Redeeming Work

June 8, 2008 Series: Redemption

Topic: Gospel Passage: Colossians 3:17–3:24

Redeeming Work

June 8, 2008

Sam Ford

 

We work.

We work a lot.  If you broke our lives into thirds, you'd find that for a third of your life you sleep, a third of your life you play, and for a third of your life you work.  As our culture has changed, however, it seems like the 1/3 dedicated to sleep and play become victims of our growing desire or need to work in America.   While other nations are trying to find new ways to work less, Americans are sacrificing time, family, and overall enjoyment of life to work more.  While other nations find ways to inject more vacations, we invent tools and build hotspots so that we can work on vacation.   

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, economists predicted a 10-hour work week by 2000, based on the long-term trend toward shorter working hours since the 19th century.   They were wrong.  In the space of a generation, the number of hours Americans work each week has increased 8% to an average of 47 hours.  In fact, 2 out of 3 Americans work more than 40 hours a week. 1 in 12 work 60+ hours a week.  You would think that with longer hours we would have so much more to show for it.  Sadly, even though people about 8 weeks longer per year than in 1969, they obtain about the same income (after adjusting for inflation).

 

Work as an Identity

Our lives are centered on our vocations beginning at a very young age.  Some might say our careers come to dictate who we are.  Before you enter formal education, our parents will playfully ask us, "What do you want to be when you grow up."  When you're in school, parents, teachers, and counselors will constantly ask, "What are you going to do when you get out of high school?"  And when you're finally old enough and ready to answer either of those questions, few of us find a job that fulfills their passions, and most make do with the "daily grind".   

  • Some of us pour time and money into more school so we can obtain a better job that we're told will mean will make more money, find more success, and have more toys-none of which you'll have time to play with.
  • Some of us become Dad's, have a few kids with the bride we love, only to ignore those you love so you can "provide" and work to give them the things you didn't have or that you think they need, all of which they could care less about.
  • Some us become Mom's many of whom work twice as hard as any Dad ever will, but can't help but view their "work" with disappointment or even disdain.

 

Work becomes an identity.  We go to class reunions, meet people at church, talk to parents at the soccer games, and without fail, one of the first few question asked is, "What do you do for a living?"   We touch based with long lost friends, talk to our parents once a month, or reconnect with a brother and ask, "How is work treating you?"  The success, failure, joy, despair, strength, weakness, hope, and fears are all wrapped up in what we do, how well we do it, and whether or not people see me and approve. 

 

Work as a Slave-master

We all need to be freed from the slavery of work, of what we do (versus who we are in Jesus) as slave-master and god.  Our jobs are part of creation-they are a gift from the creator.  At BEST, all that we do this moment is part of a larger story, it is a chapter in an eternity size book.  My hope is that we can view our jobs with new eyes, with open hearts, that we might not fall victim to indulging in job-worship AND, at the same time, might not become self-righteous and say that all work is just "tentmaking" so that we can go on to more important things like telling people about Jesus.  [PRAY].

 

# 1 - God as Worker

In the beginning, God revels himself as the FIRST worker and only Creator. 

Gen. 1:1-3  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said,  "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day

 

Gen 2:2-3 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.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

 

It is noteworthy that no other religion holds to a belief in a God who works. And no other religion has a God who comes to this world and works as a carpenter for probably close to 20 years before beginning his ministry.  Jesus worked and labored for most of his short life.  He worked so hard he was exhausted enough to sleep through hurricane force winds.   All of God's work is intended to reflect and declare his greatness, his beauty, and his magnificence. 

 

Ps. 19:1-3      The heavens declare the glory of God,

          and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2      Day to day pours out speech,

          and night to night reveals knowledge.

3      There is no speech, nor are there words,

          whose voice is not heard.

 

#2 -  Man as Worker

God creates the world then creates man in His likeness and Image as coworkers giving them dominion over his creation.  Work has always been a part of God's original intention for humanity and not a result of the fall. The earliest job description occurs in Genesis 1.28 where God commands Adam and Eve to, "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."

 

Furthemore, in Gen 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  Work then, was not an "addition" to deal with the consequences of sin.  Work was part of God's divine design from the beginning.  In other words, like all of God's creation, work is a gift of God that he equips people to do.  God is supreme in our work and our work can feel like a gift when it is aligned with God's design.  It is God's intention that we are blessed by and through our work.

 

God gifted man to work

God has uniquely gifted each individual with different talents, skills, and passions.  .  In the book of Exodus, God commands Moses to build a tabernacle with specific measurements, style, and materials.  Exod 35:30-36.1  30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, "See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver-by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

36 "Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded."

 

Unfortunately, it seems that the pressures of life often force us to either ignore or flat out deny those things that bring us joy because we can't find a way to find time or make money doing it. Sometimes our passions and giftedness remain completely undiscovered because we've never asked our Creator what we should do, and instead continue to allow creation dictate our every decision.

