The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: work as worship

The Pursuit of Work Through Redemption (Side A)

*This is part three of the blog series: A Mini-Biblical-Theology of Work. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

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…”

EPSON scanner image

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!

failure_successJesus has freed our work from the sin of Genesis 3! We no longer worship our work, we worship God through our work by doing our work for him and not ourselves.

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.


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…

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