Summary: Work is a principle of creatioin and must be pursued as it has timless value.
Series Title - “THE VALUE OF WORK”
Sermon Title - “Towards a Theology of Work”
Donovan W. Myers
Rosemount Missionary Church
For the most part, when we talk about work, it is with a sense of drudgery and even despair. For after all, it seems that a man’s work is never done. Many times it is repetitive, time consuming, boring and never seems to bring in the reward we anticipate. And we often blame the fact that we have to work on the fall of man into sin. But this is not quite accurate. It is true that work is more difficult and provides less rewards as a result of the fall since God promised Adam that he would have to work harder to achieve little. For the whole of creation was affected by his sin. Yet work is a pre-fall gift and responsibility which is given to us for our benefit and fulfillment. Having completed his creation, God turned to Adam and told him to take responsibility for all animal and plant life. He was to till the ground and tend the Garden of Eden.
It is interesting that this call to work is given in solidarity with the command to observe the Sabbath. There is an immediate connection between the two. Meaningful rest may be experienced by the creation only in the context of meaningful labour. One day’s rest out of a seven day week clearly implies six days of labour. By God’s own pattern of creation - six days work and one day rest - He established the pattern for man.
Why is it that man must work? What is there about labour which gives man meaning and purpose to life? Three simple points can be made as we attempt to develop a theology or an understanding of work.
Firstly, To be a worker is to be GODLIKE. One of the essential qualities of being made in the image and likeness of God is the fact that we share his capacity for creativity. That by our own hands we can shape our direction and provide for our needs. God established the pattern which demonstrates this creativity at work when he spent six days creating. He was not slothful, slovenly or slight. He was diligent. But God did not simply work, his work had a certain constancy and purpose. So we must be careful to follow the example and work six and rest one. Though I daresay, many would prefer to rest six and work one.
Made in God’s image, man has a unique responsibility to subdue the earth and rule over every living creature. This subduing involves the bringing out of all the potential within the creation which might offer glory to the Creator. That is man’s duty. He must do work that is beneficial and makes life qualitatively better.
I submit that many of our young people need to learn the value of work - that it helps to establish their God-likeness. Many of our youth do not have a real sense of self or of true worth because they are unable to determine their own destinies or to meaningfully provide for their needs. We do much harm to our youth when we teach them to be lazy, to depend on handouts, to beg or con or manipulate or sell themselves for money. We would do well if we were to teach them how to work hard, reward them fairly and teach them contentment. This is what will teach them personhood and God-likeness.
Secondly, to be a worker is to be FULFILLED. Work is not only a duty, it is a blessing. No one can deny the sense of satisfaction that comes upon you to know that what you are enjoying is the fruit of your own toil. I remember when as a youngster of about 12 years I worked at a holiday job for the summer. All I was able to buy from my salary for the month, after bus fare and lunch money, were two shirts. But no one was prouder than I was; no other shirt that I had ever owned was as special as those that I had purchased by my own sweat.
For work to be fulfilling, it must be done from an unselfish motivation. It is not only what you are getting out of it that is important, but also what you can contribute. This perspective is borne out in the creation story when man is told to have dominion over the rest of creation. When you place that responsibility in the context of six days labour and one day rest, it shows up the fact that man’s motivation must be for the good of creation and for God’s glory. So, in order for your work to be fulfilling, it must be done for benefit not only self, but other and ultimately God.