Authors on this blog often make reference to the four-chapter gospel: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. How do these concepts show up in our daily work?
Although the original condition of the earth is something that we haven’t experienced in its entirety due to sin, the Bible tells us how things originally were when God made everything. It reveals how work was intertwined with our creation and our intended being.
Work is often viewed as a curse. However, it was given to us before the fall. As Hugh Whelchel says in a previous blog post, work is not a punishment for sin.
Made in God’s image, we exercise our creativity and our ability to organize things into new tools or services. According to Genesis 2:15, God made man and woman to tend the garden in community with him and one another.
In nearly every job there are ways to be creative, to make a process more efficient, or create something that had not existed before. The creativity we use in our work is a reflection of the Lord’s character.
At creation, things were as God intended. If you have a hobby you enjoy or feel especially connected to the work you get paid to do, these moments where you forget you are “working” are glimpses of how God intended work to be.
Later on, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and attempted to become gods themselves. This resulted in a separation from God and a curse levied on all humanity. Here is where “toil” and “sweat” enter into the equation.
In our own daily work, we experience the toil and sweat by having to do jobs we don’t enjoy, facing enmity between ourselves and our coworkers, and struggling with all the selfish ambition that can undermine what we do.
The boredom and drudgery of work is a common result of the fall. Putting our work in its proper context, however, can mitigate these effects.
As Hugh Whelchel says in his book, How Then Should We Work?,
By answering the call to fulfill our roles in God’s redemptive drama, we find meaning in even the most mundane activities.
This context lends new meaning to “just stuffing envelopes.”
Thanks to God, our final condition is not fallen, but redeemed through Jesus Christ for those who accept him. 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” Redemption was and is the untangling of what humanity did to itself through the fall.
Al Wolters describes this in his book Creation Regained, when he writes,
What was formed in creation has been historically deformed by sin and must be reformed in Christ.
Christ’s redemption is what gives us hope and power in our work. The author of Ecclesiastes states repeatedly, “everything is meaningless” without obedience to God. The psalmist in Psalm 127:1b states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”
As Christians, Christ is always with us, participating in our lives, thus making our work part of his work and truly worthwhile. Much of the work that we do is involved in redeeming the world. Think of the medical profession, which literally heals people’s bodies in order to restore them to their intended state.
Scripture speaks about Christ’s return and final conquest of sin in passages like Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 and the book of Revelation. There are many different views on potential timelines of Christ’s return, but broader agreement on the fact that he will reign over a renewed heaven and earth.
Since we know that Christ will return, much like the master in the parable of the talents, we can work knowing that our actions and work have eternal significance. Christ has given eternal life to those who are in him. Christians are co-heirs with Christ in the final bringing of the kingdom.
Day-to-day, we can know our toil is not permanent, but neither is it insignificant, all because of Christ’s promised return.
The four-chapter gospel is a helpful way to provide context to our broader thoughts on work and vocation. But it also provides insight into our day-to-day work that can help us be better employees, managers, and witnesses of the gospel to everyone around us.
How can you apply the four-chapter gospel to your own work? Leave your comments here.