Matt Wolfe has been my friend for about two decades. My youth pastor then my pastor, I then worked for two years under Matt as his youth pastor. He was the best man in my wedding, and a few years later I became his pastor. We’ve worked together on many projects, have had many late nights hanging out, and have lots of inside jokes. I contacted Matt a couple of weeks ago and asked him to be a guest blogger. Several years ago Matt stepped away from pastoring and worked in construction for several years. Because of this I requested that he address the topic of work. Here is a great theology of work presented by Matt adopted from sermons he gave at First Baptist Church of Westfield, New York. In Part 1 of “A Theology of Work,” Matt presented “God as a Worker.”
Part 2: Is There Satisfaction in Work?
That brings us then to you and me, human beings—male and female—made in the image of God. Going back to Genesis 1, we read,
(26) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. 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.”
(27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(28) 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.”
Do you see what’s going on? Sinclair Ferguson put it this way, “All of creation was good; but not all of creation was garden.” So we can say, secondly, that the Creator created creators. And the original assignment for these creators—their job—was twofold: (1) make babies and (2) expand the border of this garden. We call it, in theological circles, the cultural mandate. Amy Sherman, regular contributor at The Gospel Coalition writes,
“In various ways, God the Father continues his creative, sustaining, and redeeming work through our human labor. This gives our work great dignity and purpose. Vocational stewardship starts with celebrating the work itself and recognizing that God cares about it and is accomplishing his purposes through it.”
What are some of those ways by which God continues his creative work through his “junior creators?” Well, he does it artistically, environmentally, agriculturally, structurally, and infra-structurally (not sure that’s a word), judicially, governmentally, educationally, and so on. So from the sanitation worker to the carpenter, from the judge to the teacher, from the accountant to the forester, all of these jobs involve subduing and stewarding well God’s creation.
So everything’s hunky-dory then, right? Well, unfortunately there’s more to the story. In Genesis 3, we have the fall—humanity’s rebellion against God’s authority—and the results of that rebellion. And work, along with everything else, is affected. Look at Genesis 3:17-19,
(17) 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;
(18) thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (19) 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.”
“There it is then,” some might say. “What more proof do you need? Work stinks!” Quite literally. Adam’s going to come from working in the fields and come over to Eve for a little sugar, and she’s going to say, “Hit the shower, buddy. You’re not coming near me all sweaty and funkified.” Adam is told, things are going to be much more difficult for you now. Work’s going to involve pain, thorns, thistles, sweat. But here’s the “good news:” eventually you die and return to dust. Now some might say, “This doesn’t apply to me. I’m not a farmer. I don’t have to contend with thorns and thistles.” Well, think of it more figuratively. We all have thorns and thistles in our work. That computer crash last week where you lost half of your document before you saved it? Not again!!! That’s a thorn. That having to do the same task 3 times to get the sequence right? That’s a thistle. That difficult supervisor or slacker of a co-worker. That’s a thorn. That hand into which you shot that framing nail … that’s pain. (Been there—done that.) Work is a curse!
Or is it? What about the job well done? What about the sense of accomplishment that comes from a meal well-cooked, a room freshly painted, a semester finally over, an audit successfully completed, a vineyard fully harvested? Work can be a real blessing too, can’t it? Absolutely it can. That’s why, thirdly, we need to recognize that work isn’t the curse, but it is affected by it. Again, quoting Sherman,
“Work preceded the fall. This truth is foundational for faithful vocational stewardship. Work is not a result of humankind’s fall into sin. Work is central in Genesis 1 and 2. There it is—right in the midst of paradise, right in the picture of God’s intentions for how things ought to be. Work is a gift from God. Work is something we were built for, something our loving Creator intends for our good.”
Our sin has complicated it, made it painful often. Thorns and thistles abound, but God—in his mercy—still allows us often to experience great satisfaction in our work. Many of you know that feeling even when the project, task, or assignment involved many a thorn and thistle.
In Part 3 Matt discusses work ethic.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.