Why Work? (Part 2)

You can read part 1 of this article here.

Above each of these partial reasons for work, I would like to propose an alternative motivation that should qualify, define, limit, and rule them all. This reason is simple but not narrow. It is focused on a single object, and yet it can inspire the diverse work of a pastor and a social worker, a poet and a judge, a stock broker and a mother, a policeman and an activist. This reason is as old as time, but it can be reimagined and reappropriated every morning. This reason honors the eternal importance of work but refuses to romanticize it. This reason has no Scriptural qualification or experiential limit. There is no way to “overdo it.”

This reason for work cannot become a god to us, because it is God. The ultimate reason for human work is, quite simply, God.

Human beings were created to worship and glorify God in everything they do, including their work. The whole of Scripture is shot through with this overwhelmingly clear and simple message.

For many today, the idea of “glorifying God” conjures up spiritual and celestial images of choirs, endless singing, and harp playing. The idea of glorifying God through the earthy banality of excel spreadsheets, grade reports, open houses, and power lunches is difficult for many Christian professionals to imagine. Because of our dogmatic divisions between sacred and secular, spiritual and mundane, we seem to lack the theological imagination to conceive of a way in which God can be glorified through our daily work.

The ancient Israelites were not so hampered by these myopic divisions worship and work. Take, for example, their word avodah. Israelites used the word to describe their actions of both work and worship in the temple and the marketplace. Israelites understood that their whole lives were lived for and before the glory of Yahweh. Yahweh desired their avodah in the temple and the fields, in the marketplace and the tabernacle, on Monday and Sabbath. They had no difficulty imagining that Yahweh cared about their acts of prayer, meditation, and song as well as their acts of farming, craftsmanship, and weaving.

To imagine that human beings are called to glorify God only through prayer and song is to reduce the human person to a heart and tongue. Such a narrow understanding of the human person cannot be found in the Bible.

In fact, among the first commands God gives to humanity in Genesis is the call to explore, name, cultivate, steward, and fill the creation. Such an earthy command requires biologists, chemists, zoologists, farmers, craftsman, artists, environmentalists, engineers, and parents. (In reading these early chapters, it becomes easy to imagine how God can be glorified with a plow or a paintbrush; it does, however, take more work to understand how God is glorified by a monk!)

From beginning to end, Scripture calls humanity to their ultimate purpose to love, serve, worship, and glorify God with their whole bodies and the whole range of gifts and callings. We read stories in the Bible about how God is glorified by a faithful servant, a just judge, a gifted interior designer, a fair tax collector, an industrious engineer, a responsible manager, a passionate poet, a caring mother, and a compassionate King.

Their working lives sang the glory of their God.

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  1. Pingback : Why Should We Work? | Acton PowerBlog

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