My small group at church is doing a Tim Keller Bible study on Genesis called “What Were We Put in the World to Do?”. The last two sections have been on work, and I’ve read a few things that resonated with me, and a few others that have made me think.
In the first 2 chapters of Genesis, God works. He creates the world. And in reading those two chapters, we find an outline of the biblical view of work: that it is necessary for personal fulfillment, that it is for the common good, and that it is a duty. But we in our modern world have several skewed views of what work is: that it is or can be our sole identity, that it is just a way to make a living, or that it is a necessary sacrifice for others (not ourselves). The truest vision of work out of all of this is that it is a partnership with God.
It’s important, too, to rest, as God also did. Resting is hard! And even when we participate in what we think of as rest, we often don’t come away feeling refreshed. The study suggests 3 ways to truly rest: to nurture our created bodies and souls once a week (in church); to enjoy and protect the wonders of nature; and to cultivate a society in which life is protected and honored. My group leader asked us how we would like to follow God’s example of Sabbath rest better in our own lives, and I decided to make it a point to get out in nature more often!
We were created in a garden, and as gardeners, our job is to cultivate. That includes the dictates God gave Adam to be fruitful and multiply and to continue God’s work of filling and forming the world. We are to be respectful stewards of nature with a high and dignified view of work as an extension of the very work of God. Keller made the point that nature is not necessarily better left untouched, which I found interesting. He definitely encourages treating nature well but promotes “drawing out the resources and powers of the material universe.”
Ultimately when it comes to work, we should seek 4 things:
- work we can do well
- work that benefits the human community
- work that enables us to do family building (i.e. earn a living)
- work that allows us to benefit the field of work itself
I have to say, my job and my life don’t reflect many of these things. I often find that the parts of my day that involve doing things that make me come alive lie outside the hours that I spend at my workplace. And while I am there I don’t always view what I’m doing as part of God’s work–I just do the tasks that are required of me and certainly don’t exude the joy that should come of partnering with God. When we’re simply checking things off the list, we don’t find the true fulfillment of Sabbath rest, because we haven’t truly experienced work in its purest form. But Keller writes that God offers a share in His own Sabbath rest: the enjoyment of His finished work not merely of creation but of redemption. We can’t experience that rest by trying to live out all the Sabbath regulations of rest. He continues, “If we rest from our work, by trusting in the finished work of Christ, we will be able to truly enter into the rhythm of work and rest that God calls us to.”
And even though I’m not much a drummer, that seems like a rhythm I’d like to march to.