“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV)
How much do we connect our work with God? In a seminar on faith and work which I attended a few years ago, most of the people in my small group of 12 said that they never thought of their work as having anything to do with God or their faith.
Our increasingly secular culture would like to keep God and faith confined to Sundays and inside church buildings. But that has never been God’s plan. He created us in his image and likeness and put us in the garden of creation to “work and take care of it.” The Second Vatican Council said, “This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted as one of the more serious errors of our age.” In commenting on this condition, St. John Paul II said, “A faith that does not affect a person’s culture is a faith not fully embraced, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.”
I always remember the response by a legal secretary in our company when she was being counseled about her poor performance in serving the attorneys assigned to her. “I don’t serve anyone but God,” she indignantly declared as she angrily reacted to her job being described as “serving” her assigned attorneys. She was obviously confused about what serving God entailed — that we serve God when we faithfully serve the people and responsibilities in our work.
As Christians who have accepted God’s offer to dwell in us, we serve God and take care of his creation when we bring his presence into our work, seeking to bring his love, truth and excellence to our jobs and the people and circumstances of our workplaces.
James Hunter, in his book, To Change the World, says that the “great commission” has long been interpreted geographically in terms of sending missionaries to faraway places. But the great commission can also be interpreted in terms of the church going into all realms of social structure, including skilled and unskilled labor, the crafts, engineering, commerce, art, law, architecture, teaching, health care, volunteer service, family life, etc. He says, “When the church does not send people out to these realms and when it does not provide the theologies that make sense of work and engagement, the church fails to fulfill the charge to “go into all the world.”
We serve God and take care of his creation when we do our jobs to the best of our ability no matter how significant or insignificant we may view them. We are acting in God’s plan for us when we bring his presence, truth, love and excellence into the conduct of our jobs.
How do you view your work? Do you see it as a piece of the garden of creation to take care of on behalf of the creator of all that exists? Do you see it as “a thread in the larger fabric of civilization?”