This is the second blog in a thirteen part series based on “Every Good Endeavor” by Tim Keller.
For the last few weeks, I have been reading a book by Tim Keller called “Every Good Endeavor.” Tim Keller the lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He has a doctorate, he has successfully published many books, and was a professor. And through all of that, he has gained a whole heck of a lot of knowledge and wisdom in the area of work.
I am going to be blogging on each chapter’s main point, while inserting my own thoughts and practical applications along the way. I guarantee you will find benefit through this and if you aren’t 100% satisfied, I’ll give you your money back :)!
The Design of Work
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation…The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:1-3, 15
When God created the world, he was hard at work. And by hard, I mean he went to task in creating the whole world and everything in it in just six days (most of us have a hard time following up on an email in that same span). One of the most important things to note, and one that many people do, is that work began as a huge blessing, in a place of paradise (Gen 2:15).
Most cultures, including ours here in the United States, typically view work as a curse. Yet in the beginning, there was no struggle to put man to work. Man did not kick and scream to go to work. It was a great thing God had done and man felt blessed to do it. Work wasn’t a “necessary evil” and it wasn’t even something only reserved for man himself (us). God worked because it brought him joy, and that’s why we should work as well.
The Forms of God’s Work
Keller begins to show his readers that God delights in his work, and he doesn’t do so just to create but also to care. God formed man, planted and watered a garden, and gave him an amazing wife. Throughout the Bible, God continues caring and providing for the world.
My favorite part of this section has Keller explaining that God commissions workers to carry on his work. He uses Genesis 1:28 to back that up as God told Adam to “fill the earth and subdue it.” The world we live in has a whole lot of untapped potential as God made it that way so we could produce. The great reformer Martin Luther says that “God feeds every living thing, meaning he is feeding us through the labor of farmers and others.”
The Goodness of Our Work
It is perfectly clear that God’s good plan always included human beings working, or, more specifically, living in the constant cycle of work and rest. Unknown scholar
This quote allows us to see that work is good and intended by God to be that way. It is not the result of the fall of man as many believe. “Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul.” (pg 35) I believe this to be so true. Producing good work makes us all feel good and unless you are just awful and lazy, not producing some sort of work is a very discouraging thing to go through.
Work is also important because it helps us to understand who we are and in some sense, why we were put on this earth. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe who we are is determined by our job, our success, or our production, but I do think that knowing and utilizing our God given abilities helps to shape our identity. Dorothy Sayers says “It (the Christian understanding of work) is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of a worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.” (pg 37) What does this mean? Go work with all of your heart. Give it everything you have an enjoy the fruit of it, whether that is personal success or blessing to another, or better yet, both!
The Limits of All Work
Though I just shared that work is good and can help shape our identity, it shouldn’t be all of who we are. There must be limits to what we are doing. Tim Keller says “you will not have a meaningful life without work, but you cannot say that your work is the meaning of your life.” (pg 40) In society today we see many people who make their work their life. They use excuses like “this is just a season so I can get ahead” or “I can do this now because I am single” or “there is nothing else that matters in my life.” All of those things are nothing more than the creation of idols in our own hearts. Work isn’t who we are, it’s just a small part.
We must enjoy the fruits of our labor. When I was younger, I used to live by the quote “work hard to play hard.” I think it is still a pretty good quote but I would modify it to say “work hard to bless hard.” By this, I mean that I want to work as hard as I possibly can in the allotted time I am given to work, but only if it is so I can bless my family and others around me which ultimately blesses me :).
Remember, work because it is a gift from God and it is meaningful to God and his people. Rest so you can recharge and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Until my next post on this topic, get out there and work your heart out!