September 8, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from September 4-10 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 21 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 2:4-9 (NIV)

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. 5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man w from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin j and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I think it surprises some people that the Bible has so much to say about work and how relevant it is to us today—even after thousands of years.  From the very first pages of Genesis, we are told that God finished His work of creation and then rested on the seventh day. In most religious views of the world, work is something that is beneath the gods and reserved for lowly humans to undertake; but in the Christian worldview, God literally gets His hands dirty and forms man from the very dust.   And you can see from today’s passage that the very first thing that God does for man is to share His love for work with him.  Genesis 2:15 states, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  What should be readily apparent is that this mandate was given to humanity before the Fall—that is, before the introduction of sin in the world.  This is important for many reasons, but the key theological lesson to be taken from this sequence of events is that work itself is not the curse.  Work, like everything else God created, is good but what has been cursed by sin is how man relates to work.  

Solomon, after a lifetime of striving and toil, comes to realize one of the most important truths in life: that work of all types is a gift from God.  If you can believe this at the bottom of your heart, life becomes less burdensome, more enjoyable, and certainly more fulfilling.  One of the worst feelings in life is the sense that your work doesn’t matter or that you are not being as productive as you can be.  How many of us feel good after wasting a day browsing the internet and putting off work that we should be taking care?  On the flip side, there is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in a job well done and knowing that your work is significant.  This is what Tim Keller writes about the importance of work in our lives:

Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness.  People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  

Your ability to work is a gift from God and has the potential to help you flourish.  Unfortunately, many of us are not experiencing these blessings from our work.  Instead of work causing us to thrive, it is actually having the opposite effect, causing emotional damage, physical exhaustion, and spiritual stagnation.  Although all of us know the importance of work, this fact is actually more of a burden than a blessing, and for some, a major source of unhappiness.  So if work is a gift from God, why is it also a source of so much frustration?  It comes down to the fact that we often can have a sinful relationship with work.  We can fall into the trap of deriving our identity from our jobs or becoming workaholics, or conversely—becoming lazy.  Whatever the case may be, the solution to the problem of work is given to us by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not human masters…”   

Prayer: Father, we thank You for the gift of work.  Help us to have the appropriate perspective regarding our jobs and careers, and that it would not become an ultimate priority but something we do for Your glory.  We confess that it is all too easy to simply work for ourselves or for our employers, forgetting that all our efforts should be directed towards the One who gave us the opportunity and the ability to accomplish fulfilling work. Today, at our places of work, may we be a good testimony of Your goodness by the way we engage with those around us.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 29


Lunch Break Study

Read Colossians 3:22-4:1 (NIV): Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. 4 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Questions to Consider

  1. Is this passage advocating slavery or unjust employment practices?
  2. How should Christians relate to their employers?
  3. If you are a Christian employer, how should you relate to your workers?

Notes

  1. This passage has often been used improperly to justify the practice of chattel slavery. However, this form of forced slavery was not what Paul was alluding to. In the Ancient Middle East, many people became indentured servants to pay back debt or deal with other financial hardships. These verses were never meant to promote a stoic acceptance of unfair practices in the workplace.
  2. This passage gives us great insight in terms of the attitude that we should have towards our employers. We should work diligently, even when we are not under direct supervision and be sincere towards them. In the end, a proper work ethic is derived from our reverence for God and the knowledge that we will be rewarded beyond our earthly paychecks if we work as unto the Lord.
  3. I have sometimes witnessed Christians being poor managers, bosses, and employers. This is a sinful waste of a wonderful opportunity to influence those whom God has entrusted into your care. We are to treat our employees with equity, care, and compassion, because this is the way that our Master in heaven treats us.

Evening Reflection

It is so easy to dismiss our work as being insignificant. When I was working in the corporate world, it was easy to say things like “another day, another dollar.” As harmless as this may seem, it revealed a certain attitude that I had in my heart towards my job. In the end, this showed a very low view of the work and opportunity that God had given me. What is your attitude towards your job and your employer? Are you able to rest at the end of the week, knowing that you have worked with all your heart?

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