The Bible and Economics (3)

                                             Work

To convert idle resources into actual resources, man must add his labour, including intellectual labour, to the natural resources in the environment. Plants and animals multiplied before Adam appeared on the scene, but it was Adam’s presence that brought covenantal purpose into the creation. The creation was governed purposefully before man, but it was not governed representatively. God created man to work for God. It was not that God needed man in order to provide growth and direction in the creation. God does not need man. But God shows grace to man by allowing him to participate in the dominion process.[1]

In creating man, God initially gave him the opportunity and obligation to be responsible for the garden. The garden was created perfect, but it needed man to tend and keep it, as any garden does. Without man, it could not reach its highest potential.

Man was created capable but ignorant, and needed God’s Word to understand himself, his relationship with God and his role in the creation. He needed God’s Word to inform his every thought and decision. His initial task was to name all the beasts and birds that God brought to him, even before Eve’s creation.

Everything about this has direct relevance to us, today. Jesus directed His disciples to:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me … apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn.15:4, 5).

So man’s creation was as a subordinate to God. The sinful human heart likes the idea of man being capable, but rankles at the notion of subordination to God. Humanism itself is a rebellion against the notion of subordination to God, when in fact as a part of Creation and as its pinnacle, man will only ever find his true life and fulfilment in that subordination, so that we can say as Jesus Christ did: “…I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn.8:29).

Subordination (or submission) begins in the heart and mind, and inevitably spills out to every facet of human behaviour, including academics. So, the mind of man will inevitably be his battleground, the ground that Satan tries to inhabit or contest.

In order to be productive, man needs to work. Because no two men or women are the same, our greatest productivity is found in doing the specific tasks that God has planned for us. The Bible says that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph.2:10). This relates to our vocation (or employment) but also to our specific calling. Paul made a living as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3), but he was also called to be an apostle (Ro.1:1).

The Reformation significantly changed social attitudes to work. Bell claimed that, for the Protestant reformers, “all work was endowed with virtue.” Luther claimed that “a housemaid who does her work is no farther away from God than a priest in his pulpit.” For Zwingli and Calvin, “work was connected with the joy of creating and with exploring even the wonders of creation.”[2]

In relation to work, godless people have commonly either been idle and avoided work, or else they have been workaholics. But God has given us His wisdom in scripture: the Sabbath, or one day of rest weekly.

The Puritans understood much of this. One of them advised parents that concerning their children,

If your careful to bring them up diligently in proper business, you take a good method for their comfortable subsistence in the World (and for their being serviceable in their Generation) you do better for them, than if you should bring them up idly, and yet leave them great estates.[3]

A right attitude to work is of great importance to God. He warned us that “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labour” and that “A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence” (Prov.12:24, 27).

Gideon, Elisha, James, John and Matthew had this in common: when God called them, they were working. The gospels make it clear that Jesus was a worker. This is particularly stressed in Mark’s gospel, which frequently uses the word “immediately” to describe His activities, and the rapid way in which He went about his work and ministry. Clearly, His time was limited, and He had much to do. He also said that “we must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (Jn.9:4), and that “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (Jn. 5:17).

It is significant that Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem on a donkey, as opposed to a horse (Mat.21:1-7). Horses for the Israelites were a means of making aggressive war, but the donkey was a work animal. Thus successful dominion (which is always God’s intent), means that we all will do much work. Paul encouraged the Corinthians that they should be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor.15:58).

In Greco-Roman culture, work was for slaves, not for free people. St Paul, in II Thessalonians 3:10 held that, if any will not work, let him not eat. Instead of being punishment, work was for Christians the means of reclaiming this fallen world for God.[4]

Conclusion:

Adam and Eve were not placed in the garden to merely admire the cabbages, but to work there and improve it, as an aspect of their dominion under God. We are no different today, for we too are to glorify God. This always leads to practicalities, work being one of them.

Is your work glorifying God today?

[1] Gary North, “Christian Economics in One Lesson,” 2016, Part 2, 1, p.4.

[2] D. Bell, “Work and its Discontents,” 1956, p.54-56.

[3] Benjamin Wasworth, quoted in E. Morgan, “The Puritan Family, Religion and Relations in Seventeenth Century England,” 1966, p.66.

[4] Rousas Rushdoony, “Institutes of Biblical Law,” (Vol.III), 2009, p.122.

 

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