Friday, 20 January 2012
By T.G. Blankenship at The Gethsemane Blog
Some Christians may think of their seemingly mundane jobs as nothing but trudging through swamps between times of church liturgy. Liturgy means "the work of the people." Knowing this, it can be too easy to think that work is worship but only when that work is what we typically call worship (congregation activities such as Bible study and Sunday morning services). This is not true! Our actual jobs and various forms of work ought to be considered worship as well.
Work has always been a part of life for humanity. Even before the Fall there was work to be done. Genesis 2:15 sates, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Since the beginning, man has worked and it has been the will of God for him to do so. Plus he got to name all those animals (possibly the coolest job ever). For this reason we know that work is in itself good since God gave it to man. Work is a gift of love from God to humanity. God knew man should work and he provided opportunity (before he even made man). A critical part of existing is working! That doesn't mean we devalue or condemn the unemployed but that we begin to look at work in a new way that helps us desire to lead those who aren't working into a type of work so that they may live in worship more fully. Don't be fooled into thinking all work is accompanied by a paycheck either!
Not only did work exist before man fell and had to toil with the ground but it will exist for eternity. When Christ returns and judges all creation he will usher in a new heavens and a new earth. A new earth doesn't merely mean a revamped physical planet but a redeemed world. We will continue to live as we do now. Scripture portrays this coming time as the most glorious of Jerusalem city life. We will use the earth as it was originally meant to be used when all is redeemed. At this time God will be our All in All and we will not cease to worship as we live forever. This means that as we play, love, eat, and work for eternity we shall also be worshipping. So if work will be worship and work was originally worship then we can conclude that work is meant to be worship right now. But what does that even mean and what does worshipful work look like?
While some may think the answer is to simply sing songs of praise, recite creeds, or pray during work (which are all extremely wonderful and productive activities) I suggest there is way to actually see work itself as worship by it's nature. We don't have to evangelize or preach the gospel with our words to make work worship. Work is already worship because working is living into the will of God. It's truly that simple. However, as I will discuss at the end of this article, abuse of work can prove that we worship not God but someone or something other than God. Brother Lawrence once said, "Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God." This is a good approach to work.
I believe we can see work as worship at various times. We see work as worship...
1. When we take delight in working because we know we are fulfilling a purpose God has for humanity we worship in our work. As stated previously, we were meant to work and to delight in such activity shows a trueness of worship. Working out to fulfill us because it meets a need within us and when that need is met we ought to be delighted. Work is worship when we delight but it remains worship when we work in despair. Work is often hard and painful. Work is often dreaded but when we continue in it we worship for we continue to live our God's will. When we delight though we are better able to see work as worship for we are better in tune to the fact that our effort is meeting a need of our own and a desire of God.
2. When we obey our superiors as though they were God. Though they are different situations, I have always approached work with the instructions for slaves in the New Testament planted within my mind. "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free" (Ephesians 6:5-8). See also Colossians 3:22-25 and 1 Peter 2:18-19. When we work we work under human authority just as Adam worked under God's authority. When we obey superiors we honor and worship God for it is his will that we honor authorities. The direct correlation makes it easy for us to see that work is worship.
3a. When we reveal Christ through being servants to fellow workers. Thérèse (who is often called "The Little Flower") once proclaimed with great joy "My vocation is love!" I had a professor who once told me that no matter what my vocational tasks were my truest work was love and reconciliation. Whether I make pizza, sell shoes, pastor, enter data into computers, write books, babysit, heal animals, file papers, or sling coffee my job is to love people. Just as Christ served others so should we love others in humble service, considering them better than ourselves. When we seek to do all in things in love for God and neighbor we prove our work to be good worship. Work is meant to be service. When Adam was alone with God he worked as love for God alone but when Eve showed up he worked for love of God and Eve. As humanity grew work became love of God and community. Work is meant to contribute to life. Wherever we are and whatever work we may participate in we are to love and serve. This is work as worship. This servanthood is what cultivates life. This servanthood reveals Christ because it is us being Jesus in this world. When Christ is revealed in our work we can more easily see work as worship.
3b. When we reveal Creator God through working well and resting from work. When we work we imitate God who worked for 6 days creating the cosmos and all that is within it. Through working we prove ourselves to be in obedience to God, under his glorious shadow, for in working we do what he has done. It is in us to work. We can't help but give ourselves to something, to others. In this we reveal the character of God. How we do it reveals our own character which can resemble God or Satan but simply doing good work reveals God. Working well means working hard and with integrity (when we scrubs toilets we do it on our knees and not our butts). When God created the earth he was able to call all he had done "good" and as we do the work that can be called "good" we reveal our Creator. When we rest from good work we also reveal God and his wisdom which knows rest is a part of work. When we honor the Sabbath and take rest we reveal God by imitating him, especially when we do so in societies than are obsessed with overworking. Work is seen as worship because it is direct imitation of God and the beginning of humanity's story.
Work is worship. While it's good to ask how we live into that worship or where it is we see that worship most clearly it's also good to ask ourselves who we worship in our work. The way we worship and the work that we do reveals who or what we worship with that work. Are we destroying life, damning neighbors, devaluing ourselves, or defaming God in what we do at our jobs and in our various hobbies? Is our energy put into cultivation or famine? Are we taking care of the world around us or not? If not then we aren't worshiping God. Therefore, let us work hard and well, respecting those we work with, delighting in our tasks, remembering the servant Christ as we obey those in authority above as well as those working below us. Let us reveal the goodness of God through our efforts and take care of the world just as our ancestor Adam was commanded before he chose to rebel against our Creator who worked before we did so that we may one day imitate him as sub-creators and sub-cultivators. May we see work as worship and worship well.