Why Do You Work? (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:15-17; 3:17-19)
Topic: Genesis Passage: Genesis 2:15–2:17
Faith at Work
Why Do You Work?
Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:15-17; 3:17-19
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
April 12th, 2015
I. Getting God's Perspective
You may or may not have seen the statistic I sent out last week. Either way, here it is in the form of a question: Do you know what percentage of the average person's life is spent going to work, being at work, going home from work, and even working on work-related work, not at work, but at home? 52%! That's right, for most of us, over half of our lives will be spent on the job, at the office, on that business trip, around the water cooler, in the field, at our desk, in our cubicle, on the factory floor, in the conference room, at our station, in the warehouse, on site, our nose to the grindstone.
But if that's true, surely God has something to say about it, right? Many of you know that growing in your faith involves seeing every area of your life from God's perspective. And if over half of our lives are connected in some way to work, then it is critical we understand God's perspective. So what DOES God say about your work, your career, your job?
Or maybe the best word to use is the word vocation. Like the word vocal, the word vocation comes from the Latin word for “voice”. This is why a vocation is often known as a calling. Regardless of your employment status, every single one of us has been called to a particular vocation, in lots of different areas. In my case, I am disciple, a husband, a father, a pastor, a son, a brother (both spiritually and physically), a neighbor, a friend, an artist, and a citizen.
Think about your 'calling list' for a minute. Do you know what God has said about each of those areas to which you have been called? Well, over the next three weeks, though we could look at all sorts of callings, I'd like to focus specifically on the workplace. The majority of you do work, either part-time or full-time, so I'm hoping this series will be helpful. But for those who are retired, or are stay-at-home moms, or are between jobs, I believe you will still be able to apply what we're talking about to your current vocation; your calling.
II. The Passage: “So God Created Man” (1:27, 28; 2:15-17; 3:17-19)
So as we attempt to discover what God says about work, there's probably no better place to begin than at the beginning. Turn with me to Genesis 1. This morning, I'd like to look at three passages, one from each of the first three chapters of Genesis, and see what they teach us about the origins of work. And the main question I want you to try and answer from each of these passages is this: “Why do I work?” or “Why does God want me to work?”
1. “Subdue It and Have Dominion” (1:27, 28)
Our first passage consists of two verses. Look with me at verse 27 and 28 of Genesis 1...
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Right away, in the very first chapter of the Bible, we discover that men and women have a calling, a vocation. We might summarize this calling by saying God has called them to multiply, master, and manage.
Think about it. We have been called to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. This is God's calling to family, isn't it? And while not every single person is called to begin a family, most are; and every person comes from some kind of family.
We've also been called to master the earth. God has called us to “fill the earth and subdue it”. The language here involves hainge mastery over the earth's resources so that they might be maximized and used to benefit mankind.
But this a very precious responsibility. Therefore, mankind must faithfully manage the resources they've mastered. The word “dominion” here means to rule over. And if we've been made in the image of God, as verse 27 affirms, then we are called to rule over the earth as God rules over all He has created. And that means wise and faithful management, not exploitation or wastefulness.
Speaking of the fact we have been made in the image of God, isn't interesting that God's design for filling the earth with His image-bearers meant that the earth was designed to reflect, to be full of the glory of God. So taking all this together, I think we can answer our main question, “Why do I work?” by saying, “I work...For His Glory and the Greater Good
Have you ever thought about the fact that God is glorified by doing good to us and for us through one another? It's one of the ways He cares for the world. Think about it.
Think about, for example, the lights we have in this room, the lights that allow us to see what we're doing here this morning. Think about those lights in light of vocation. Someone designed those lights. Someone manufactured those lights. Someone shipped those lights. Someone distributed and sold those lights. Someone designed this room and planned where those lights would go. Someone bought those lights. Someone installed those lights. And someone maintains those lights, replacing them when they go out. At a minimum, eight vocations were involved in God's people having light this morning.
But wait, what about the administrative support for all those positions? What about the guys and gals who service the delivery vehicles? What about the people who made the installation tools? What about the human resource support? What about the men and women who made the packing materials?
Do you see the web of vocations that God used to bless us this morning with light? And we haven't even talked about the energy workers who bring us the electricity to power those lights! This is only a tiny taste of what it looks like for us to fulfill God's design of multiplying, mastering and managing the world.
Now when it comes to selling lights, God uses the basic work of the unbelieving light salesman in the same way He uses the work of the salesman who is a follower of Jesus. They can both excel at their vocations. A key difference though is that we as believers can know and appreciate what God is doing through our vocations. Do you think about your job in this way? Do you think about the way it touches and blesses lives? God uses your job to bless others for His glory and the greater good.
2. “To Work It and Keep It” (2:15-17)
But if we look at the next chapter of Genesis, we find another answer to our question. Look with me at verses 15-17...
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
For those who think work is something that only belongs to a cursed and fallen world, think again. What we see here is an example of what we already learned in the first chapter: work is part of God's original design. Our first father, Adam, was made to work the garden and keep it. But as verse 16 reveals, Adam was also made to benefit from the garden's abundance. The man (and the woman who was soon to come) could “eat of every tree of the garden”...with only one exception.
How does this passage answer our main question? It tells you another reason you work is To Enjoy God's Provision within God's Boundaries. Many people would answer that main question by saying, “Well, I work in order to survive. I work in order to put food on the table and a roof over my family's heads.” But this is only part of what we're seeing in this passage.
