In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . . And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”
As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, Genesis 1-2 reveals God’s intentions for human life. God created us to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to have dominion, to till/serve and to keep/care for the garden. In a nutshell, we were made to work. Genesis 2:1-3 implies but does not state that we are also to rest one day a week. That leaves six other days for work.
If Genesis 1-2 were all the Scripture we had, we would rightly conclude that work is our chief purpose in life (if you include raising children as part of work). The other 1187 chapters of the Bible give us a wider perspective on what we’re to do as human beings. But, still, we should understand that work is an essential and central element of human existence.
Yet, what about the classic Christian claim that our main purpose in life is to glorify God? The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This doesn’t say anything about work. Am I suggesting that Genesis 1-2 invalidates this classic formulation of our purpose as human beings? Are we not to glorify God and enjoy him forever?
I suppose it depends on how you envision glorifying and enjoying God. I used to believe that this meant doing the sorts of things we Christians do in a worship service. We glorify God through singing, praying, listening to sermons, and the like. In this setting, we are also able to enjoy God’s presence as we worship. So, to put matters simply, I understood that the “chief end of man” was doing what we do in church, only with deeper meaning and more expansive joy. This was how we glorify and enjoy God.
I still believe that we can glorify and enjoy God in worship services. Absolutely. But I now believe, partly on the basis of Genesis 1-2, that my former perspective on glory and joy was far too limited. If God created us for work, if work is truly central to our divine purpose, then one of the main ways, if not the main way, we glorify God is by doing what he made us to do. Thus, Dorothy Sayers writes that work is “not a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but . . . a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God” (in “Why Work?”). John Piper agrees: “Work is a glorious thing. . . . God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make. . . . Become what you were made to be. Work.”
Tomorrow, I’d like to think a little deeper about the connection between work and glorifying God. For now, though, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you understand your chief end or purpose in life?
In what ways does your life glorify God?
In what ways do you enjoy God?
How might your work become even more a context for you to glorify and enjoy God?
Gracious God, what a great gift it is to be able to glorify you and enjoy you. Thank you for allowing us to participate in such marvelous activities.
Thank you also, Lord, for making us to work. Teach us, we pray, how we can glorify and enjoy you in our work. Open our eyes to new understanding. Form our hearts and transform our lives, so that we might glorify and enjoy you in all we do, including our work.
To you be all the glory, indeed! Amen.