Part Two - Summoned and Equipped by God: Chapter 5 - Doing the Lord's Work
The Good of Work
Stevens closes chapter five pointing to the intrinsic value of work. Most of us are readily aware of the extrinsic value of work; it creates wealth for us and allows us to sustain our lives. But work is good in itself. It has intrinsic value. Work is one of the primary ways we exhibit the image of God.
Work is good for the world. From the first chapter of Genesis we see that God made humanity for the world to work it and make it more bountiful and beautiful. Work is good for the neighbor. By combining our work with the work of countless others we mutually enrich each others lives. Our gospel work brings hope, restoration, meaning and peace to those separated from God. Work is also good for us. Our work plays a central role in our sanctification. Stevens presents a wonderful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.
Work plunges men into the world of things. The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the ‘it’; and this new encounter frees him [or her] for objectivity; for the ‘it’-world is only an instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking. The work of the world can be done only where a person forgets himself [or herself], where he loses himself in a cause, in reality, the task, the ‘it’. In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus for him the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh. The passions of the flesh die in the world of things. But this can happen only where the Christian breaks through the ‘it’ to the ‘Thou’, which is God, who bids him work and makes that work a means of liberation from himself. (125)
Go back and read that paragraph a couple more times. When we come to see our work in this way, work ceases to be something compartmentalized from our “spiritual” life and becomes the focal point of our spiritual formation.
Have you experienced the work you do as spiritual formation?