What does “your kingdom come” and “your will be done” mean? How can our everyday work be kingdom work? How does it fit into God's plans and purposes?
The book of Exodus offers two major gifts to the theology of work. It tells us the purpose of our work within the context of God’s story, and how we should go about our work. The Ten Commandments, of course, have much to say about the latter; an extensive treatment of the ethical implications of the Ten Commandments for the workplace can be found here. For this article, we’ll explore the purpose of work.
God’s work of rescue in Exodus is a model for the work that Christians engage in. Some might be surprised to find that the scope of God’s work implies that our work–beyond the walls of the church institution–matters. The four redemptive purposes of God’s work in Exodus provide guidance for us today.
“I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (Ex. 6:6)
God’s will is to rescue people from oppressive and harmful conditions. Those can include physical danger, or emotional and psychological trauma. Rescue can occur at the individual level, or as whole societies or people-groups find ways to address injustice and work peaceably for the common good. Considering the pervasive brokenness of the world, there will always be opportunities to partner with God in the work of deliverance. Careers in this area may include anything from law enforcement and social work to politics and international development.
“I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.” (Ex. 6:7a)
God delivered Israel so they could form a community that would be a blessing to the rest of the world. His intentions tie back to his promise to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Gen.12:2. Israel was to demonstrate what it genuinely meant for a community to be in relationship with God the Creator and Redeemer.
As Christians, we are representatives of the work of reconciliation. By building good relationships, we mirror the gift that we’ve been given. If you’re a community organizer, youth work, event planner or parent, building community may be the purpose of your job. But whatever your career, there are opportunities to invest in relationships in the day-to-day. Small acts of kindness and camaraderie can include listening well, assisting someone when they need help, or having lunch with a new co-worker.
Relationship with God
“You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians” (Ex. 6:7b).
When God rescues the Israelites, they get to know him in new ways. The “know”ing here does not imply just head-level knowledge or information about God. The biblical concept of knowledge includes the interpersonal experience of knowing others. Evangelism, discipleship, relationship-building and justice provide opportunities for others to personally experience God’s love in action. Participating in God’s work also allows us to know him more deeply, to see his work up close.
Increasingly intimate relationship with God empowers us to do the work of deliverance (described above), build community and affect change for the kingdom.
The Good Life
“…I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” Ex. 3:8
The “land” referred to here is symbolic of occurrences in which “abundant life” overflows. God’s work of salvation includes all of creation: people, culture, the environment, economics. Ultimately, God promise culminates in the New Jerusalem in Revelation. Life breaks forth when God’s will is done on earth, as it is in heaven.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
As we live in right relationship with God and others, working to reflect God’s purposes and values, transformation happens in and around us. “Abundant life” does not entail selfish prosperity or conspicuous consumption. Rather, it encompasses all of life as God intends it to be: full of love, justice and mercy.
What do you think? How do you see your work, or work relationships, fitting into God’s redemptive purposes for the world? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The four-part framework used in this article is from Elmer Martens, God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology (3rd edition).
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