Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gospel Centered Labor

Sometimes Christians are tempted to think of occupational labor as something that is, in itself, somewhat un-spiritual. We might think of it as a necessary means to providing for family and material needs, and for carving out lives for ourselves in this world. Because of the nitty gritty, practical and "this worldly" nature of work, we can sometimes forget labor itself is Christian, spiritual, and most pleasing to God. The biblical picture is that God created Adam and Eve to work the garden (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:15) and in so doing to live out the image and likeness of God Himself (Genesis 1:26-27). Occupational labor, vocation, and labor are the function of our "imageness." Work is the task for which we were created, to work in God's creation, organizing it and ordering it for God's glory, and doing so as God Himself would do it, with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, for the purpose of glorifying God. Work is not the result of the fall. Rather, the fall brought about the pains and difficulties that now accompany labor. And if the fall and sin are the chief reason for work's difficulty, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only means by which work can be redeemed, even on this side of heaven. But, how does the gospel redeem our work, motivate us to work hard in spite of its difficulty, and enable us to delight in the labor itself?

First, think of Jesus Christ, who worked as a carpenter and endured all the difficulties of carpentry, including the difficulties of making a product for other sinful people and the intellectual problems that attend fashioning something from wood as well as the physical exhuastion that comes from woodwork. So, Christ sympathizes with the emotional, mental, and physical difficulties of your work. He knows the pain of your labors in every dimension and suffered under the very same curse you are suffering under. He genuinely understands your hardship and is a high priest who sympathizes with your weaknesses, and therefore is a fitting priest for you.

Second, when you feel the pain of work, it’s an opportunity to think of the cross and of the pains Christ felt. It is an opportunity to think on the sufferings of hell, which is God's judgment for sin, and to remember Christ's sufferings on the cross, which He endured for everyone who trusts in Him. Your endurance in the pains of work is a present display of the gospel of the cross. As you persevere in work, though it pains you, you are a living example of the cross of Jesus Christ, and serve as an embodiment of the gospel to yourself and to all around you.

Third, Christ has not left you with no help in your work. He is a tender hearted Savior and is deeply interested in the occupational labors of His disciples. Remember how the disciples, who were fishermen, had failed to catch fish after a long night of fishing? Christ came and caused their nets to be filled with so many fish that they could hardly bring them all in, which demonstrated that Christ is the sovereign Messiah, who has authority over all things, even the fish. If Christ helped His disciples in their work then, why do you act as though there is no help for you now? He gives help to His "disciples." If you immerse yourself in His Word and pray to Him daily, remaining close to Him in communion and devotion and discipleship, then your spirit will be sweetly prepared to do the work before you. He will enable you to cheerfully pursue your calling and will certainly help you accomplish all He desires for you to accomplish by His sovereign authority.

Fourth, Christ died for the sins of imperfect workers, for both laziness and workaholism. Even though your sins pertaining to work might have caused you to lose your job, or to lose a promotion, or your relationships, or peace, or joy, your sins cannot cause you to lose Christ if you trust in Him because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So, rest satisfied, content, and happy in His acceptance and do not be deceived into thinking that any particular kind of work or idleness can bring you the firm and lasting happiness that is in Christ alone and through communion of life with Him.

Fifth, Christ is the great worker. His work is to perform the messianic offices of prophet, priest, and king. Those activities are His official vocation. They are His occupational labor. The greatest truth in the Bible is that Jesus Christ works for (on behalf of; instead of) sinners. In His prophetic ministry, He reveals the gospel to us by His Word and Spirit. In His priestly ministry, He was the perfect worker in His earthly life and bloody death for poor sinners, and even now He always lives to pray for us on the basis of His atonement, asking the Father that our sins and their curses will not defeat us who believe. The good news is that every one of His prayers is always answered.

So, labor, thinking of Christ's labors, and of the gospel of His grace. Work diligently knowing that in so doing, you are manifesting the image of God and the message of redemption to yourself, to others, and to God Himself for His glory.

1 comment:

  1. Brother, thank you for this rich post. You are such a blessing to me!