When it comes to the battle of work and rest, many of us choose work over friend and family. We begin a passionate love affair with our vocation. Work becomes like a mistress. She is seductive, she provides all kinds of confirmation, recognition, and financial gains, and she becomes an all-consuming relationship.
We leave home every day to work with our God-given talents to survive. The Curses from the account of the Garden of Eden make it clear that the work we do will break or backsâ€”but it will also break our hearts.
Labor has always been a way God teaches us about ourselves and about himself. This side of Eden, any effort will wear us out and leave us empty and hopeless. Apart from God doing it for us, we will be tired.
One letter in the bible, says it this way, â€œfaith without works is dead.â€ Saying this another way, â€œOur doings donâ€™t define us, they reveal what is true about us.â€ Weâ€™re made by God to be, and being always compels us toward doing. Our actions expose our heartsâ€™ substance.
Right from the beginning of Scripture (Genesis 1, 2, and 3), we see the centrality of labor to our understanding of ourselves, others, and God. The Bible makes it clear that God is at work too. The second creation story in Genesis 2 puts it this way;
God made the Earth and the heavens, and he made a man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him. God then planted the Garden of Eden and put the guy there. God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground. The story continues, then God formed out of the ground all the animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them.
Look at what is going on here. God made, he breathed, he made, he planted, he put, he made again, he formed, he brought, and he saw. Wow! Godâ€™s one really busy dude.
In the book of Ephesians, the first chapter talks about Godâ€™s secret plan that has been in effect before the dawn of time. And He is not done. Hebrews points out that â€œGod has planned something better for usâ€ yet. This picture of God is a far cry from clockwork, hands off God. The God of the Bible is not a deist; he is personally, actively at work in and through His creation.
Being Godâ€™s image bearers, we will come to know God and resemble God only through our work. Christians are called â€œGodâ€™s fellow workers.â€ We are to labor with him, in service to him as he is in service to us.
But not labor for laborâ€™s sake, rather labor as an expression of worship. Jesus said it this way, â€œIf you follow me you will have a cush job.â€ Well actually he said, â€œmy yoke is easy and my burden is light,â€ but you get the idea. Jesus says if we follow him our labor with him will become a place of rest for our souls. Through Christ the futility of the Gardenâ€™s curse is redeemed in our daily lifeâ€”in how we work . . . eh um . . . worship.
This is a really important concept for us to get: work as worship. As Christians, we need to get our heads and hearts around the idea that worship is expressed in everything we do, not merely in the songs we sing on Sunday morning. The idea that worship takes place mostly on Sunday mornings is, well . . . anti-Christian. The term â€œworship leaderâ€ could be used for any Christ follower who has influence on others: from a parent to a CEO to a bus driver to a reporter. Anyone who interacts with anybody in truth is engaged in the leading worship.
You see, itâ€™s not a question of if we are worshiping something, rather, itâ€™s a question of what are we worshiping?
Does our work reflect Godâ€™s creativity, mercy, justice, service, sacrifice, and love?
Or does is our labor about personal gain, acclaim, recognition, or security?
Godâ€™s not looking for our payback. He gives to us freely. Godâ€™s not a Capitalist. Heâ€™s far from it. God does not function on the principles of supply and demand or quid pro quo. God does not do for us once we have done for him. Through Jesus, God has already done for us more than we could ever repay. In fact if you think about it, God paid a really inflated price for what he bought back. He traded in the perfect (Jesus) for the imperfect (the rest of us). Our work/worship is not about repaying a dept, but a reply to what God has done.
Itâ€™s like God is saying, â€œForget the sacrifices and all the hard work. You canâ€™t pay me back. You canâ€™t stay even with me. Whatever you give me, I will give you more. I will give you everything you need and then some. You just have to let me love you.â€
The God of Jesus is like the host of the best Thanksgiving Day dinner you could ever imagine, prepared by the best cooks that ever livedâ€”accept you donâ€™t have to do any of the cooking (or cleaning up afterworld). You just have to show up at the party and accept the gift.
In his mercy,
For a great picture of Godâ€™s love check out these two movies, â€œBabetteâ€™s Feastâ€ and â€œAntwone Fisherâ€ (particularly the banquet scenes).