First Corinthians has much to contribute to a biblical understanding of work. Above all, it establishes a healthy sense of calling to every legitimate kind of work. In his opening words, Paul stresses that God has called both him and the Corinthian believers to follow Christ. God provides every believer with spiritual resources and concrete giftings for the service of others. Our effectiveness does not depend on our own merits, but on God’s power. Depending on his power, we can and must seek to do good work. God leads us to a common vision and purpose in our work, which requires a diverse array of people working in a wide variety of jobs. Leaders are needed to bring this diversity and variety into effective focus.
Leaders in God’s kingdom are servants of those they lead, responsible for accomplishing their groups’ tasks while at the same time meeting their needs. Whatever our position, it is more important to work each day according to God’s purposes than to spend all our time and energy looking for the perfect job. Because we know Christ will return to fulfill God’s restoration of the world to his original intent, we have the confidence to work diligently toward Christ’s coming kingdom. When we work according to our abilities, God rewards our work with a fair share of the fruits of our labor. Christians are called to standards of fair wages and fair work.
Our ultimate goal is God’s kingdom and his glory. This gives us freedom to use the resources of the world, but we must steward them for the benefit of all people, including future generations. In fact, we should not even think in terms of balancing the needs of one individual versus another, but in terms of building up communities of mutual support and service. Love is the mainspring of God’s kingdom, and when we work out of love for the people for whom Christ worked and died, our work is not in vain. It has eternal significance and survives along with us into the new world of God’s kingdom fulfilled. In the meantime, we take extra care to use the resources at our disposal to care for those in need.
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