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Holman Bible Dictionary
Work, Theology of
God's People Work Because They Are Made in His Image The Bible opens with a picture of a working God. God worked in creating a universe. He has been at the job of sustaining creation since He fashioned it. To be created in God's image means, in part, that people have the capacity to work, to fashion, to create. The notion that labor came into being as a result of humanity's fall does not reflect biblical truth. Sinless humanity was placed in the garden to cultivate it. The opportunity to labor was part of God's original commission to mankind to subdue the earth. Adam and Eve were given a situation that needed tending. Paradise had its chores.
Whereas the entrance of sin did not precipitate humanity's need to labor, it has affected the original circumstances of people's work. As He expelled them from the garden, God told Adam and Eve they would have to labor hard to carve out a living. Sin hinders the progress of men's and women's efforts and thwarts their genius. Nature does not cooperate like it would without the curse. People's physical ability has been limited by the effect of sin. A person's mental capacity has been drastically reduced by the ravages of sin.
However, the primal commission for humanity to subdue the earth remains in force. In the garden imagery, cultivation was the scope of the original pair's labor. Today the range would be broadened to include every pursuit of people—cultural, physical, social, and spiritual.
God's People Reflect Him Through Practicing Integrity in Their Work Christianity that is real shows up in the marketplace. It affects the work of employees and the attitude of employers. Christian employees are conscious of their responsibilities to their employers. Followers of Christ know they owe their employers an honest day's work. Those representing Christ should strive to be the most productive and conscientious workers in the company. Christians view their service to their employer as ultimately rendered to God, knowing He is the ultimate judge of their efforts (Ephesians 6:5-8 ). Those in authority over others in the workplace have special responsibility. Christian supervisors or employers know they are accountable to God for how they treat those under them (Ephesians 5:9 ). Managers' testimony for Christ is on the line in their dealings with subordinates. Fairness, reasonableness, and generosity can be maintained even when a standard of excellence is upheld.
God's People Realize His Plan for Work Also Includes a Plan for Rest After six days of creation God rested. He reflected on the worth and meaning of His work. Later He prescribed a day of rest for His people each week to do the same (Exodus 20:8-11 ). God knows people have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. These must be guarded by a proper balance of work and rest.
God's People See Their Primary Vocation as Serving Him For Christians, life's primary vocation is ministry. Christians view their workplace as a ministry post. Their pulpits are their desks, their cars, their classrooms, their kitchens. Seeing oneself as a mine worker, homemaker, school teacher, or professional person who happens to be a Christian is fundamentally different from seeing oneself primarily as a Christian who happens to be a secretary, salesperson, or accountant. A proper theology of work operating in the lives of believers would see many people positively influenced toward Christ in every setting where Christians are found working.
T. R. McNeal
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Work, Theology of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/w/work-theology-of.html. 1991.