The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Category: Biblical Studies

The Purpose of Work in Creation

*On Sunday, as part of our “New Life” series, I attempted to walk my faith family through what it looks like to live a new life in the context of our vocations (That sermon can be found here). I wanted to give us a miniature biblical theology of work, in other words, a birds-eye-view of what Scripture has to say about our jobs from Genesis to Revelation. So much was left unsaid, yet the positive response was overwhelming. People had never really thought about work in the way it is truly presented in the Bible. So, over the next few days/weeks I plan to expand on the sermon I preached. This will still only be a birds-eye-view, but hopefully this format will allow me to fill in a few of the missing details and play out some more of the practical day-to-day implications. So… let’s start this mini-Biblical-theology of work in the beginning… in Genesis 1.

3f229a5Most of us spend at least 40 hours per week within a vocation. Over a 40 year period that is over 80,000 hours of our lives spent at work.  Even if you don’t have a technical place of employment, you wake ups with some kind of job to do. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and her vocation makes my 40-60 hour work week look like child’s play (pun intended).

So, does the gospel have any effect on how we live the 80,000+ hours of our vocational lives?

The short answer is yes. Scripture actually has a lot to say about our work. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, work comes up again and again as a pretty significant Biblical theme, and what the Bible has to say about vocation might actually surprise us.

The grand storyline of Scripture reveals to us 1) the purpose of work in creation, 2) the problem of work after the fall, 3) the pursuit of work through redemption, and 4) the promise of work in the new creation.

So…to form a Biblical theology of vocation we begin in the beginning.

The Purpose of Work in Creation

Genesis 1:1,In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

God is the original worker. Genesis opens with God working… creating. He forms, he fills, he makes, and it is all good! God not only works, but he also rests.

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.”

The fact that God “rested” does not mean he got tired and needed a nap! This is a celebration of his creation! Throughout Genesis 1, as God creates, he has mini-celebrations in which he steps back, examines his work, and celebrates by declaring this is good, this is good.

At the completion of creation he says, “…it is VERY good,” and he uses an entire day to step back and take a long, celebratory look!

God works and he “rests.”  This is foundational for understanding our own purpose in working because of the truth revealed in Genesis 1:26.

Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”

God-the-worker creates us to be like him! We are to be small pictures (images) of what God is like… and this includes in our working, our creating. Just look at the rest of verse 26 which fleshes out some of what it means that we are created in the image of God.

Genesis 1:26“…And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God is the creator, he is the rules over all, yet, he gave us the vocation of ruling over creation! We “image” on a small scale what God does on a large scale! God said, manage this world… spread throughout it, build, create, shape, work… and do all of it in such a way that you are a small image of me! When people see the way you work, they are seeing a picture of how I work!

We are workers… because God is a worker and we were made to image him! Our work was purposed to point to him!

Your vocation is a part of this plan! It doesn’t matter what your work is or how insignificant you feel it to be… it’s purpose is to point to God! I mean Adam was a gardner for crying out loud (No insult to gardeners… quite the opposite)!

Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to WORK it and KEEP it.”

Adam did on small scale in the garden, what we have all been designed to do on large scale throughout the earth, namely, work it and keep it. Every single one of our jobs are a part of working and keeping creation. It doesn’t matter if your job provides a service, or education, or food, or creativity, or entertainment, or recreation, or beautification, or whatever… it is a part of our “ruling” over creation, caring for it, working it, and keeping it.

No matter what your occupation is, it is a part of the same plan with the same ultimate purpose as everyone else’s… to point to the one true worker/creator… God! Work was designed to be worship!

Is not worship us pointing to God as great and good and beautiful?! We were designed to work in a way that on small scale points to the large scale greatness, goodness, and beauty of God!

imgpressThe purpose of our work is worship!

Do you see how this makes every occupation valuable (unless you’re a hit-man or something else that directly opposes God’s goodness)? Every vocation has the potential to point to the glory of God!

“Your work matters not because of what you do, but because of who you work for!” –  Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert (The Gospel at Work)

I think there are many of us who buy into the lie that our occupation doesn’t matter. I’m just a stay-at-home mom. I’m just an assembly line worker. I’m just in advertising. I’m just a sales clerk. I’m just…I’m just… I’m just…

In reality, you are “just” a creation of the living God with the potential to display his glory in your work! Adam was “just” a Gardner! David was “just” a shepherd. Peter was “just” a fisherman, and Jesus was “just” a carpenter!

The Son of God spent over 90% of his life sweeping up sawdust for the glory of God the Father! What does that tell us about the value of work? Would any of us look at Jesus and say that all that time was wasted and pointless? No!

“Your work matters not because of what you do, but because of who you work for!”

