If we open our Bibles and begin reading on page one, we find after only twenty-five verses a reason God placed humans on earth: to do the work of God according to the will of God as revealed by the Word of God (Gen. 1:28). God tasked man and woman to work His garden together and to fill the earth as a means by which “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (Hab. 2:14).
But only two chapters later we read of thorns, thistles, sweat, and pain (Gen. 3:18–19). Something has gone terribly wrong. The apostle Paul describes all creation as groaning (Rom. 8:22), because while we await our future hope, “thorns infest the ground.” Consequently, our work comes with sweat, tears, blood, and gasps.
So when we think about work, it is far too easy to focus only on those thorns. We might even dream of a day when we no longer “have to work,” envisioning a future state in which we cry no more and work no more. Yet the latter is not God’s ideal for us. God made us for work, and our work, even for others, matters to Him.
The experience of Nelu Melancea, a third-year DTS student from Moldova, provides as an excellent example of what can happen when Christians understand that our labors matter to God and view our work as vocation, even as we await its full redemption:
“In the booming years of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev said, ‘By the end of the 1980s, we’ll show you the last Christian on television.’
“In my hometown in the 1950s the Soviet authorities took away our church building and demolished it. We had collective farms where people were working the fields, and Christians were sharing the gospel. So the authorities said, ‘We have to do something. People are converting in the fields. So let’s put the Christians in one group so they can’t share with anybody. And we’ll put with them all the alcoholics and prisoners so their productivity will be way low.’
“All those people became the most productive. They became Christian. And no one could say anything bad about the Christians. One company near our village was told, ‘Fire the Christians. They are preaching too much.’
“But the director said, ‘If you fire them, we will have only people who steal. And our company will have to close, because we rely on the Christians to do the work.’
“In those days when the church was persecuted, and they needed something done, they would go to the Christians, because they would do the job right.”
Nelu’s experiences remind us of a truth that is the focus for this issue of Kindred Spirit: “Faith at Work”: Our work matters to God.
Dorothy L. Sayers, who has much to say on our topic, wrote, “The first Adam was cursed with labor and suffering; the redemption of labor and suffering is the triumph of the second Adam—the Carpenter nailed to the cross.” Though all creation groans now, the Carpenter of Nazareth is the Lord of our efforts. When we work for others as if we were working for Him, we work for Him as we work for others. For whom are you working—your boss or your Master?