Of all the things that were created, Moses tells us there is nothing like man. Only man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). I understand this phrase to be speaking about not what man is made of, but what he is made for. Notice the language of verse 26, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky. . .” Man is made in the image of God “so that” he might rule and have dominion over the rest of creation. He is made to steward the earth—to do (to a lesser extent), the same work that God does. As man rules in a way that brings blessing, harmony, and wholeness, he is imaging his Father.
Adam and Eve are placed in the garden “to work it and take care of it,” (2:15). Several important points flow from this: 1) work is what we do because we are made in God’s image, 2) it is one of the ways that God blesses us, 3) it was part of a perfect world, and 4) it was more than just a means to an end.
These things being so, what happens when work is removed from a person’s life (for reasons other than disability)? What happens when it is significantly removed from a culture? What happens when it is distorted and made to be only an end to money and/or power and status? The answer to all of these questions is the same—man suffers. Anytime a blessing of God is misused it becomes a curse.
Work is a blessing because when we engage in it for the right reasons, it answers to our very nature. (Is there a greater feeling than that of a job well done?). Correspondingly, to have the ability to work and not to robs us of our humanness. A society that in the name of compassion offers a stipend to those who can but don’t work, understands neither compassion nor man. It is Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. None of us are innocent here. When we demean someone who “flips burgers,” or engages in some other work that is low on our value scale, we have contributed to the problem. When God came to earth, He saw nothing wrong with working with His hands and standing among wood shavings!
The playwright, Eugene O’Neil was writing to his thirty-one year old son about the pleasure he had in his son’s achievements. He said, “Work you know is your work, which belongs to you! That’s the best thing about it. It seems to me I so rarely meet anyone who knows that the work he does is his work, a part of him, and not an extraneous support for his living. Even with people who are extremely successful, I feel this. Their work is an exterior job, not an inner necessity.”
It won’t do to worship work but how sad it is when such a significant percentage of our time, energy, and life are viewed only as something that must be done to support the “rest” of our life.
Help us to see work as a blessing through which we express our humanness. May we do it in a way that blesses, promotes harmony and wholeness, and images You to the world.