Work In This World, Work For The World To Come
We work in this world but we work for the world to come. Work has meaning but it is not the meaning of life.
Work In This World, Work For The World To ComeGenesis 2:4-17
May 17, 2020
The pandemic has caused a worldwide financial crisis. No country is exempt. We are thankful for the government stimulus package and job keeper allowance, but we know unemployment is growing and many have lost their jobs. Then there are those who have never worked harder, especially our heroes in the essential services.
Working from home has come as a blessing for many families. MBMers have told me they love having lunch with their kids and having no travel time. For other’s the novelty is over and they feel they are in a pressure cooker ready to explode. Trying to run a zoom meeting for work with a 2 year old banging on the door needing their nappy changed.
With each person on their own device for study or work, there is pressure at home for space and internet bandwidth
- More of us have headaches,
- We are finding it hard to concentrate
- We can’t get through out to do list
- Everything seems harder. But we are not sure why.
There is no separation of work and home. We are in “groundhog day” – not sure which day it is. This season of Covid19 might just be the best time to do some thinking about work and rest.
So let’s go to the beginning. Genesis 1 gives the aerial shot 10,000 metres up in the air. Genesis 2 we fly down low and take a closer look at Adam and Eve. As God rests from his work of creation, so Man begins his work in creation
In Genesis 2 we begin with what is not there. The earth is vacant, no plant, no rain and no imager bearer. When Adam is mentioned, he is immediately connected with work
…and there was no one to work the ground ~Genesis 2:5c (NIV)
It’s almost as if creation is waiting for humans. Adam is part of creation. He is not formed from the animals; he is from the dust of the earth. God gives him mouth to mouth resuscitation and breathes life into Adam. Adam is totally dependent on God’s Spirit for life. While God introduces himself with the general name of Elohim – Genesis 1
In Genesis 2 God gives his personal name, I think for two reasons:
- The God of Israel is the God who created the heavens and the earth
- God gives his personal name because he wants a personal relationship with humans, but on his terms. That is why Adam is on probation, he can access the tree of life if he refuses to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he will return to the dust of the earth. Adam is placed in the garden within creation
Eden is viewed as a real place in real time. Two of the four rivers are known to us, the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is not middle earth. It is not a religious picture, but the words used to describe the garden are similar to the temple that would come much later. The precious metals and jewels in Genesis 2 were used to decorate the temple and priest
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
The 2 words for Adam to work and take care of the garden are the same words used to describe the priests work in the tabernacle and temple.
They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, by doing the work of the tabernacle. ~Numbers 3:8 (NIV)
The point is that all of life is holy, work is holy and you worship God in your work. God placed man to work and care for the garden.
In question time last week someone asked about Christians attitude to the environment.
Here are 4 principles
- God entrusted the earth to us to steward. We give an account for how we care for it.
- We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. It could be in the next 10 minutes or next 1000 years.
- Which means if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves we must pass this planet on to the next generation better than we received it.
- Never forget creation is groaning and what its ultimately looking toward is resurrection of Christians who will spearhead the new creation. Work is more than taking care of our environment. We are to Work in this age, but work for the age to come.
God is both white collar and blue collar, He doesn’t just give the orders, He gets down and dirty.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. ~Psalm 95:5 (NIV)
God is pictured proudly working with his hands. When my farming cousin was told that my niece is a doctor he said, “Yes but can she grow spinach?” Farmers need doctors and doctors need farmers and both need garbage collectors. God honours all kinds of work and so should we. All work expresses the character of God.
Clean a wardrobe You reflect that God creates order out of chaos
Service a car You reflect Gods protection for people
Work at Pizza Hut You reflect that God is the great provider of food
Nurse a wound You reflect Gods desire to restore life
Mother an infant You reflect Gods love for his children
The challenge for you this week is this:
How does your work reflect Gods character and purpose?
God did not put man in the garden to sit on a banana chair by the side of a pool sucking on a Pina Colada. Adam tilled the soil, he named the animals, he subdued the earth.
As Genesis goes on. Cities are built, music is created and technology is developed. Work is good. If your dream is to make $4 million by 40 and sit on a beach and do nothing. Repent of that dream! Work is given as a gift to humans. This explains why when we cant work we are so unhappy. With growing unemployment we must take care of those who have lost their jobs
By work I’m not just referring to paid work.