 

#3 - Work and Sin 

Regardless of what we feel or what experience has taught us, work (whatever kind it might be) is intended as a gift from God to bless us.  King Solomon, writing the book of Philosophy in the Bible wrote,  reflected on his life saying, Eccl. 3:12-13  12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God's gift to man.

 

What was intended as a blessing became a burden when man decided to rebel against God and His designs.  Pleasure became pain; joy became sorrow; and desire became duty (which happens as result of sin a lot).  And because through our hard work, we could achieve something, we denied that which God gave freely and, as Romans 1 clearly describes, "worshipped the creature rather than the creator." 

 

Relationship With Creation:  Things don't work the way they should.  Because our relationship with creation is broken, work is hard and unsatisfying---whether it be in business or in the home.  Because of Sin, God cursed creation and work which is now influenced by the principalities and powers that oppose God.   Sin introduced labor, and sweat, and pain into work and family.  The fallen-ness of work causes us to despair crying out for meaning and purpose behind what we do, as it all feels meaningless. 

 

Gen. 3:16-24  17 And to Adam he said,

     "     Because you have listened to the voice of your wife

                    and have eaten of the tree

          of which I commanded you,

               ‘     You shall not eat of it,'

          cursed is the ground because of you;

                    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18           thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

                    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19           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."

20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said,  "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever-" 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Our Relationship with Self:  I don't work the way I should. 

Like Adam, we seek to find our identity outside of who God says we are, a creation designed to glorify and worship him in all we do.  We want to be worshipped....as good businessman, strong athletes, great teachers, or successful moms and dads.  There is a pride and/or shame connected with telling people what you do to for a living.  We are so gear towards obtaining men's approval and not God's that we either want people to be impressed by what we do or not be embarrassed by what we do. 

 

Our Relationship with God:  I don't work for whom I should.

Instead of turning our creative work back to God, we worship and idolize it.  It becomes a functional savior from which people hope to find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.  Creation takes the place of the Creator, something we sacrifice our time, family, even money for.  Right and Wrong, Ethical or Unethical, Productive or Unproductive, are no longer dictated by what God would have us do, but by what is best for the job. 

 

Our Relationship with Others: People don't work the way they should.

Because our relationships with others are infected with sin, our work environments themselves are broken, full of complications, temptations, and exploitation.   You can see it in the corruption of business executives, in the sexual harassment cases, even in the environmental short cuts businesses take.

 

Gen. 39:1-23 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had...

 

Ex. 1:8-22  Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens.

 

#4 Work has been redeemed from the curse by Jesus Christ.

Work, just like our sex, our language, our food, even our souls, have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  It has been freed from the hold sin has on it, so that we don't have to work without satisfaction, we don't have to worship work to be successful, and we can survive even thrive in the sinful environments we find ourselves in.     

 

Work as a "Thing"

Work can be any job.  We've all been given some sort of work.  One person is a teacher, another person is an engineer.  One person is a homemaker, and another is a chef.  The biggest problem about work is that we THINK TOO HIGHLY OF IT.   It takes too lofty of a position. 

 

The Bible says that work is a thing.  And as a THING, as with all things, Jesus is SUPREME in it.  In other words, Jesus is LORD and KING over all work.   Not only does he have expectations, but he has provision. 

 

The Bible has a lot of things to say about things, in fact, it has a lot to say about ALL things (work).  The Bible says that God created ALL things (work) and that ALL things (work) were good (Col 1.16, Gen 1, 1Tim 4.4), that God holds ALL things (work) together every moment (Col 1.16), that ALL things (work) work for his purposes as he causes ALL things (work) (Eph 1.11), and that God has subjected ALL things (work) to Jesus, putting all things under His feet (Eph 1.22).

 

Then the Bible says that Jesus is making ALL things (work) new (Rev 21.5), that ALL things (work) should be done as if doing them for Jesus (Col. 3.17), and that ALL things (work) should bring glory to God (1Cor 10.31).  We are to not to reject ALL things (work) but thank Jesus for ALL things (work) (1Tim 4.4), we are not to grumble about ALL things (work) (Phil. 2.14) and can and should rejoice in our contentment in ALL things (work) (2Cor 9.8).  Finally, we are to strive to be excellent in ALL things (work) that we might give Jesus a good name (Titus 2.7)

 

Work as Labor for God.

Paul says that we have the MIND of Christ.  When Jesus was "working" in the world, he clearly indicated his motivation.  It wasn't to gain wealth, followers, prestige, or even comfort.  He said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work " John 4.34.  His food was to do the WILL of GOD.  As we continue to blur the line between that which is sacred, and that which is secular, we will begin to understand that Jesus owns everything, and he wants everything, even our jobs.  Instead of asking ourselves how can our job get me THIS or THAT, how can I get a better job so that I can get THIS or THAT, or how can I start working a job I REALLY LOVE, it's best we ask Him what work he wishes for us to accomplish.

