Reflecting the Image of Our Creator Through Work

When we open the first pages of the Bible, we see God working. Where there is darkness and chaos, God brings light and order. Where there is a vast sea, He forms dry land. He is working—creating, shaping, and forming a world. And He said “…it was good.”

The world God created was full of potential. There were all kinds of seed-bearing plants and animals that reproduced “after their own kind”. The world He created was filled with things that could grow, reproduce, and spread. But in Genesis 2:4-9, we see that the world wasn’t producing. It had a need—a need to be cultivated. So God formed man from the dust of the ground and gave Him life. Once He formed the man, He placed him in the garden “to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15, ESV).

“If God works and gave us work to do, it is critical for us to think well about work.”

If God works and gave us work to do, it is critical for us to think well about work. And in order for us to think well about work, we must define what work actually is. A common mistake in our culture is to think that work is the same as a vocation or job. A broader, more Biblical understanding is that work is energy expended. There are all sorts of arenas in life that require energy from me—parenting, marriage, career, home, and extended family, among other things.

But if work is energy expended, then how do we recover energy? When God had finished creating, He rested, creating a work-rest pattern for mankind to follow. So it would be incomplete to talk about work without talking about rest. There are several forms of rest—ways to recover energy. Sleep would be the most intense form of rest. But there are weekly forms of rest as well as yearly and seasonal forms. Even recreation, the idea of energy diverted, is a way to recharge and prepare us to reengage our work.

But there is something else that complicates our work. In Genesis 3, after man chose to ignore God’s instructions, he was exiled from the garden where he had been working. The curse had been pronounced:

“…the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
    though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
    from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.”

After the man sinned, the very ground he was made from became cursed. He struggled to scratch a living from it until death. Ever since then work has fallen under the general category of suffering. And because of the curse, we have a tendency to pervert our work—to idolize it and make it the most important thing, or flee from it and fall into false forms of accomplishment. This is the idea of escape, or energy corrupted.

“Work is humbling and difficult in a cursed world, but it is still good, and it is still spiritual.”

God will undo the curse one day, but for now, as believers we are called to spend our energy appropriately on our responsibilities, be faithful to rest, and reject escaping into work or fleeing from it. Work is humbling and difficult in a cursed world, but it is still good, and it is still spiritual. You will find it is one of the primary ways we reflect the image of our Creator. After all, it’s the first thing we see Him doing in the Bible.

-Jim Taylor, Spartanburg Campus Pastor