Cross Words: A theology of work

By Isaiah Pauley - Cross Words

Work is not the result of sin in the world.

The Bible says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Gen. 2:1-2 ESV).

We serve a God who works. Think about it for a second. Every giant tree. Every beautiful sunset. Every cool breeze on a warm day. It’s all a result of God’s handiwork.

My wife and I are expecting our first child this October. A few weeks ago, I saw him for the first time through an ultrasound. And my mind was blown. Because I saw God’s hand at work in a way I had never experienced before.

The psalmist writes, “For you [God] formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:13-14 ESV).

Not only do we serve a God who works, we serve a God who calls us to work.

Shortly after God creates Adam and Eve, the Bible says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28 ESV).

Then, in chapter 2, the Bible says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (v. 15 ESV).

This is often referred to as the “cultural mandate.” And it’s referenced again in Genesis 9 when God makes a covenant with Noah. A proper view of biblical theology shows us that all humans—not just Adam and Eve—are called to exercise dominion over the earth. In other words, we’re called to work and care for what God has entrusted to us.

And all of this occurs before the fall of humanity in Genesis 3. Before sin ever enters the world, humans are called to work.

As Owen Strachan writes, “The human race is like its maker a working race. Before the fall, Adam is placed in the garden by God to work in it. He must steward it, take dominion of it, and rule it… . Mankind does not have to work in the Edenic scheme; mankind gets to work. We do what our Creator does.”

With that being said, the implications of the fall shouldn’t be ignored. Because of sin, our work is often hard. Our work is often painful. A woman gives birth in pain. A man sweats in labor (see Gen. 3:16-19).

And because of this, work is—for most people—unenjoyable. But we must remember that work is not the result of sin. Rather, it’s made more difficult and complicated because of our sin.

Even still, our call to work remains. As the apostle Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24 ESV).

So, with this theology of work in place, what are the implications? What does all of this mean for us today?

We must view work differently.

Work isn’t a curse to be avoided; rather, it’s a call to be embraced. It’s easy for us to try and escape work. But God calls us to be faithful where we are.

A proper view of work should drive us to work hard. Not to make more money. Not to become more powerful. Not to expedite retirement. But to glorify God.

Things change when we begin to view our work differently. When Monday mornings become opportunities to worship. And we fulfill our mission (Mt. 28:19-20) in the highways and byways of life.

By Isaiah Pauley

Cross Words

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.