 

In that effort, the first thing we need to do is free ourselves from the lies of the world that we exchanged for the truth of God. 

 

#5 Redeeming Work - Freedom from Lies

 

  • 1. My work is only important if I can do God's work there. : Many Christians feel that the primary value of their job in God's eyes is how effectively they transform it in to a mission field. Specifically, how many people to do tell Jesus about OR how well do they use the money they make to fund the gospel. While there is some truth in these, neither one of these views is 100% correct. We must come to believe that work, in and of itself, has value, irrespective of what it entails.Col. 3:17; 22-23 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him...Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men

 

•2.      I'd work hard, it's just not my passion:  This is the Christian version of "holding out for a management position."  In other words, they don't work hard at what they do because it's not their passion.  Instead, they complain, grumble, and use every minute of their time when at work to do that which they are not being paid to do-work on their other passion.  First and foremost, you need to work hard.  2 Thess. 3.10, If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.   

 

•3.      My work isn't "gospel work", it's "secular work".    All work is gospel work.  Think of the work that Jesus did.  Are you dependent upon God for grace in every moment!  Are you thankful to God for every blessing?  Are you faithful to God in every hardship?  Do you go to the cross daily despite the unfairness and pain, knowing you are going to suffer, because it's the RIGHT thing to do?  You preach the gospel by how you live your life, and how you work your work, either representing TRUTH about God or FALSEHOOD.  Silence is impossible.  God does not prefer pastors to plumbers or evangelists to entrepreneurs.  We are all priests who work in different parts of the world ALL busy for God in those places. 1Cor 7.20-24. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.   

 

•4.      I work all the time so that I can play later. God gave us rest from work for a reason.  It is not godly to ignore taking a rest from work...God himself did. Exod 31:14-15 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.  Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 

 

Redeeming Work - Freedom to Truth

Despite all of the lies, the Bible says that ALL of the work we do is in fact for our boss, Jesus. 

 

OUR WORK IS A CALLING: It seems that only teachers and preachers are ever viewed as occupations of "calling."  By calling, I mean that you have been place in a particular place for a particular reason.  You are in the business you are in because God wants you there.  You are parenting the kids you are parenting because God wants you to.  You are working where you are working because God has said let it be so in this moment.  Our God is so big, so immense, to all-knowing and all powerful, that he can place you, equip you, strengthen you, in and through ALL of the sin at your work.  You are not there because God is preparing you for something greater, you are there to be great NOW as you serve him NOW.  Colossians 3.23-24 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

OUR WORK IS STEWARSHIP:  You are nothing more than a manager with a job.  Adam was given the command to work and exercise dominion over the creation.  All of creation is intended to declare the glory of God, then your work plays a role in not making you look great, but making God look great.  The question is, when you stand before your God, how will you feel about how you managed what has given you charge over? 

 

  • Job or tasks he has given you to work?
  • People you work with?
  • People he has brought across your life?
  • Community he has put you in to harvest? - Jesus says I need workers?
  • Church he has led you to?

 

  • Money you get from your work?
  • Gifts and Talents he gave you to work?
  • Children he gave you the hard task of raising?  
  • Husband he gave you the hard task of respecting?
  • Bride he gave you the hard work to protect and love?

 

Yes, your salvation is secure.  But consider this verse....

Hebrews 13.17 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

 

2Cor 3.5   5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,

 

OUR WORK IS ONGOING:  Work is intended to be satisfying but you wouldn't know that because we are so eager for it to end.  We can't wait to retire.  We can't wait for the kids to get out of the house.  We can't wait to cut back our hours.  Matthew 6.25, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain," Our work never ends, but our callings can change.  If our meaning, purpose, hope, security, and joy are wrapped up in a job, as opposed to God's work, we'll die in every way once we lose our job OR die slowly once we retire.  We are made to work, made to labor, not so that we can eat, or that our kids be successful, or that we can get that flat-screen, or wii guitar hero game I really want....we are made to work the work of the LORD in whatever WORK we find ourselves.    

 

Conclusion

OUR  WORK IS MISSIONAL:  God came to save sinners.  The reality is that God has placed you in a particular place in life, in the world, in history to serve the mission he has been on to save mankind.  We have a lot of work to do, and your work is simply a chapter in the larger story that has already been written.  But, it's just a chapter, and you're just a character.  The story is about Jesus and the Hero is Jesus and the Climax is Jesus, and the greatest work we can do is declare God's story through WHAT we work, HOW we work, and ultimately, WHY we're able to work at all.  John 6.28-29  28 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 

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