Friday, February 22, 2013

You Can Serve God at Work

“The LORD God took man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Genesis 2:15

Many ordinary Christians have the wrong idea about serving God.  They suppose that one must become a pastor or a church worker in order to serve God.  After all, the people who are really serving God are those who are involved in “spiritual” callings related to the Christian ministry.  But this isn’t true.  Christians may serve God by performing many different kinds of work.  Jesus is Lord of all life, and we should disabuse ourselves of the idea that some areas of life are “sacred” and others “secular.”  All life must be lived in light of the Lordship of Christ.  Therefore, our everyday, non-ministry related work really matters to God.  We may breathe a sigh of relief in hearing this because we already knew that our work really matters to us.  Yet we must keep in mind that the reason that it really matters to us is because it really matters to God.  We are made in God’s image in order to steward God’s good creation.  God has a plan for every kind of work under the sun except sin.  It all matters to God.  God calls people to serve in various tasks as benevolent stewards of his world.  The good news is that whether you are a janitor, teacher, lawyer, nurse, doctor, student, you can serve God at work. 
One of the ways that we know that work matters to God is that work is God’s creation.  After God made Adam from the dust of the earth, he placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  God made Adam a farmer and called him to tend to God’s garden.  Adam was called to this work.  Our doctrine of vocation means that God calls Christians to serve in this world in many different ways.  God certainly calls some Christians to serve as pastors in the ministry of local churches, but most Christians will be called to tasks outside the church that are also important to God.  We must never get the idea that a pastor is serving God better than the person who serves faithfully in his earthly vocation.  God calls many different people to do many different things.  All is to be done to his honor and glory.    
Unfortunately, many Christians suffer from a limited understanding of our life and involvement in the world.  They evaluate their work solely in terms of “spiritual” tasks.  For example, they may erroneously assume that work is only a context for evangelism.  Therefore, they think that they only serve God when they tell another worker about Jesus.  Too bad for those who serve in earthly vocations who are not able to interact with other people!  But this view is mistaken.  The way that we serve God at work is not by trying to witness to everyone but by doing our work with excellence, enabling others to flourish in what they are doing in God’s good world.  Some Christians give the gospel a bad name by trying to evangelize when they should be taking out the trash.  There is a time and place for witnessing to be sure, but it is reductionist to think of serving God solely in terms of witnessing. 
Let me explain.  The mechanic serves God when he fixes a car with honesty, integrity, and excellence.  A nurse serves God when she is attentive to the needs of the patient and properly follows the instructions of the doctor.  A janitor serves God when he goes the extra mile to make sure the facility is clean and tidy.  A student serves God when he faithfully listens in class, does his homework well, and seeks to apply himself to his studies.  Serving God is about living all of life in light of the Lordship of Jesus.  If Jesus is Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:15-20), then surely he cares about all creation.  The idea of a secular domain of life where he is unconcerned, or where he is only concerned in “spiritual” things,” is completely foreign to the teaching of the Bible. 
As a pastor, I have not always excelled in affirming ordinary Christians who are faithfully serving God in their everyday callings.  This sends the wrong signal.  It makes people feel like they are not serving God unless they are at church or doing Christian ministry. Christians are called to bless the world and cause it to flourish as good stewards of God’s good creation.  God calls us to recognize that we can serve him in the here and now, even in the activities of life that seem mundane.  So hear this loud and clear!  You matter.  Your work matters.  You are serving God.  Let me encourage you to develop a sense of meaning and purpose when it comes to your work.  Consider what God is calling you to be and do in the here and now.  And rejoice in the fact that every area of life has value because of the exhaustive scope of Christ’s Lordship.  This recognition can really make a difference in your life.  After all, most Christians spend most of their time working.  It is a fact.  What if this time can be redeemed for the glory of God?  How might that change Monday morning for you?    

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