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My Father's Business

Monday, 2 March 2015  | John Yates

“Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).

A while ago, I was at a small meeting with some people with a mutual interest in Christ’s kingdom in the workplace. We had gathered for mutual support and prayer. Someone shared quite passionately of seeing lovely young people join a firm’s IT department and being “turned into machines” by the work ethic there. A pastor spoke of the difficulty in getting young professionals to “find time for God” in their busy working lives.

Christians mourn the increasing ungodliness of our culture. We hope that we may make contributions to reversing this. What convictions can animate this? I think a sense that all the spheres of work were designed by the Father to reveal his glory in the Son.

He is the image of the invisible God…by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Col 1:15-16).

Is our workaday world something that simply exists by chance, or is there a greater design or purpose? What might it mean to see all the spheres of life and culture exist as part of the Father’s plan to reveal the fullness of his glory in Christ as the image of God? In this view, the various domains of government, art, science, law, education, business, health, media, sport and so on are the Father’s gift to the Son in order for their mutual pleasure within creation.

The making of humanity in the divine image at the pinnacle of creation is the high point in this divine plan (Gen 1:26-31; Prov 8:30-31). The various human activities we see today, from painting to engineering, are all spheres in which the wisdom and knowledge of Christ might be clearly seen. The image and glory of God was first reflected in the dominion over creation given us in Eden (Gen 1:26; 2:15). Being employed by the LORD was an integral dimension of our unfallen existence.

When Adam and Eve fell under the rule of the serpent, the godly vocation of labour was turned into painful toil and a neverending quest to survive in a cursed world (Gen 3:16-19). People commonly think of work as a necessary evil; until one wins Lotto! The dehumanisation in the marketplace, turning lovely people into machines, is a sign of the loss of God’s glory. We often speak of human struggles to survive between labour and capital, rich and poor, multinationals and little people. But what of “principalities and powers” against who we struggle, those who have usurped dominion over the spheres of work and culture (Eph 6:12). These ‘powers’ were created for the Christ’s glory in the world but now desire to rule us by imposing over our humanity their own fragmented and  depersonalised lives (Matt 8:29; Col 1:16).

With hectic lives too busy to “find time for God”, busyness at work has become a means of hiding from the Lord. Could it be that the energy and affirmation gained through strenuous success in employment is just another “fig leaf” to cover up a deep inner sense of relational shame with God (Genesis 3:7)? It is impossible to be driven in the workplace and to experience the purpose for which work was originally designed; sharing in the pleasure of Father and Son in the wonder and wisdom of creation. The pleasures of God are the solution to the discipleship crisis of the Church in the world.

What about lazy workers? Sloth is a form of secret rebellion driven by the desire to be one’s own and only boss. This too denies the glory of God.

“The church…is his (Christ’s) body, the fullness of him who fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:22-23). God’s answer to the dominion of evil powers in the world of work is his presence in all the spheres of life and culture through the Church; “through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:10). There is rich wisdom from God for the geologist, tradie, school teacher, and so on, that can reveal his kingdom in every place. Think of Joseph, Daniel and that famous tent maker Paul.

Over such wisdom dwelling in the Church, the ‘principalities’ contesting the workaday world have no power!

When these usually separate spheres of government, art, science, law, education, business, health, media, and sport, etc., come together in Christ (e.g. sculptors uniting with mining workers) then Jesus’ glory will be manifest in our cities in amazing ways. The Spirit is passionate to take the wisdom of Jesus Christ outside of the gathered Church.

The Lord is our mentor for the workplace in our day, working through the Spirit and his Body. This will involve the integration of networks of believers from the various spheres of work walking together in times of prayer, conferences, workshops and outreaches. All of this designed to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” bearing the image of God throughout the wider world (Eph 4:10, 12). When this united action takes place, the prophetic word—“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14)—will become tangible in our midst.



Gordon Preece
March 3, 2015, 9:18AM
Great piece John. I particularly liked the point re overwork being just another fig-leaf. I plead guilty. Though of core there's the employer's side of that and the technological pace and drive for more productivity that treats us as just a cog in the machine. W e need to help each other discern 'it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us' Acts 15, how these principalities and powers refelct either, creation, fall or redemption Col 1, sometimes all at once.

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