Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
What would motivate you to give yourself fully to your work? There are a variety of answers to this question. But one that appears frequently in studies of work points to the meaning we find in and give to our work. If I believe that my work matters, that it has significance beyond simply being a way to earn money, then I am apt to be more invested in and pleased by my work.
1 Corinthians 15:58 urges: “[G]ive yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” A contemporary paraphrase might say, “Invest yourself deeply in the work of the Lord.” As we read this verse, we wonder what counts as “the work of the Lord.” We also want to know what it means to “give ourselves fully” to this work. Today, I’ll focus on “the work of the Lord.” On Monday we’ll consider what it means to “give ourselves fully” to that work.
What is meant by “the work of the Lord”? In Paul’s writing, the work of the Lord includes explicitly communicating and advancing the Gospel. Evangelizing, teaching, caring for others, and praying are central to this dimension of “the work of the Lord.”
But they are not the whole of this work. The biblical account of God’s work begins with God creating the heavens and the earth, including human beings. The very first commandment God gives to the very first humans is, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). A few verses later, we learn that God created people so they would “work” and “take care” of God’s creation (2:15). Thus, God’s work is grounded in creation, and so is the work of human beings.
What we see first in Genesis is reiterated through the Bible. The “work of the Lord” includes but is not limited to things like evangelism, discipleship, worship, and prayer. From a full biblical perspective, the “work of the Lord” encompasses all that we do to embody God’s purposes for us. It includes what we do for most of our waking lives, as we labor in our workplaces, raise our children, invest in our neighborhoods, and gather with God’s people for weekly worship.
Thus, if you’re a manager in your workplace, you participate in “the work of the Lord” as you seek to guide those who are entrusted to your care. When you coach someone so she might excel in her work, that’s part of “the work of the Lord.” When you support someone who is going through a difficult time, that’s also “the work of the Lord.” When you build a team so that each person can exercise his or her strengths, and so that the team can flourish in its shared efforts, you are engaging in “the work of the Lord.”
The fact that our daily work is part of “the work of the Lord” can give new meaning to our work. This understanding can indeed motivate us to “give ourselves fully” to this work. On Monday we’ll dig more deeply into how this happens in our lives.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you think of your daily work as part of “the work of the Lord”? Why or why not?
Is being a pastor or a missionary more completely “the work of the Lord”? Why or why not?
If you were to think of your work as part of “the work of the Lord,” what difference might this make in your life?
Gracious God, thank you for inviting us to give ourselves fully to your work. Thank you for creating us with the potential for work. Thank you for giving us work to do, so that we might contribute to your work.
Help us, we pray, to understand how our work is part of your work. Help us to see everything we do in relationship to your work in us and through us. Use us this day for your purposes as we share in your work.
May we “abound” in your work, in our own efforts and as you are at work in us. To you be all the glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God Brings the Material World into Being (Genesis 1:2)
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