Tuesday, March 10, 2015

THE THEOLOGY OF WORK

The first [proposition], stated quite briefly, is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God. Dorothy Sayers “Why Work?”
 My (work) office was vandalized early last Friday morning. It was kind of surreal, because on Thursday we had a snow storm that may or may not have left some people stranded at work. Maybe these people that were stranded needed some loose change for the vending machines, or a few dollars for a bagel and cream cheese. Either way, through the process of elimination, we (my coworkers who were robbed) determined that someone who works in our building has an illegal key. They may have used that key to break into a few offices, scrounging for money, and anything of value that was left out on your desk.  

So we called the cops (security) and they took a report (yawn) and left. So far there has been no follow up. We told the Big Boss Lady about this, and she told us how she could open some of her staff’s desk drawers with a nail file. The creepiness factor is settling in and I really don’t want to allow my imagination to wander. I have been really upset about this, because it seems as if no one cares about my safety in this workplace. This thought has lead to a whole litany of deteriorating rants about why I “hate my job, my boss and sometimes my life”. Digressing, I am digressing. Somewhere in these rants, is a tiny prayer to God that is trying to make itself known.  “God, how can you let this happen….to me, your kid?”   The Lord is gracious and kind.

So this morning as I was driving to work, I was listening to my favorite Radio-evangelist Rev Chuck Swindal. The topic of Rev Chuck’s talk was this: “What if your Boss is Unfair and Disrespectful”? Wow, I had to Amen and Hallelujah that one, my attention was captured. In truth the thesis of this talk concerned how we as God’s people related to the idea and practice of work. Of course he went back to Genesis 1:1 concerning God’s relationship to work and then to Adam and Eve and the very ground that we walk on being cursed for our sakes. Think about that curse, in Genesis 3:

Genesis 3:17-19
 “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

I have never really deconstructed those verses concerning “the curse”, but I should have. It is symbolic in language, with the ground representing whatever we put our hands to do in work. The painful toil represents all of the striving one has to do to find a job, qualify and get hired for a job and then hopefully keep that job. The painful toil also involves our interactions with our bosses and clients, and co workers etc, and the long drive to and from work.  Those thorns and thistles represent the trails that inevitably come if we live long enough, and have worked a series of jobs. Just an aside: I have always admired those people who seem to work “Dream Jobs”, like Oprah. ( But then she had to pay her dues too.)

And last, by the sweat of your brow will we eat our food until we return to the ground from whence we were taken. There is no “rest” in this job life of ours as humans, no retirement if you really think about it. Compare this to Genesis 1, which details the 6 creative periods when the earth was created and furbished, where man and woman; plants and animals were created. This was work for the Savior, but for every little thing that was done, I wonder if Jesus wiped any sweat from his brow. This was joyous work that had a purpose and a wonderful future, and he had a loving boss in Heavenly Father, great co-workers in all of his spirit brothers and sisters who helped.  
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
On the sixth creative period, God rested and called his work good. That should be our goal when we say we have had a “good days work”. This is very heavy stuff, and as I listened to Rev Chuck, I felt like this message was for me, to help me to learn to establish priorities in everything in my life and not to take my work life for granted, to cheer me up in some complex way.
Rev Chuck proposed this theory: “Life is not divided into sacred and secular categories. Everything we do is for God’s glory.” He said that we as Christians most of all needed a better theology concerning work:
  1.   First, Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life
  2.   Life is not divided into the categories of sacred and secular
  3.  The nature of your work is good and not evil
  4.  Finally, the way you do your work is a direct reflection on the One who called you to it.
  5. Rev Chuck also brought my attention to my own attitude toward work, and how it should reflect the “light” that is in us because of Christ.

Colossians 222 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,[h] as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. 

After this, I think I felt worse than I did in the beginning. But Rev Chuck reminded me that we don’t have to bear this burden of work, which seems more like a punishment, alone. He referenced that our Savior has acquainted himself with our grief and sorrows in this world through his atonement. He is able to help us work through the thorny trials of life and work and help us to begin to reconcile our lives to him. Work should be a blessing, but we live in a fallen world, with all of us a fallen people. Our best in retrospect, is like filthy rags. I had a lot to think about today.
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