Work makes us interdependent. Work cultivates the resources of the material and human universe. Work is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others; civilization is the form in which others make themselves useful to us. Work unifies the human race and carries out the will of God.
Lester DeKoster in his book, Work: The Meaning of Your Life suggests work is about more than us and God; it unites us within community. We saw before how God’s common grace “is important because it is one of the means by which Christians can work with others to serve the common good of their neighbors and transform the culture.” Now we see how our specific work – our jobs and careers – serve that end.
With this in mind, how do we then define work from a Biblical perspective? Theologian John Stott defined work as “the expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God.” Dorothy Sayers gave us a more detailed description when she wrote that work should be seen:
. . . not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.
Pastor Tim Keller defines work as the rearranging of the raw materials of a particular domain to draw out its potential for the flourishing of mankind. For example, an architect rearranging steel, wood and stone to create a beautiful home, a musician rearranging the raw materials of sound to compose music.
Through our faithful labor we imitate God’s own creativity, order, and appreciation for beauty and excellence. Professor Gene Veith in his book, God at Work, suggests Martin Luther, John Calvin and the others reformers clearly understood this, and as a result the Protestant church during and shortly after the Reformation enjoyed its greatest cultural influence, seen in art, literature, music, and the social institutions of their day.
Recovering the Biblical doctrine of work can open the way for contemporary Christians to influence their culture in the same way.
Question: Do you feel more engaged with your community through your work? Leave a comment here.