Work is Worship

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In the beginning, God worked.

Consider the significance that the first thing we learn about God is that he is the Creator. When you and I work, we take what exists and create from God’s creation. God created everything out of nothing. Out of all his creation, God chose to make mankind in His image. Work is not a result of sin entering the world. Adam’s work in the garden is part of God’s original intent and design. We were created by the Creator to work. And yet, so many of us view our work as a necessary evil at best, and a distraction from “real” ministry at worst. God created work before the Fall, but work was corrupted by the Fall. The Serpent, our deceitful enemy who poses as our liberating friend, tempted Adam and Eve when they only knew good. They didn’t know evil or pain or struggle. Adam and Eve knew they were working in their calling (God audibly spoke to them and told them what to do), and they were successful in their work. However, the allure of more drove them to exchange the truth about God for a lie. Since that day, work has never been the same. God cursed the ground, and that extends far beyond agrarian occupations. Work is a struggle today. Is there hope for any of us who are East of Eden to return to life-giving work? Or should we give up our pursuits and eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?
Work is a struggle today. Is there hope for any of us who are East of Eden to return to life-giving work? Or should we give up our pursuits and eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?
God did not abolish labor in the Fall. Yet, work is a daily struggle beyond it. The way we work amid difficulty is an act of worship. Our work is worship to God. Understanding this reality is crucial. If we view work as a necessary evil, we will approach it as a means to an end. Work is a means in itself. Through our labor, we glorify God by fulfilling the mandate he gave to us in the beginning. Through our work, God is working in us. It is less about accomplishing something for God and more about God accomplishing something in us. To miss this is to lose the battle before it begins. There are countless examples of God using people through work. God made the three major Old Testament covenants with a wandering businessman (Abraham), a reluctant civic leader (Moses), and an adulterous king (David). God used these men, and many other women and children, to weave together a narrative that points us to the ultimate help we desperately need. The cross of Christ is at the center of the history of the world, and it is the center of a theology of work. When you look at the cross, you see the agony sin has brought into the world, which the Son is taking on himself. When you look at the cross, you see Jesus accomplishing the purpose of his work on earth. When you look to the cross, you see the Savior declare his work is “finished.” You see the head of the Serpent crushed through the struggle of the Son of Man’s work when you look at the cross. But just because he has been defeated, the Serpent will not stop coming at you. He will do everything in his power to get you to view your work as marginal – your work matters to God. Our work is worship. If you view work this way, you may not enjoy your work every day, but you will find a sense of satisfaction in your labor. This comes when you realize how God is at work in you as you are at work for Him. The decision you must make is who will you choose to serve this day? If you give the work God has called you to your least amount of effort in an attempt to be efficient, you have bought into the lie that duped Adam and Eve in Eden. If you see your work as a way to worship God, you will find God creates you into the laborer he envisioned, and you get a taste of what he intended for us in the beginning.

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Michael McAfee is the president and co-founder of Inspire Experiences, a teaching pastor at Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and an ethics and public policy PhD student at The Southern Theological Seminary.  Michael is happily married to his Sunday-school sweetheart, Lauren Green McAfee. Together, they co-authored Not What You Think.  They have a daughter, Zion.  You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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