Posted by: Brian Musser | April 16, 2014

Defining Work

Work-Ship – Week One:  God Works – Day Seven: Defining Work

For the past six days we have been talking about the work God does.  Hopefully, you have come to the conclusion that God works.  However; you may still have some reservations about describing God as a working God.  Sometimes our theological thoughts and ideas about God are so grand that we have trouble thinking about God actually doing anything.  Sometimes God’s transcendence, other-worldliness and holiness are so stressed that we cannot imagine God working.  We think that real work would in some way diminish God’s perfection.  However; throughout Christian Scripture God is illustrated as an extremely active worker.  This apparent contradiction does not come from a faulty definition of God but from a misconstrued idea about work.

Often when work is easy we do not consider it work.  Our concept of work includes descriptors such as hard, toilsome, tiring, time-consuming, exhausting, frustrating, boring, necessary and required.  With a concept of work that necessarily includes those ideas it is not only hard to imagine God as working but it would be wrong.  Nothing is hard for God.  God never gets tired.  God is never frustrated or bored.  Nothing outside of God ever imposes requirements upon Him.  God has unlimited amounts of time and energy so nothing can ever truly consume them.  Work and God seem like mutually exclusive ideas.

But then we hear about a God who creates, makes, shapes and forms.  We read about a God who rests.  We see a God who reveals himself as a shepherd, a gardener, a metal-smith.  We listen to God describe himself as a worker.  This produces an unnecessary tension in our minds.  Is our theology about God wrong?  Has God misrepresented Himself in Scripture?  But the key questions are neither of these.  Are our ideas about work correct?  What is a theologically sound definition of work?  God works.   Our definition of work must be based on God’s work.  Let’s look at a passage from the Gospel of John.

John 5:17-19 (HCSB)

But Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Then Jesus replied, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.”

Jesus speaks about and defines His work through the context of God the Father’s work.  Jesus Christ, God the Son, uses the work of God the Father to know what work He should be doing.  The work of the Son was defined by the work of the Father.  Keeping this in mind when we create a definition of work, our definition of work must be based on the work of God.  Since God works our definition of work must be one based and developed from the work of God.  This is a “Godly” definition of work with explanations of the key ideas in the definition.

Work is the intentional use of a person’s energy (mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual) to accomplish a specific change.

There are four key ideas within that definition:

1)      Personal – By my definition, work is only done by persons.  This does not mean that only humans can do work.  The word person is broader than a synonym for the word human.  God for example is a person.  Angels would qualify as persons.

2)      Intentional – Work is done based on a previous decision of the will.  Work cannot happen by accident or at random.  This is why work must be done by a person.  Only persons have the ability to use their will to intentionally decide to do work.

3)      Energy – Work requires that a person intentionally spend energy.  We have to use some of the resources available to us.  This energy may come in several different forms: mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual energy.

4)      Change– The person has to intend to make a change and the person has to accomplish a change.  However, the accomplished and the intended changes do not necessarily have to be the same.

In what way does knowing God works change your concept about work?  Does the idea that God works make you feel better or worse about your work?  Why?

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