Yes, Adam and Eve worked and kept the garden. But they did so (in the beginning at least) knowing God remained the ultimate provider. Their work always depended on His original work and His sustaining work. So your job, your career, your vocation is God's provision for your provision. It is THE Provider making you a provider of His provision. This is yet another way we reflect God's image.
And this was not simply about mere survival. Remember how Paul instructed those who had an abundance in terms of God's provision: As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (I Timothy 6:17) God not only uses your job for the greater good, but also for your good; for your delight; for your pleasure.
And yet, as we see here, from the beginning, God has also given us boundaries in terms of enjoying the fruits of our vocation. This idea takes us right into our third passage.
3. “Thorns and Thistles It Shall Bring Forth” (3:17-19)
Look with me at and listen to Genesis 3:17-19. Think about what this tells us about vocation:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
As we know, the man and the woman foolishly crossed God's boundary line. Instead of being thankful for and content with the abundance of the garden, they questioned God's provision. But think about what this passage tells us concerning the work, the vocation which God had assigned to them. Look at how it was affected by God's just judgment for this original sin.
Instead of working, keeping, and enjoying the abundance of the garden, now humanity would have to work the fields, the cursed ground. Their labor would be painful and exhausting. They would battle thorns and thistles. Work would now be tedious and frustrating. For many of you, this seems more in line with how you think of work. Even if you like your job, no job is immune to the realities of a cursed, fallen, and rebellious world. From boredom and long hours to office politics and layoffs, our job can be, and often is, the most frustrating part of our lives. But think about how this answers our main question. Why do you work?...
To Model His Fulfillment, In Spite of Our Frustrations. Christians and non-Christians alike deal with the frustrations of work. Your difficult boss is also your co-worker's difficult boss. Your working conditions are shared by your fellow employees.
But we have the chance to let God's perspective shape our understanding, instead of letting our frustrations rule our thoughts. God wants you to enjoy fulfillment in your vocation, in spite of the frustrations. He wants you to see the significance of your work, in spite of the setbacks. He wants you to be thrilled by how He is using your career to bless others, in spite of the times when you feel used (and maybe abused) by your employer.
We know why work can be frustrating. We know why pain and sweat often characterize our labors. But do we understand why our work, no matter the job, can be and should fulfilling, in light of God's word and God's design?
III. The Most Important Training Manual
Think about what we've seen. God intended that our work result in His glory and the greater good. But vanity and selfishness twist and derail it in every corner of our society. God wants us to enjoy His provision within His boundaries. But in sin, we ignore those boundaries and exalt that provision; we make the provision our ultimate pursuit instead of the Provider. God's desire is that we would find fulfillment in our vocation, but we are often plagued by frustrations and discontent. OR we seek to be fulfilled by our jobs, rather than experiencing His fulfillment in our jobs.
Now the reality of sin has led to the reality of many so-called vocations that are certainly not callings from God. We can all think of illegal and immoral jobs that do not bless, but instead, curse others. But the majority of careers out there do serve the common good, including yours. And God is using those jobs to demonstrate His common grace to the world.
But as we've talked about, the reality of sin has also infected the way we see and serve in all those 'common good' jobs, in whatever specific vocation you currently occupy. Therefore, while Genesis can teach us about God's original design regarding work, and about humanity's rejection of God and His design, it cannot enable us to see with new eyes and serve with a new heart. Only the gospel can do that.
Think about what we determined back in our February teaching series. God taught us that...
The purpose of your life here is to obey the Great Commands as you carry out the mission of God.
Now, can you see how that ties into everything we've already talked about this morning? Can you see how that ties into what we've discovered about work? Think about what it means for you to love God with everything you are...in your workplace. Think about what it means for you to love your neighbor as yourself...as you do your job. Think about how the mission of God might be accomplished not only at your office, but also through your vocation.
Jesus Christ died and rose again to bring us to God...AND to God's design for our lives. Jesus is the only one who can rescue us AND our vocations from sin's grip. He's the only one who can give you eyes to see how God is at work in the world and in you. He's the only one who can give you the heart to care about those blessed by your vocation. He's the only one who can give us the thankfulness and satisfaction to responsibly enjoy what He provides. And He's the only one who can give us true fulfillment at work, even in the most stressful and tedious and exhausting of jobs.
Listen to what the writer Gene Edward Veith said about vocation and the Christian life in his book, God at Work...
The doctrine of vocation is a theology of the Christian life, having to do with sanctification and good works. It is also a theology of ordinary life. Christians do not have to be called to the mission field or the ministry or the work of evangelism to serve God, though many are; nor does the Christian life necessarily involve some kind of constant mystical experience. Rather, the Christian life is to be lived in vocation, in the seemingly ordinary walks of life that take up nearly all of the hours of our day. The Christian life is to be lived out in our family, our work, our community, and our church. Such things seem mundane, but this is because of our blindness. Actually, God is present in them—and in us—in a mighty, though hidden, way.
Has anyone here ever gone through some kind of training for a new job? In light of that, have you ever thought about the fact that Bible is, in fact, the most important training manual for your job; yep, your specific job. You might think, “Wait a minute, the Bible doesn't tell me anything about driving a truck, or setting up a network, or auditing payable accounts.” Ah, but those are not the most important part of your job. The most important part of your work is understanding how God is at work in your work, and how God wants to work at your work through you. Only God's word, through God's Son and God's Spirit can give us that understanding. In the weeks to come, we will build on this foundation.
As we finish with prayer this morning, in a moment of silence, I want you to thank God for your job, and ask Him for an ever-deepening understanding of these things in relation to YOUR job. Let Christ's work redeem your work this very day.