At Work & Theology 101

What Christ’s Finished Work Means for Our Everyday Work

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After five tedious hours of sanding and three coats of poly-finish, the vintage-1920’s, solid oak chair was restored. I laid my brush atop the can of urethane and stepped back to inspect it. With a satisfied grin and a nod to the chair, I said affirmatively, “this project is now finished.”

It’s the culmination of artful plans and hand-numbing toil. It’s now beautifully refinished! I smile, as the work draws my mind to Good Friday.

The Finished Work on the Cross

On that bleak day at Golgotha, Christ cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). What did he mean? We might assume Christ was so profoundly exasperated that he was exclaiming, “It’s been agonizing, and now, it’s finally over!” Perhaps. But perhaps he meant even more.

Throughout Christ’s time on Earth, he worked. He worked hard. In Mark 6:3, people recognized him as a carpenter. The Greek word used is tekton, one engaged in hands-on work with wood or other sculpting and building materials. Prior to assuming his role as the Rabbi and Miracle-Worker, Jesus plied the trade of his human father, Joseph.

With Christ’s baptism and inauguration of his kingdom initiatives, his Heavenly Father’s mission-business shifted into the next phase of implementation. Jesus taught crowds; he trained disciples; he touched the suffering; he transformed lives by his grace. In a real sense, his hands were still sculpting. Like most jobs, he had to work around the critics and cynics. On one such feisty occasion, he replied, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

The language of Jesus’ cry from the cross was ripe with significance. The word used in Greek is tetelestai. That single word carries much meaning: it is now fully accomplished, totally completed, the plans have come to fruition. It’s paid in full. Redemption has fully arrived!

The Value of Long-Term Planning & Implementation

Much of the Father’s work—and then his Son’s work—involved establishing and then working out the ancient prophecies. Christ’s life and work demonstrated marvelous fulfillment of those plans, culminating in extra-dynamic ways with his cross, resurrection, and ascension.

Consider this: when we make strategic plans and work hard to implement them, we are more fully living out the image of God, matching his character and transformative intentions for us.

The Redemptive Aims of Our Daily Work

Christ’s loud personal cry, tetelestai, declared the complete arrival of redemption. This should motivate us to make sure our own work keeps redemptive purposes in view.

We can each ask, “How does what I do today serve others with humble sincerity, bring blessing in the mess of today’s world, clear away confusion, and bring the Good News to people who experience so much bad news every day?” With both our daily actions and our daily words, we can share Christ’s hope-filled redemption.

Work Hard & Rely on God’s Grace

The Apostle Paul, after rehearsing the creed—Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—insisted that he had worked harder than all the other apostles, “—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor 15:10).

In like fashion, it is the grace of God that confidently propels our own work today. We can fully trust him and praise him for such grace!

Intentionally Plan to Finish Strong

What does it take to finish strong in your life work? In their discussion of a strategy for entrepreneurs planning to finish well, Richard Goosen and R. Paul Stevens lend five insights:

  1. Keep articulating your life goals, not just when you are young, but throughout life.
  2. Constantly refresh your sense of calling.
  3. Engage in an accountability group.
  4. Practice thanksgiving, day and night.
  5. Plan on lifelong learning, blending study, work, and play all along the way.

Do you ever wonder what Christ felt on certain days in the carpentry shop, especially when working on tough projects? How often did the skin on his hands get dry-cracked and calloused? What expression crossed his face when a splinter snagged him? And I wonder what words crossed his lips when he wrapped up an especially challenging piece? 

I have a hunch I know, and you probably do as well. After all, there was the day his hands held rough-hewn beams, and they felt the ugly work of nails. And on that day, Christ cried out, “It is finished!”

Take heart! Christ’s finished work on the cross and his triumphant word, tetelestai, supply all the grace we need to press on, work hard, and finish strong.

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