“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3
Work. It’s hard sometimes to see it as anything more than a necessary evil — something we must do in order to pay bills and put food on the table. Isn’t work just a burden we must carry because we live in a fallen world? Mercifully, no.
Though it sometimes feels like a curse, it would be wrong to see work as a byproduct of the fall. As Tim Keller says in his book Every Good Endeavor, “The Book of Genesis leaves us with a striking truth — that work was part of Paradise.”
In the beginning, God created. In the beginning, God worked. He brought form to formlessness and light to a dark void. He created an orderly world out of disorderly chaos. The first scene of the Bible is work, and it’s a beautiful thing. “Let there be light….”
But a few scenes later, God does something crazy: He creates humans in His image and gives them the ability to create, to cultivate, to work; to join Him in bringing order out of the chaos (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). Why? Because the story God is telling, from the beginning until the end, is an epic of good overcoming evil; illuminating light overcoming formless darkness; the “order” of Eden expanding outward into the chaos, gradually making the world a more orderly and “good” place, even as Satan does everything he can to breed chaos and disorder.
God enlists humans to help counter the chaos-breeding “work” of destruction and evil with the order-instituting “work” of creation and goodness. Work is not a humdrum necessary evil. Far from it. Work is our way of labouring alongside God to create order and to bring light to an aggressively disordered and dark world.
Work is a sacred calling. And not just work that is mission or ministry-oriented. If we understand the God-ordained mandate of work to be essentially making the chaotic world a bit more ordered, think of all that that entails.
- Doctors and nurses bring order to the chaos of broken bodies and the disorder of disease.
- Architects and engineers bring order to the chaos of the forces of physics and raw building materials.
- Painters bring order to the chaos of blank canvases, colours and textures.
- Accountants bring order to the chaos of balance sheets and taxes.
- Programmers bring order to the chaos of code and web communications.
- Chefs bring order to the chaos of infinitely combinable ingredients and flavours.
- Referees bring order to the chaos of a sports match that could get unruly.
- Writers bring order to chaos of words, sentences, and ideas that need communicating.
I challenge you to look at your occupation, whatever it might be, through this lens. What are you bringing order to? In what way, however small it may seem, are you making this chaotic world a bit more orderly?
God has given each of us, as humans created in His Creator image, the ability to create order, beauty, and goodness out of the chaos, ugliness, and evil that would otherwise prevail. It’s called working. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Photo by (flickr CC): markus spiske