We sorely need to regain a biblical worldview in the areas of work and business. Evangelicals have traditionally put so much emphasis on the idea that salvation is not by works “lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9) that we have unwittingly marginalized the work of man altogether. Our theology and church life puts a lot of theological emphasis on sabbath rest, and hardly any on “six days shalt thou work.”
We devalue work, labor, and business further when we couple this imbalance with the traditional view that God’s kingdom is spiritual and “church”-related, and is therefore completely divorced from “this world.”
When Jesus said his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), he was talking about the origin and the ethical standards of it. He was not talking about the location of it or the development of it in earth. On the contrary, he taught us to pray that the Father’s kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
Likewise, when Paul said we are saved “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9), he was speaking of our standing before God, which he alone can change. We can do nothing in that effort. He was not speaking, however, of human work in general. In fact, the very next verse takes us directly to that: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
In other words, one reason God has performed the work of salvation in us is so that we can in turn do good works. He has specifically prepared these works for us to do—in this world. These works will include a range of things, but one thing they mean in general is that we work.
We can get a fuller biblical outlook by recalling that mankind was created for dominion in this earth (Gen. 1:26–28). He is therefore made to think God’s thoughts after him, and to “work God’s works after him” as well. This and following sections will consider the biblical worldview of the works of God and how they apply also to the work of man.
Six Days Shalt Thou Work
We can begin to understand work better when we consider different aspects of God’s works in creation. Day one presents us with lessons in confidence, initiative, and attitude—all key aspects in human business.
Confidence, Initiative, and Attitude
First, God’s work begins with actually making a beginning. Genesis 1:1 begins with this: though God was completely fulfilled and perfect within himself, he chose to create heaven and earth, an abode for Him and for his people. The power to drive ourselves into action we call initiative. The children of God will take initiative like their father.
It is one thing to have ideas, or to see a need. It is another thing altogether to act. We must be able to turn ideas into concrete realities. To do this, we must have confidence. We are told that God “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). While we obviously do not create things out of nothing in the same way God did, we nevertheless can use our various abilities to transform one situation into another more desirable one. The power to foresee the goal, trust that we have the abilities and tools necessary to get there, and bring ourselves to act in those capacities, we call confidence. That power is absolutely necessary for any task to be done—large or small.
The “formless and void” stage in creation is often called “chaos.” Chaos comes in various degrees, great or small, and the tasks required to transform it will match. From God’s perspective, this chaos was not something to fear, but an opportunity to build, improve, and continue his plan. The godly businessman or worker does not shy away from a problem, but rather faces and embraces it. Whether it is a plan, a task, or an unforeseen problem, he or she finds a way to move forward toward the goal. When a task needs to be done, whether it is initiating a new idea or being assigned a particular task, the child of God gets up, faces the task, and gets busy.
“Chaos” is present everywhere there is a need, an impediment, or merely unfinished business. Every person, every work, every corporation, every human institution, every civilization, every relationship—everything in this life—is unfinished material, an unfinished project, unfinished business to some degree. We always have some work to do, and often have several that need prioritizing and organizing. These will be tasks of business, but also personal improvement, relationships, and more.
Godly work is always Spirit-led. It is the Spirit that loves and transforms. Our tools, gifts, callings, abilities, and materials all come from God. He is the supplier of all, and the builder of all things (Heb. 3:4). We build after him. We approach our tasks, therefore, acknowledging his grace, abundance, motivation, and giving thanks.
Work should also proceed, therefore, with a proper disposition. When the earth was yet “formless and void” (Gen. 1:2), God did not come to the task with indifference, complacency, or cynicism. Instead, he cared. The Spirit “hovered” or “brooded” over the face of the deep. This verb refers to the wings of a bird. God often speaks of himself in this way: bearing one on eagle’s wings (Deut. 32:11), the shadow and “feathers” of the almighty (Psa. 91:1–4), or how a mother bird gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37). In other words, God approached a bleak-looking task with the disposition of care, nurture, love, and hope.
Children of God must have the same disposition. We work because he worked and has prepared work for us. But we work with care and purpose because that is the image of God. It makes for godly work and for godly results. Godliness means godly work and godly business.
In the next section, we’ll discuss planning, speech, and communication.