On September 4, Americans celebrate the federal holiday known as Labor Day. So I’d like to give you a word of eternal encouragement about your labor: No matter where you work and what you do, your work matters to God.
First, we must remember that work is not a result of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Work was given to them before they sinned and rebelled against God. Work is one of God’s many good gifts to mankind. Theologians frequently refer to this as the Cultural Mandate or the Creation Mandate.
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:27-28).
All work matters to God
In this primordial truth, God is instructing men and women to be co-laborers with Him in creating culture that honors and glorifies Him. Perhaps no one has explained this truth more succinctly than Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth:
“In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’ The first phase, ‘be fruitful and multiply’ means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, government, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth,’ means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations – nothing less.”
As image-bearers of the Most-High God, Adam and Eve were called to faithfully work to expand the cause of God’s Kingdom for the flourishing of all humanity. When sin entered the world, however, work was cursed and became much more difficult to perform than it had been previously, due to God’s judgment on Adam’s treacherous rebellion. The creation that groans for redemption is working against us.
Secular and Sacred
But this does not negate the truth that all of our work in every legitimate sphere of influence matters to God. Once we have established the correct, biblical understanding that work is a good gift from God and not a curse, we must also dismantle the false notion that some work is “secular” and doesn’t matter to God, while other work is “sacred” and matters deeply to God.
All work is worship to God when you are doing it for His glory to expand His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!
Many mistakenly believe that only those in full-time vocational capacities – pastors, priests, missionaries, evangelists, and those who serve in parachurch organizations – are performing “sacred” work. The Protestant Reformers addressed this error centuries ago. Martin Luther utterly rejected the idea of “secular” work. He was certain there was no difference in God’s eyes between the milkmaid and the plowboy and the nun and the priest. Luther considered all work to be priestly work and an act of worship when it was performed for the glory of God. Luther wrote, “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
One of the many exquisite beauties of Christianity is that it speaks into the lion’s share of our lives. Followers of Christ must understand that all work done to the best of our ability for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom is a sacred act of worship and ultimately fulfills our original purpose of expanding the borders of our lives to the boundaries of God’s kingdom.
“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).
The creation ordinance of the Cultural Mandate is rooted in our identity as image-bearers of God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In a word, God worked, and that means that all men and women, who are made in His image, are blessed to be able to work, both before and after the Fall. This applies to all people in all places and at all times. Work is a gift!
“God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1).
Meaning, significance and purpose
As a pastor, I have the privilege of counseling people from all walks of life who are looking for meaning, significance, and purpose in life. Well, here it is! The most fundamental truth about our human existences is that every person has been made by God to represent God in this world. This means that every person has dignity, value and worth, no matter who they are and what they do. As God’s representatives, we are to steward all of His resources to create culture for God’s glory and the eternal good of others . . . all others. Cultures and faith traditions that distort this truth and relegate women to a less important role have missed the significance of the biblical accounts of women like Miriam, Deborah, Abigail, Esther, Mary, Lydia, Phoebe, Priscilla, and the Proverbs 31 woman, to name just a few.
How do you view your current station in life? Are you merely working for the weekend? Or for the glory of God? Do you thank God it’s Friday? Or do you thank God every day you have the privilege of doing your work to expand the cause of His kingdom in this world for the good of others? Have you fallen into the trap of seeing some work as sacred and some as secular? Whether you are serving as a butcher, baker or candlestick maker, if you are working to the best of your ability for the glory of God, your work matters to God. One of the best ways for you to love your neighbor as yourself is to strive for excellence at whatever job you do.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
From teachers to travel agents, artists to accountants, farmers to financial advisers, cooks to CEOs, homemakers to healthcare professionals, painters to police officers, farmers to fashion designers . . . each man or woman is doing what God has currently assigned to them. There is no such thing as a “secular job” in God’s kingdom. Every job — your job — is sacred work, and as you perform it for the glory of God, you are taking part in God’s work of restoration in this fallen world. Keep this biblical truth in view and you will find the meaning, significance, and purpose you are looking for — right now, right where you work, because you now know that your work matters to God. Jesus Christ died on a cross to redeem your life . . . and your work.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.