This is an excerpt from the book 'Workship: How to Use your Work to Worship God' by Kara Martin. Kara will be giving the keynote address at the 2018 EdComm Dinner.
I have two adult children. Jaslyn is 21, and Guy is 19. Right from the moment they were born I realised that I had to be careful in the way I thought about them. They are not my children, they are a gift from God.
God has given me stewardship over them for as long as I live. They are a beautiful and treasured gift, but I try and make sure I hold them lightly.
This reframing has been helpful as the kids have grown. When Jaslyn contracted leukaemia when she was six, I didn’t see it as God trying to take her away from me; but I accepted the possibility he might be asking me to entrust her back to his care.
When Guy went through a time of rebellion when he was 15, I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t make him believe, because he wasn’t mine. However, I could continue to love and care for him, and model relationship with God, and pray.
Work as stewardship
My recognition that I am a steward of my children is the same attitude that I bring to my work, and it is a biblical premise. In Genesis 1:26 God gave humanity work to do, to be stewards over his creation. In Genesis 2:15 he tells Adam to work the earth and keep the garden.
Work is a gift because we have an opportunity to be steward over whatever responsibility God has given us: to love that work, do the best we can with it and offer it back to God as a form of worship.
God gives us the gift and enables us to do it
Not only does God give us work to do, but he gives us what we need to do it well. We read in Genesis 2:8 that God planted a garden and placed humans in it. Further on we read that God provided everything humans needed to work and live. The garden is the source of food, and in verses 10–12 we read that there are rivers and a variety of resources: ore, including gold, and resins for building and construction, and onyx stone, a precious stone possibly used for trade.
God also gives us the gifts and skills we need to do the work. In the Old Testament we see this in the famous story of Bezalel in Exodus 31 who is given gifts of wisdom and creativity and skill.
In the New Testament we read of spiritual gifts poured out in Romans 12:3–8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1–11. I have a friend who is very depressed that God has given her the gift of administration (or serving in Romans 12:7). It is not as exciting a gift as she would want, but the reality is that she has a natural sense of order and organisation. It is a feature of all the different sorts of work that she does: in her managing of events, her study, even the way she arranges her apartment.
Gifting and working
We see the link between gifting and working in the New Testament:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Please do not confuse faith and work with faith and works! Paul wants us to recognise first of all that our saved relationship with God is a result of grace, not a result of work, or things we do. However as saved people there are two aspects of work as a gift that we see here.
First of all, we are a work of God. We are his workmanship. We are lovingly crafted by God as a gift to his world. And secondly he has created us for good works. He gives us the gift of meaningful and purposeful work to do. He has prepared that work for us, and gifted us to complete the work.
For some of you, this idea of work as a gift might come more easily. Maybe you love housework. Maybe you love study. Maybe you love the job you are in.
Seeing work as a gift when you struggle
Others might be struggling. How can you see work as a gift
• when you feel weary, overwhelmed?
• when your workplace is toxic?
• when you are fighting with someone at work?
• when your contract is not going to be renewed?
• when you are not sure you are making a difference?
In reacting to these challenges, whatever work you do, there are two certainties: your boss and your response.
Now by boss, I do not mean your manager, or teacher, or lecturer … I mean God.
Colossians 3:23 says:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. It is God we work for, it is he who gave our work to us as a gift, it is he who prepared us for the work he gave us to do.
Secondly, we can always put ourselves into the tasks that he gives us. Our whole self. All our effort. The poet William Blake wrote to his patron the following:
‘My fingers emit sparks of fire with expectations of my future labours.’
We cannot control what is happening around us, but we can choose our attitude, how we respond to the gift we have been given.
Martin, K. (2017). Workship: How to use your work to worship God. Graceworks: Singapore.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.