Summary: God lays the foundation for all of life and godliness in Genesis.
In honor of the “Green Eggs and Ham” which Rebekah made last week, I found the story, Dr. Seuss Goes to Work:
I love my Job, I love the Pay! I love it more and more each day.
I love my Boss; she’s the best! I love her boss and all the rest.
I love my Office and its location -I hate to go, on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray, and the paper piles each day!
I love to work among my Peers - I love their leers, I love their sneers.
I love my Computer and Software; I hug it often but it doesn’t care…
I love my Job - I’ll say it again - I even love these friendly Men -
These men who’ve come to visit today,
In lovely white coats to take me away!!
Work can sit a little uneasy with us; we might call it a burden rather than a blessing, even a “necessary evil.” Some folks work to forget life’s problems (at least for a time); but others might like to escape the problems of work. Our jobs can provide such rewards that they feed an idolatry of acceptance by performance; at other times we simply slog through the grind to get to the weekend.
I find it hard to appreciate the lofty ideal of Martin Luther: “When a maid cooks and cleans and does housework, because God’s command is there, even such a small work must be praised as a service to God far surpassing the holiness and asceticism of all monks and nuns…. Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it he wants to bestow his blessing on you.”
Likewise, the honor which John Milton credited to labor may feel far from our experience:
Man has his daily work of body or mind
appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the regard of Heav’n on all his ways (Paradise Lost, 4.618 ff.)
Milton and Luther both found their ideas in the Bible, beginning in Genesis. Two texts for us this morning: in Genesis 1, Adam’s and Eve’s first job; then Colossians 3: applying the goodness and dignity of labor in the midst of a fallen world.
I am enrolled in the culinary program at Cincinnati State, both as a hobby and to prepare for a part-time job I may need to continue pastoring the church. It has been a very interesting experience on many levels, but something happened the last two weeks related to our topic this morning. Because this is a professional chef program, we cook large quantities of fairly complex, “gourmet” recipes and we dirty lots of cookware. The last 30 – 45 minutes of class are for washing pots and pans, cleaning stoves, cook stations, and other areas of the kitchen, and sweeping and cleaning the floors. Two weeks ago 9 students, 4 of us over 40 years old, cleaned for 45 minutes while the four youngest students, all under 25, sat in the gallery and talked about Michael Jackson. This past week they talked about something different, but did not work.
What fascinated me was the stark contrast between the grey hairs washing dishes and the young adults relaxing and resting. I do not think this was related to Max Weber’s theory of The Protestant [Work] Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, because it was not all Calvinists working! It did appear, however, to relate to a generational divide on work. The “twenty-somethings” seemed to enjoy avoiding the very thing which those of us over 40 could not imagine sloughing off.
It reminded me of a time when our kids were really young and we noticed that they neither understood nor valued a Sabbath rest, in part because their week was filled with play. Sunday offered nothing to rest from; they had not yet labored for six days! Next week, Lord willing, we will explore the beginning of rest; but before we can appreciate that, we must understand work.
1. Work Is Honored By God’s Working
The summary verse for creation is Genesis 2.2: “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.” Clearly, days 1-6 are full of work; so what work did God do?
Genesis 1.1: God created (produced out of nothing).
Genesis 1.3: God said (spoke into existence).
Genesis 1.4: God saw that it was good (examined and evaluated creation).
Genesis 1.5: God called (naming, an act of personal dominion and responsibility).
Genesis 1.6: God separated (placed boundaries between different parts of creation).
Genesis 1.9: God gathered together (he organized and managed different parts of his creation).
Genesis 1.11: God caused the earth to produce vegetation (he energized the land to be lush and fruitful).