My job, as a pastor, is not more valuable than yours, because our jobs have the same purpose… to point to the glory of God! That was the purpose of work in creation! And it was good!


…if we’re honest most of us don’t experience work as a good, God-glorifying thing. It actually surprises most people that work existed before the fall as a part of God’s good creation and is a good gift from God! That might actually make you laugh, because you’ve never experienced work in that way… why?

That is the question we will tackle tomorrow…


Letter #20: Your Education is not Over!

Dear Jonathan,

Graduation is just around the corner…literally a few weeks away! Congratulations again on making it to this point! Now, don’t fail your finals and blow the whole thing! I’m just kidding. I have to mess with you a little now that you are about to be a “Master of Divinity.”

We have had so many good conversations over the past few years and written a number of letters back and forth. I hope they have been helpful and ministered to your heart, even if only a little. So what is there left to talk about? Why am I writing you this close to graduation? What else could I possibly have to say? Well…there is at least this one thing…

Free-Arizona-Continuing-Education-for-Realtors-285x280Your education is not over!

Sorry to drop that bomb on you right as you approach the finish line, but I am trying to be a little preemptive here. What do I mean? Well, let’s just say that it is not uncommon for seminary graduates to “quit” reading and studying due to post-school burnout.

Typically, language skills are the first thing to go. All that hard work, hours, blood, sweat, and tears that you put into Greek and Hebrew…all I can say is use it or lose it brother! Honestly, that goes for all fields of study into which you have taken the plunge.

You must keep reading, writing, and thinking deeply or you will lose all the skills you have gained. Listen, it is very easy to enter ministry and become caught up in a million different things, let your studies take the back seat, and simply be a surface level teacher. You don’t want that!

You want to be able to speak to your people out of deeply dug wells, from which you draw up the purest water of the Word to help sustain their thirsty souls. You want to show them how they can mine the treasures of God’s Word themselves. You can only do that if you are doing it yourself.

Now, I’m not telling you to be an ivory tower theologian. You should never sit in an office all day, every day, surrounded by books, and disconnected from the people you serve. No. Discipline yourself to make a schedule that keeps you connected to their lives and connected to Christ through the Word. It is possible.

Jonathan, graduation is nearly here, but don’t let that be the last time you crack a book or mediate on Scripture. You have worked hard to develop the tools you need to study the Word for the glory of God and the good of the church. So do that!

Your education is not over!

Grace and Peace,


*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

Letter #13: Exegesis ≠ An Exit for Jesus

Dear Jonathan,

So you’ve finally made it far enough along in your language studies that you are getting to do some exegesis! I’ll be honest…the third and fourth semesters of Greek were among my favorite seminary courses. I loved digging into all the nuances of the original text and seeing the grammatical connections that really made the meaning leap right off the page!

Yet, I did notice that my dedication to exegesis began to cause a problem that you might encounter as well. I began to allow my obsession with Greek grammar to invade my teaching within the church more and more…to the point that the sharing of information became my end goal.

TBS-Koine-Greek-New-Testament-004My exegesis actually became an exit for Jesus.

Now before you get all up in arms and start defending your beloved language studies…hear me out. What I mean is this…I became so overly focused on exegesis that my teaching turned into technical lectures aimed primarily at educating my people.

I was filling heads with all sorts of knowledge, but I was not calling hearts toward a “knowing.”

The primary purpose of preaching is not education (though important), but encounter! We long for the Spirit to work through the Word and for people to encounter, see Jesus in all his glory and be drawn to him! We don’t want people to just walk out of a service knowing more about Jesus…we want them to know Jesus more!

The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is rather simple. The former involves the head only, while the latter involves the head and heart. Knowing about Jesus is the gaining of mere facts. Knowing Jesus means my heart is stirred with a  desire for him, a love for him, trust in him.

The aim of preaching is for people to come know Jesus more and more so that they may be equipped to make him known!

Now, does this lessen the importance of exegesis? May it never be! On the contrary it increases the importance of it! I need to be pointing people as accurately as I can to the one true God through Jesus. To do this, I must carefully study the meaning of his Word. But, the end goal of my study is not to simply transfer that meaning to my hearers, but for that meaning to transform my hearers.

My exegesis should not serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

I’m not telling you to never talk about Greek grammar from the pulpit or never to share technical information. What I am saying is always make sure that information is not your end goal!  Your end goal is that everything you share stir up people’s hearts to want to know Jesus!

Jonathan, be a good exegete! We desperately need good exegetes teaching in our churches! But, do not ultimately be an exegete, but a worshipper! Worship the God you see and come to know as you study the text and when you teach the text…help others toward worship as well.

Don’t let your exegesis serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!

Grace and Peace,


*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.


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