A Biblical Worldview: Work & Rest
David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2011, as part of their "A Biblical Worldview" series. Click here to download it.
We're currently in a series on Biblical worldview, and will be looking at Genesis to establish a Biblical worldview on issues including:
- Blessings and Curses
- Marriage and Family
- Individual and Community
- Honour Guilt Shame Anxiety etc
Worldview is the deepest level of culture, it's our deepest beliefs about life. If you haven't already, do listen and catch up with the first part in the series, A Biblical Worldview: Culture & Worldview.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Gen 1:31 – 2:3
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Gen 2:15
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” Gen 3:17-19
WHAT THIS TEACHES US ABOUT WORK
God worked, achieved his purpose, then rested on the 7th Day. We are created in His image – therefore created to work, to achieve our purpose and also to rest. We were created to work before sin came into the world. Work is not the result of the fall, but the essence of who we are. God rejoiced in the effective completion of the purposes of His work. Work for us is to be purposeful, not meaningless. Any good employer would try and show the “why” of what we are working on.
When say ‘at work’ - not necessarily mean “employed” or “earning money” but concept of “meaningful labour” - includes voluntary work, housewives/mothers - even “unemployed” if seeking to do things, eg helping others during the day - also early retirement/ordinary retirement. There can still be an opportunity for bringing in the kingdom where you are - voluntary organisations, community schemes etc. Want to honour all of these and not let people feel excluded.
God has “job satisfaction” – He “saw that it was good”. Being satisfied in what we do is God’s plan for our life:
“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” - Eccl 2:24-26.
This whole section is a contrast to the meaningless when God is not in it. A summary of Eccl 1 and 2 is that work, study, pleasure, laughter, big projects, knowledge, developing skill, are all meaningless - unless we do it for our creator to extend his kingdom. Wealth being ‘handed over’ requires a long term kingdom perspective, ‘now’ and ‘not yet’.
Job satisfaction is having a job suited to my God-given talents but also being satisfied in God as I do it. If money and pleasure are objectives then actually it is meaningless:
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” Eccl 5:10
The objective is rather this:
Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. Eccl 5:18-19
So job satisfaction is very important, but satisfaction in God and acceptance of his will and working for his kingdom, however adverse the circumstances, is true job satisfaction. I know many are not happy in their job. Therefore be happy in God in your job but still work for creative change when you can - extend the kingdom. Contentment is an inner quality, it's not dependent on circumstances.
Work is made harder and less satisfying as a result of sin. Hence the curse on the ground given to Adam. There will now be problems, work is harder, sometimes seemingly pointless, there are thorns to spoil it but our attitude is still to work hard and to work for God.
We are not to be lazy - “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!…….. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” - Prov 6:6-11.
We work for God - “Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving.” - Col 3:22-24.
Even if it is difficult at work, the boss unreasonable, your colleagues scheming against you - by all means stand against it but remember that if you can’t do anything about it you are still working for the Lord and there is an eternal perspective.
God rested for our sake. He does not need to do so:
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. Isa 40:28
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
What is the purpose of Sabbath?
- To enjoy God
- To show we trust God - so we don’t have to work all the time. In Old Testament law even land had its Sabbath - a fallow year.
- To rest from a job well done.
- Because unlike God – we are created to grow tired and weary – that was not the result of the fall.
- The one day in seven recognises the rhythm God built into creation.
- Not for lots of rules.
The Old Testament law was amongst other things to keep God’s people distinctive from the nations around. At that time people followed the lunar calendar (month) and in other cultures of this time 7 and multiples in the month were unlucky days. The seventh day was holy – to be kept for God. However, the new covenant as gospel goes to many cultures. Just as we're not to judge one another in regards to what food we eat, so too we're not to do so for special days such as Sabbaths. As Paul writes: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. Col 2:16. Saturday would have been a working day – as would Sunday – hence people coming to communion after a day’s work. Even today in many Muslim countries, the church meets on Friday. But the rhythm of 7, rest and work, still needs to be applied.
Today? Be careful to both rest and enjoy God – put aside “to do” lists etc. Be careful not to let rest become more stressful than work.
Work demonstrates being made in God’s image, so enjoy your work and work hard. Rest is built into God’s creation – so enjoy it! Our attitudes in our work also demonstrate God’s character, as we are His image.