God's Design for Work

(This is the 2nd post in our 2018 "Celebrating Work" series. Each week we're highlighting a different theme about work and asking YOU to help contribute. Join in and let us know your perspective on work!)
 



Last week we kicked off our 2018 “Celebrating Work” series by looking at the history of work throughout human civilization. We learned how our view of work and the types of work we do have changed through the centuries (view our last blog post on "The History of Work" to learn more). We also heard all about your first jobs (you can see those stories by checking out the comments on this JfL Facebook post—from working in tobacco fields, to custodial work, to babysitting, you all have had some very interesting starts to your working career!).

In this second week of the “Celebrating Work” series, we’ve been focused on God’s design for work. What does Scripture teach us about work, and what did our Creator have planned for our work when He created us? Work is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible, so it’s obviously something He cares greatly about!

We recently had a roundtable discussion with JfL staff members and leaders regarding this topic (click here to view this conversation). We looked at a few key verses in Genesis, and shared what we learned about God’s view of work and how that impacts our work today. In this post we’ll take a deeper dive into that Scripture to see what else we can discover, as well as share some great articles about this topic written by a few of our ministry partners.

 

God is a worker

In the very first book of the Bible, in the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and that “God created mankind in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). So from the very beginning, we see God at work. We see Him creating, designing, and constructing. We see him fashioning heaven and earth and breathing life into human beings. We also learn that everything He created “was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

So what do we learn from this? God works. He is a creator, and the very thing He has created—mankind—was made in His image. Which means, we are also creators! We are workers, too! And it’s clear that God delights in the work of His hands. He loves everything He has created. And if it’s true that we’re created in His likeness, we in turn have this same love and affection for creation built in to our very being.

 

God has given us work

Not only did God create humans with the ability to work and create, He also gave us a specific job: to care for His creation, and to be co-creators with Him. He had a specific plan and purpose in mind when he created this earth and placed us in it. “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). We are called to be productive through our work, and to enjoy not only the work of God’s hands, but that of our own as well!

It’s also interesting to note in this creation narrative, God is working in community. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26). This is a reference to the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All were present at the beginning of time, and all had a role in this work. And again, if we are created in His likeness, we were not created to work alone! God knew this when he gave Adam a partner, in Eve, to be a co-creator and co-caretaker of His creation (Genesis 2:18).

 

What we can learn from God’s design for work

What then does this knowledge and Biblical perspective of God’s design for work teach us about our own work, and how can it impact our work today? Here are a few points we covered in our recent roundtable discussion, and that we’ve learned from looking at the Scripture above:

  • Work is a good! It is a blessing and a gift from God.
    While work can at times be hard and demanding, at its core work is good because it was given to us by God. Work was an essential part of God’s original plan for this world from the very beginning. Through our work we are able to take of ourselves, our family and our neighbors, and we can learn more about ourselves, each other, this earth, and God.

  • We were all created to work and have the desire to work.
    Work is what God intends each of us to do! It is meant for us all to work. He wants us to use our creativity, our gifts, and our abilities to care for and develop His creation for His glory. At Jobs for Life, our work often brings us close to individuals who live in poverty and who have been unemployed for a long time. We sometimes hear the statement, “Well, if only they wanted to work, things would be different.” We believe everyone was created to work, and everyone wants to work, but often times certain obstacles get in the way and prevent us from working (a topic we’ll discussing in the coming weeks).
     
  • We are called to care for our work and God’s work.
    The first job given to man was to care for God’s creation. What would our jobs look like if we treated our work as if we were caring for God’s creation? In a sense, that’s really what each of us are doing. The doctor, the janitor, the teacher, the server, the lawyer, the farmer, the musician. Each job, in its own way, is caring for people or for this earth—all part of God’s creation. When you show up to work, you’re there for the glory of God. God wants to be honored in what you do and in how you do it. And God wants us to be fulfilled in our work, not just treat it as a means to an end, not just as a way to earn a paycheck.
     
