Over at his blog, The Exchange, Ed Stetzer recently wrote this concerning workplace evangelism:
If the average person spends at least eight hours on work five days of the week, then in the span of a year, this adds up to 2,080 hours a year in the workplace setting and community. Even if this number is half of this, that’s still a lot of time. Much ink has been spent on how Christians can share their faith in the workplace and why or why not those who follow Jesus should even try to do evangelism in the workplace.
Stetzer then gives some practical tips for evangelizing in the workplace, which are both thoughtful and effective. I mention Stetzer only to illustrate the extent to which Christians are discussing the ins and outs of workplace evangelism. In the midst of this important discussion, it’s essential to remember that evangelism isn’t the only reason to wake up and go to work in the morning.
Here are three reasons why evangelism isn’t the sole reason for your work (but it’s still important).
Work Has Intrinsic Value
Your work has intrinsic value to God in and of itself. It is, as Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Total Truth, a “creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others.” This definition points to the main reason we work. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In Genesis 1:28 God gives Adam and Eve their job description, the cultural mandate.
The cultural mandate also calls all Christians to partner with God in his work. From the beginning, God is prepared to entrust the Garden to humankind. He is prepared for us to become his co-workers. Should we be doing evangelism in the workplace? Of course. But it’s not the sole reason we work.
The Cultural Mandate Hasn’t Been Rescinded
While it’s important to evangelize, we still need to work well. We need to serve others through our excellence. And we need to obey the cultural mandate.
Nowhere does Scripture say that the cultural mandate has ever been revoked. After the Fall, when mankind and all of creation was plunged into sin, God restated it to Noah when he emerged after the flood (Gen. 8:15—9:17).
The cultural mandate is brought up again in a letter by the prophet Jeremiah to the Babylonian exiles. In the letter, Jeremiah reminds the exiles of the mandate and instructs them to take dominion while in Babylon by working for the peace and prosperity of the city:
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:… Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jer. 29:4-7)
So it’s not that evangelism supersedes doing good work. You can’t ignore the cultural mandate while obeying the Great Commission. The two go hand-in-hand.
The Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission are Connected
In a way, Jesus’s Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, is a restatement of the cultural mandate for his church. Theologians debate how the cultural mandate and the Great Commission fit together, but it is clear that both call for cultural renewal. These two great mandates should both hold sway over a Christian’s life today.
Theologian John Frame believes that having completed his redemptive work, Jesus rose to receive “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). Frame suggests that as the cultural mandate sent Adam and Eve to take dominion over the whole earth in God’s name, so Christ calls his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Frame says the following in his book, The Doctrine of the Word of God:
The difference between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission is that the former precedes the fall and the work of Christ; the latter follows these. Otherwise they are very much the same. Of course, it is not possible for people to subdue the earth for God until their hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit. So ‘taking dominion,’ following the Resurrection, begins with evangelism and baptism. But baptism is not the end, and evangelism is not simply bringing people to an initial profession of faith. It is making disciples and teaching them to observe comprehensively all that Jesus has commanded, with the assurance of Jesus’ continuing presence. Jesus’ commands deal not only with repentance, faith, and worship. They also concern our treatment of the poor, our sexual ethics, marriage and divorce, anger, love of enemies, fasting, anxiety, hypocrisy, and many other subjects.
When we through faith embrace Christ, we should also be led to embrace the cultural mandate. We should all bring our faith and a desire to obey Christ into our daily work.