Work Didn’t Always Suck

Work Didn’t Always Suck April 27, 2017

sculptorIn our day, we know that work can often be frustrating. We get together with friends after a long week of work and moan, “Work just sucks!” But that was not always the case. While we know that work is currently broken in various ways, we must remember that work was once part of the very good creation. A major part of the good news of the gospel is that work has been redeemed and can also be redemptive!

“The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

Like a sculptor, God took the stuff of the ground and shaped the first human being. And he breathed life into him.

Remember this, because it is very important: You are God’s workmanship. God’s masterpiece.

Created for a Purpose

In Genesis chapter 1,  we read this:

“God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule.’” (Genesis 1:26-28)

God’s workmanship. God’s masterpiece. God’s image.

And notice that God created mankind for a purpose.

Genesis reveals that all of humanity was created to be God’s delegates on earth, to do what he would do: to lovingly rule and care for the creation (including not only what we might call “nature,” but also all other aspects of God’s creation – including societal and cultural institutions). God’s workmanship was created to do good work.

Over in Genesis chapter 2, we read,

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” (Genesis 2:5)

So, in this part of the story, God hasn’t made shrubs or plants yet. Why not? Two reasons.

(1) God had not sent rain yet, and (2) “There was no one to work the ground.”

Therefore:

“The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  (Genesis 2:7)

God’s workmanship. God’s masterpiece. God’s image. Created to do work.

Some think that work is a result of The Fall, and that we shouldn’t have to work. But there it is in the actual creation accounts: Work!

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

He places humanity in the Garden of Eden and says, “There you go! Get to work! Make something out of all the raw materials I’ve given you!”

God’s Workmanship Created by God to Do Good Work

You are God’s masterpiece to do good work, whether your work is

  • as an artist, making music or paintings or film or videogames
  • in multimedia communications like television or movies or internet
  • in education, as a teacher or administrator or counselor
  • in business – marketing, management, E-commerce, retail, investments
  • in the home – as a homemaker, a soccer mom… as a “dometic engineer”
  • in technology – computers, biotech, nanotech,
  • in science and medicine
  • in government and public policy
  • in the social sector
  • in the church.

But the Fall

The Fall has messed up that call on our lives to do good work for the flourishing of other humans as we take care of God’s good creation.

Work is broken. We no longer are fully able to do the things that image-bearers are called to do:

  • Rule well, work for the good of everyone and everything.
  • Care for God’s creation as you do so.
  • Live in harmony with others and serve each other out of love.

Not that we can’t do amazing things despite the Fall. Our lives are incredibly blessed by the advancements in thought, in technology, in governmental ideas, in healthcare. I’d rather be living in 21st Century United States than in 14th Century Europe when the “Black Death” killed 50 million people. We are blessed to have advanced because of good work done on our behalf.

But just imagine how far we would have gotten if all our work was for the sake of the flourishing of others, out of love for our fellow human beings, all the while as we care for the creation.

What if humans were not bound by their sin? What if we were set free to be fully who we are meant to be? Saved from our selfishness, perversions, addictions, cultural entanglements, and self-destruction?

I think we’d be living an amazing sci-fi movie where there would be no third-world countries in which people are starving to death and dying of disease. We’d not have bigotry and even hidden prejudice so that we would seek the flourishing of every single person.

And people would be able to say, “Ohh! THAT’S what God looks like. I see him in his workmanship, his masterpiece, his image!”

God’s Workmanship Created in Christ Jesus to Do Good Work

So, God wants us to be that full human being again: God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, God’s image.

But there’s that problem – the problem of our bondage to sin. And we cannot free ourselves. God knows that we are meant to be something so much better, in order to do things so much better.

So he provides the grace to become free:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

We are saved by grace and through faith. Faith is not something that we “do” to make ourselves acceptable to God. If there were some kind of work that I could do to make God say, “Wow! That’s amazing work! Come on into heaven!”, then I’d be saved not by God’s grace but by my own initiative. And I’d be able to boast – proudly strutting about as others who didn’t figure out what to do are forced to look at me and weep.

And we were created for a purpose. Do you see it?

We are God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, God’s image.

We are saved for a reason: To do good work. (Did you notice the words echoing Genesis? In Genesis, humanity is created by God to do good work. In Ephesians, Christians are “created in Christ Jesus to do good work”).

We are not saved by doing good work. That puts the equation backward. We are saved to do Good work.

God’s intention, from all the way back in Genesis, was to create a humanity in his image, people who would love and care and seek to see everyone and everything flourish.

  • To be good stewards, as God’s representatives, of God’s good creation.
  • To make something of the raw materials God has given to us.
  • To create like God created.
  • To love like God loves.
  • And to redeem that which is broken, to right that which is wrong, like God does.

Why?

Because these are the things that God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, God’s image does, according to both the creation story (Genesis) and the redemption story (Ephesians)!

On top of all that, it is so comforting that God is with us all the way through. He is, in fact ahead of us, preparing the way for us to do that work.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)


Image by susan catherine. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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