  • Work is communal and relational.
    God wants us to work with each other and for each other. Though at times we may find it difficult to work with some of our co-workers, it’s important that we work together. Working as a community can bring us closer to a knowledge of God, because this is exactly the way in which He works.
     
  • We all have value, dignity, and a specific purpose.
    Each of us were created in the image of God, which means we all share His characteristics. We all have a purpose and a specific reason for being on this earth, and a reason. Imagine if everyone treated one another with this in mind! How would that change our world?

 

Additional resources

Our friends at Institute of Faith Work & Economics (IFWE) and Theology of Work Project have several great blog posts specifically dedicated to God’s design for work, which helped to inspire some of the writing above. Here are some of our favorites:

IFWE

Theology of Work

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Now we want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on work? What have you learned about work from looking at Scripture? Let us know in the comments below.

We also want to know when you first learned about the concept of work. How old were you and who taught you? And when you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Visit this post on our Facebook page and tell us your story!

 

About The Author

Alex Ford

Alex Ford, Marketing and Communications Manager

Alex grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina, later moving to Raleigh where he earned his degree in Graphic Design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. He now works at Jobs for Life, where he is able to combine his love for design and marketing with his passion for community development and serving those in need. Alex lives in Raleigh with his beautiful wife, Caroline, and spends his free time playing basketball, hiking, and volunteering at Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Raleigh.

Comments

Andy Spickard
I have led a JFL program in our church using the men in a homeless shelter 90% of whom are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The shelter is Matthew 25 in Nashville, TN. We chose 8 men in the JFL group and were able to secure jobs for 3 of the 8 men and enroll them in the sobriety program of the shelter. We considered this JFL program a wonderful opportunity for the men of the church to work together using the curriculum and the opportunity to help the men find work and stay sober.

As I have continued to volunteer in M25 teaching the 12 Steps of AA/NA to the 35 men in the group, I have sought leading from the Holy Spirit as to what should be the central focus of the teaching. As I worked with the men on the Steps we came to the Third Step of AA that all of the men were urged to address and that is: "We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."In this Step the word Power is capitalized and I believe the reason is that the AA/NA leaders retained the focus on the Holy Spirit for their members in these Steps that are listed in the 12 Step banners that are sold in the AA literature.

Also, in my study at home I was looking for a book in my library and the special condensed edition of David Wilkerson's book The Cross and The Switchblade fell out of my library shelves. David Wilkerson went into the slums of New York to confront Satan in the young people there in gangs. His story told in this book is the way that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to engage the young people there overcome by isolation, boredom, sex,drugs and alcohol and gang warfare.

It has become clear to me that our work at M25 with these addicted men, the work of JFL to help the men and women seek jobs has to be the work of the Holy Spirit. To that end, I have selected key Scriptural passages that we will be posting on the screen as we teach the men how to work the Steps of AA, how to use the principles of JFL to get a job and most of all how to remain sober and filled with the Holy Spirit. These are all fresh ideas and I don't know how they will turn out but, David Wilkerson began the nationwide Christian program Teen Challenge with the Holy Spirit as his guide so I will follow his lead and see how it works in Matthew 25!! Andy Spickard
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Doug Hart
When we talk about God's design for work we have to get to the effects of the fall on us, the creation and our work. Before we can get to the applications you rightfully list of how we are to work as image of God to the glory of God, you have to discuss the need for a Savior to: Reconcile us to God, others and creation restore us to the image of the Son, to break our bondage to sin and self and destructive behaviors, and to give us hope as we labor as new creatures in a fallen world that has only true hope in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Don't skip the Good News!!
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Lavanda Michelle
Listening to bedtime stories as a child was my favorite part of the evening. I remember either picking a book or asking my parents to "tell me a story". I loved it when they told me stories. In those stories I was always the "star/leading lady." Those stories encourage to me express my imagination. I would tell my brother and friends stories at the age of five and soon after, my teacher encouraged me to keep writing. At six years old my dream was to grow up and become an author and share my stories with the world. I have been writing all my life and I started a blog a year ago just to live of that dream. What did you want to be when you were a child?
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