been redeemed and transformed, will carry over from this world to the world to come (even in ways we don’t completely understand).
While our work is redeemed through Christ’s work on the cross, our work isn’t yet fully restored until Christ returns. We live in what theologians call the “already, but not yet.” We live between the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.
But this in-between state is why all the work we do in the present matters. By working as God’s redeemed people, we can give people a glimpse of the way things are supposed to be. We are foreshadowing God’s ultimate work of restoration when he will truly make all things new—and better than we can imagine.
As we have celebrated Easter and affirmed again that “He has risen,” let us also remember Apostle Paul’s admonition and encouragement in 1 Corinthians 15. After an extended discussion of both Christ’s resurrection and our own future bodily resurrection, he writes:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
Editor’s note: All of us at IFWE pray that you had a very blessed Easter!