How Does Human Work Connect to God’s Work?Article / Produced by TOW Project
Creation Mandate Discipleship Exercises
It’s one thing to understand the creation mandate as a theological concept, but another to grasp it as a practical reality. Try these questions and exercises to help those you disciple to personalize what Genesis 1 teaches about work:
• Do you consider work as a blessing or a curse? Try to go through a week without grumbling about your job.
• Write down all the ways that God has blessed you in your work.
• If you supervise others, what do you do to make work a blessing for your employees?
• How is your work linked with others in the chain of provision? List every industry connected with your job.
• Imagine doing your job in heaven. What might that look like?
• In what way do your interactions with your coworkers reflect the character of Christ? What is the Spirit inviting you to improve? How might that change impact your workplace relationships?
• Name ten people you work with. For each name, think, “________ is God’s image-bearer and my partner in the work God has called us to do. May God bless _________ in their work.”
• Think about all the ways you encounter God’s nonhuman creation while you are at work. What ideas do you have for expanding your interactions with nature on the job?
• What is the gap between God’s intentions for work, and what you have experienced or observed? What could you do to bring your workplace closer to God’s design?
• How would you answer the question: “Why do you work?”
• “Why we work is always tightly connected with who we are as valued, redeemed image-bearers, sent into the world to work with kingdom purpose.” What does this statement mean to you in your current work context?
Taken from Equipping Christians for Kingdom Purpose in Their Work by Tom Lutz and Heidi Unruh. Published by Hendrickson Publishers. All rights reserved.
When it comes to answering the question, ‘Does our work matter to God?’ most churches say yes. But they give different answers when it comes to explaining ‘How does our work matter to God?’ For some, work is just about people earning money to support themselves and the work of the church. Others prioritise the importance of evangelism in the workplace. Neither of these approaches sees work as being a spiritual exercise and having intrinsic value. For these people work has only instrumental value, work matters only for what it means in terms of making money and opportunities for evangelism. Others expand on this to include work as a context for serving other people. For example, Christians involved in what are sometimes called ‘helping professions’ (doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and teachers) sense that their work matters to God in a way that people involved in most other professions don’t. Most churches seem to affirm the worth of more direct, person-to-person service kinds of work, and words like ‘ministry’ and ‘service’ are often applied to this work. Christians involved in other industries also look for opportunities to help people in their workplaces, but fewer churches affirm the intrinsic value of work outside the helping professions. Perhaps, the term ‘helping professions’ is part of the problem, as it suggests that the other professions—such as business, law, engineering, finance and all the rest—do not help anyone. In reality, all good work is a helping profession. A biblical understanding asserts that all work matters to God and provides an opportunity for people to participate in God’s ongoing creative work, as called for in Genesis 1:26-28.
A more complete understanding of the meaning of work can be visualised as a three legged stool. Each of the legs represents one of the three great callings we read about in the Bible; the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38) and the creation calling—or “Cultural Mandate,” as it is often called (Genesis 1:26-28). The Great Commission emphasises the importance of Christians being involved in sharing their faith and making disciples. The Great Commandment emphasises the importance of Christian service, demonstrating love in action. The Cultural Mandate emphasises that our work in itself can be an act of worship and participation in God’s work. It is actually the first of all commandments, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it,’ (Genesis 1:28), and the others complement, but do not supersede it. Hence, just as a stool requires all three legs to stand, so an integrated theology of work needs to affirm the importance of witness, service and intrinsic worth, although particular people according to their different giftings or circumstances may emphasise one more than the others. See Theological Foundations and Vocation in Historical-Theological Perspective at www.theologyofwork.org for more on a biblical theology of work.