“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
In 1942 Dorothy Sayers gave a presentation in Eastbourne, England, entitled “Why Work?” During that presentation she said:
“In nothing has the church so lost her hold on reality as in her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation.She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion. But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”
For many years now I have been very concerned about the Christian community’s habit of separating spiritual life from work life. Actually, that statement is not a strong enough. The truth is that the Christian community virtually ignores life at work.
The Christian community is in desperate need of a Theology of Work. Consider the following truths:
- God created the physical world, and he created the laws and mechanisms (such as physics, biology, chemistry, geology, botany, etc.) that govern and direct the physical world.
- God created man and placed him in the physical world for the purpose of overseeing and managing the world the Lord had created. This was God’s purpose for man, and we could call it The Prime Directive.
- God created man in his image, which provided man with the unique attributes to fulfill The Prime Directive. The plan was for man to be a steward of planet earth on behalf of God the Creator. Man was to be God’s earthly representative. Again, The Prime Directive was “have dominion” over the earth. In other words, manage it.
- Fulfilling The Prime Directive required that man understand the laws and mechanisms of the physical world. In order to manage and oversee planet earth, man must know and understand how things function in the field, the forest, the factory, the family, and the fellowship. Man must know and understand the physics, the biology, the chemistry, the botany, etc. of the world that God had created and commissioned him to oversee. To put it simply and directly, man must be knowledgeable and skilled in response to the everyday stuff of life.
- Unfortunately, man rebelled against God’s authority. As Genesis 3 tells the story, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, and as a result, the image of God in man was distorted and man’s relationship with God was broken. Man continued to have dominion over the earth, but now he did so with a distorted character and disconnected from God the Creator. This resulted in man misusing the physical laws of the world in pursuit of selfish, harmful goals. Man became a very poor steward of planet earth.
- The physical world was also damaged by the fall. Disintegration and death (entropy) entered the world, and planet earth no longer functioned smoothly. Here’s how Genesis describes the consequences of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God: “… cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3.17-19)
Man’s relationship with God was broken. Man’s character was broken. The earth was broken. Man was no longer able to fulfill The Prime Directive.
- The good news, of course, is that Jesus redeems, reconciles, and restores. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are redeemed from sin, reconciled to God, and restored to our position as earthly agents of God the creator. Through Christ we recover what was lost at the fall, and we are once again able to fulfill The Prime Directive.
Please understand what this means. In Christ, the image of God has been restored in you, and you are once again God’s steward on planet earth, and The Prime Directive is for you to “have dominion” within your sphere of influence.
Fulfilling The Prime Directive requires that you understand the laws and mechanisms of the part of the physical world to which God has called you. You must know and understand how things function in whatever domain you have been commissioned to oversee: the field, the forest, the factory, the family, or the fellowship. You must know and understand “the physics” of your job.
To put it simply and directly, to be an effective steward of the kingdom of God in your time and place in history, you must respond to God’s call to be knowledgeable and skilled at your work.
Life in Christ is A Call to Excellence.