- If you’re unemployed then looking for work is your job
- If you’re sick getting better is your work
- If you’re a student your study is your work
- There is volunteer work,
- There is domestic work from washing up to mowing the lawn
- There is relational work such as parenting and being a grandparent or caring for your nephew.
And there is the work of the Lord and every Christian can and should be involved. But whatever joy we find in our job, Friday afternoons are still better than Monday mornings
After Adam sinned God said:
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, ~Genesis 3:17b-19 (NIV)
Every time Adam works the soil it will cause him much pain and frustration, it will have its thorns and thistles, he will work by the sweat of his brow. Covid19 has added to the frustrations of work. I’m trying to redeem the time but it’s like I’m working in a fog, like swimming in sludge, getting less done, but I just need to accept that. This pandemic has tuned us to the futility of work
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? ~Ecclesiastes 2:17-18 (NIV)
No matter how hard you work, all your efforts, all goods and services you produce they all have a use by date. Sooner or later, the work you do or the money you make from it will eventually come to nothing.
I was talking to one friend in the IT area. One moment his program was cutting edge and then 2 years later, no one was interested. That is why Jesus said don’t work for food that spoils.
We must work in this age, but we work for the age to come. The work itself doesn’t last. Doctors heal the body, but the body eventually dies. Carpenters build a house, but the house gets knocked down. Your work will not last, but the glory you gave God in your work will.
Work for the glory of God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
Your work will not last but the pleasure you gave God will endure forever.
I have worked in many jobs, on a farm, as a furniture removalist, for MacDonald’s, in a Nursery, at a Chicken abattoir, painting houses, being a student, working as a kitchen hand, a Clerk for the NSW Health commission, employed as a Social worker for Anglicare and now your minister. Very different wages, very different work conditions but:
- Every job can glorify God
- Every job creates order out of chaos
- Every job is to seek to love others.
Work is about relationships. Do you know why I know that? Because when someone says “I’m stressed at work” I always say “Who is it?” Behind stress is usually a person putting pressure, criticizing, undermining, gossiping, unrealistic deadlines, etc. It’s not so much what you do but how you treat those at work.
When the New Testament speaks about work its often tied to relationships. Its about your boss, your workers, your workmates or your clients and customers or your government and of course your God. It’s not so much what you do but how you do it. Your work wont last but your love will pass on into eternity.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
Even the money you earn from your work is about relationships as you support your family, the poor, the spread of the gospel, your church staff, but most of all your work is tied to your relationship with God.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. ~Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Work is one sphere in which you worship God. So, when you leave for work and they ask where are you going? Tell them, you’re off to worship God. But you wont worship God if you’re a workaholic.
There is a Work/Rest rhythm in Genesis 1 and 2 we need to follow. We Work hard and rest well. We must rest from our labours because we are not God, we have bodies and minds that need to be refreshed. We rest because when we put down our tools, we are saying God will take care of my needs.
We rest from the pressure to perform, I am not my job, my identity is that I am a child of God and not how much I make and how much respect my job gives me. So, if I lose my job, it will disappoint me but it will not devastate me. We can rest from thinking my good works make me acceptable to God.
There is a deep rest in knowing Christ who says, ‘your value comes from my work at the cross not your work during the week’ and with it a freedom to please God by doing the work of the Lord, to serve his people and the cause of Christ.
Our Jobs have meaning but they are not the meaning of life.
During the 90s my wife Sandy was seriously sick and I thought I would have to leave the demands of being a pastor to care for her. It was then I found that my identity had shifted from being a Son of God to being a Pastor. I had to work again through who I was. Could I walk away from the role as Pastor?
I was not walking away from giving myself fully to the work of the Lord but from my role as Pastor. I grasped afresh that Jesus is enough, I didn’t need to be the pastor of MBM. As it turned out I didn’t need to resign as Sandy’s health improved. She felt loved and since then I have worked from a different place. I serve from a place where Jesus is enough! It was a lesson I would have to learn many times again.
Thank you that we can worship you in our work.That our work has meaning, but help us to know that it is not the meaning of life. Thank you Lord for offering us physical rest. Rest that refreshes our body. Rest that refreshes our soul. Rest in your work at the cross-where forgiveness is found.Praise you Lord that we are now free to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.
In Jesus name, Amen.