The Pursuit of Work Through Redemption (Side A)
by Jonathan Haefs
Sin has infected everything, but the good news of the gospel is that Christ died to redeem everything! We typically focus on the fact that Christ died to redeem us… and that is key! It is central to the gospel!
Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed US from the CURSE of the law by becoming a curse for us…”
Yet, through his death, Jesus is not just redeeming US from the curse of sin…he is redeeming EVERYTHING!
Revelation 21:5, “…Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new…”
Sin infected all things, Jesus is redeeming all things! This includes our work! Jesus redeems our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation! Because of what Jesus has done we can worship through our work once again! How? What does it look like for us to worship through our vocations?
The apostle Paul helps us think through this in Ephesians 6:5-8.
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”
Now, I realize this passage is specifically speaking about slaves serving their masters and not employees working for their employers. My purpose in this blog is not to explore all that the Bible has to say about slavery…although I do plan to tackle that in the future.
However, amidst our present vocational concerns, I do think that what Paul is saying here applies to us in our work because of the end of verse 8.
“…knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a BONDSERVANT or is FREE.”
What Paul is saying applies to the slave and the free worker. So why is his primary focus slavery? Two reasons… First, more abuses existed in slave/master relationships than in free employee/employer situations. Thus, it would have been a higher priority for Paul to aim the bulk of his instructions at that institution.
Second, if most of us struggle with the futility of our work, how much more so a slave? They didn’t pick their job, they don’t get paid for their job… it really seems pointless. Yet, Paul can look at what appears to be the most dead end task in the world and still offer hope for worshipping amidst one’s labor. If he can say this to slaves, how much more so to those who are free?
By aiming his instructions at those in forced labor, Paul simultaneously instructs those of us in free labor situations all the more!
Jesus has freed our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation…worship! Paul points us to two primary ways in which we now worship through our work. We will tackle one today and one tomorrow.
First, We do our work for God!
This addresses the sin of Genesis 3 in which we attempted to work for our own glory. Now, we do our work for the Lord.
Ephesians 6:5, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, AS YOU WOULD CHRIST…”
Ephesians 6:7, “…rendering service with a good will AS TO THE LORD and not to man…”
Colossians 3:24, “…you ARE serving the Lord Christ.”
We worship through our work by working for God and his glory…not our own! Do you feel the freedom in that? Working for my glory leads to the endless rat race of self-promotion. Satisfaction is always to be found in my next promotion or raise. My goal is always moving and so I can never truly attain it!
However, working for God and his glory sets me free from all of that! I no longer have to kill myself working overtime to promote me…because it’s not about me anymore! My goal has changed from my glory to God’s and the best news is that this is a goal that doesn’t move!
Working for the glory of God is about doing my work in such a way that “images” him to others. I am to work in such a way that shows what he is like, that reveals his character and in doing so I find joy and satisfaction…not because of what I do, but who I’m doing it for! Ephesians 6:5-6 help us see what it looks like to work in a way that “images” God to the world.
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, WITH A SINCERE HEART, as you would Christ…not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God FROM THE HEART…”
Setting before ourselves the truth that we ultimately do our work for Jesus transforms our hearts! We work with a sincere heart! We begin to display the character of Christ in our work! Do you have a horrible job? A horrible boss? A mind-numbing job? One that feels pointless? You know, it’s the temporary job you took until you get the real one that will really be fulfilling. Wonder how you could ever work with a sincere heart? Remember… you work for Jesus!
When you work for Jesus, you will begin to display the character of Jesus!
You serve HIM with a sincere heart and your work becomes an act of worship! It points to Jesus!
Ephesians 6:7, “…render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…”
Notice what Paul is saying. We render service…we serve others (our employers, our employees, our customers, our clients, our families) as if we were literally rendering that service to the Lord, not to man.
That is mind blowing and paradigm shifting!
How does that truth change the way you approach your boss? Remember, you’re rendering service to the Lord! How does that change your interaction with clients? How does that change the way you are serving your family through working?
The truth that we do our work for God transforms us to display his character and “image” him through our vocation.
And it is vital to note that we can do this, point to the glory of God through our work, whether we are “successful” or whether we “fail” according to the world’s standards!
Working for God may take you down the path of promotion. David went from being a shepherd to being a King. Yet, working for God may lead to nothing but lateral movements in your career. I think of Lydia who sold fabric when she became a believer and as far as we know that is what she kept doing for the rest of her life. Working for God may even lead to demotion! Paul went from being a respected Pharisee to a despised prisoner. I’m afraid that demotion is part of God’s plan more often than any of us would like to admit or even think about.
Yet, promotion/lateral movements/demotion no longer determine the true success or value of your work! Your work is no longer defined by what you do, but by who you work for… and success is faithfully working for Him! Putting him on display no matter if you “succeed” or “fail” in the eyes of the world!
Work is no longer our everything… he is!
This is the first way in which we can worship God through our work because of the redeeming work of Jesus.
There is a second, equally important, truth about worshipping God through our work…and that we will tackle tomorrow.