Our Work and Our Worship

Our Work and Our Worship: Labor Day Reflections for Committed Disciples

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Talk of Floyd Martin, a Georgia mailman, filled the air as some 300 people gathered for the surprise block party planned to mark his retirement!

Floyd was retiring after 35 years with the Postal Service, and the people celebrating him lived along the downtown Marietta route Floyd worked for the last 20 of those years.

To these folks, Floyd was much more than a mailman. Each day he delivered positive energy and encouragement, even feeding the birds and animals as he did his work.

So they decorated their mailboxes, raised money for Floyd’s getaway trip to Hawaii, and came together just to love on this fine man who’d become such a huge part of their lives!

United States postal carrier

United States postal carrier

Do you find meaning and fulfillment in your work?

Floyd Martin represents an older generation of Americans known for their strong work ethic. We call them builders, in relation to boomers and busters. But that kind is quickly being replaced by a leisure-oriented generation which struggles to find meaning and fulfillment in their work.

In fact, it gets even worse, as a survey conducted during the early ‘90s uncovered. These findings were shared by James Patterson and Peter Kim in their book titled, The Day America Told the Truth: What People Really Believe about Everything that Really Matters.

Among the results of this survey about the morals and values of contemporary Americans, is this shocking revelation: Most Americans not only hate their work, they actually live with deep seated guilt over the fact that they know they don’t put in near the amount of effort for the pay they get.

Work and Worship – the value of work

But that doesn’t come as a surprise since various popular signs and slogans had long hinted at this less than positive attitude toward work.

For instance, “I’d Rather be Fishing,” “I Owe, I Owe, So off To Work I Go,” and “He Who Does With the Most Toys Wins,” send the message that everything one does must be fun, that the only reason people go to work is because they have bills to pay, and that the measure of one’s success in life is in the amount of stuff they accumulate.

The question is: What about people of faith?? How should our biblical worldview shape our understanding of the value and dignity of work?

work group meeting

work group meeting

How should Christians think about work?

That was among the antecedent causes of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. The primary cause was the issue of justification by faith, but lurking just beneath the surface were numerous matters of importance to the church of that day, one of them being the way in which Christians should think about work.

A biblical theology of work begins with the Imago Dei. We were created in the image of a God who took much delight in his own work of creation (Genesis 1:31). Not only so, but He gave Adam work to do—“tend and keep” the garden (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15).

A biblical theology of work begins with the Imago Dei. - Whaid Rose Click To Tweet

This debunks the notion that work is solely the result of the fall. Even as God’s image in us, though marred by sin, still remains, so our work, though seriously affected by sin’s curse, still has meaning and value.

It is therefore noteworthy that the first persons mentioned in the Bible in relation to Holy Spirit fullness is spoken of in terms of their skilled craftsmanship (Exodus 31).

carpenter

carpenter

Work and Worship – the dignity and virtue of work

Beyond Exodus, the Old Testament extols the dignity and virtue of work (see Proverbs 22:29 and Ecclesiastes 5:18), and not only are the occupations of key New Testament players highlighted—Jesus being a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and Paul a tentmaker (Acts 18:3)—its pages are replete with admonitions about the high calling of our daily work (see Ephesians 6:5-9).

This is the basis of Martin Luther’s assertion that our work matters to God and God matters to our work. Our work matters to God because we were created by God for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11), and God matters to our work because what we believe about Him informs the way we do our work.

Our work matters to God and God matters to our work. - Whaid Rose Click To Tweet

And as Luther noted, when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” God’s answer to that prayer involves the farmer, the baker, and the truck driver, among others. That’s why all work is important and should be done well, no matter how menial the task.

baker

baker

Christians represent the values of the kingdom in everything we do

This takes on added significance for Christians because we represent the values of the kingdom in everything we do, including our work. Beyond providing for life’s basic necessities, the purpose of work is to make manifest the glory of God in the ordinariness of our everyday lives: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

In so doing, our work becomes our worship. The work of our hands is elevated from a necessary evil we engage in because the bills must be paid to a labor of love done, not so much before our boss, but “as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7).

And He delights in blessing that kind of work. Perhaps this is the motivation for the Psalmist’s prayer, “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).

And what better time to reflect on this truth than during September, the month that includes a holiday celebrating the dignity and value of work.

It’s been said that our work is a portrait of ourselves, so we should autograph each day by working with joy, self-respect, and integrity. That was Floyd Martin’s daily habit. May it be ours too.


Whaid Rose
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Whaid Rose, former president of the General Conference, is dean of the Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership and pastors the Newton, NC CoG7. He and his wife, Marjolene, live in Denver, NC.