Work for the Glory of God
Thinking ethically about our work
By: T.M. Moore|Published: May 4, 2012 4:55 PM
Topics: DTRT Ethics News
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” -John 17:4
It would be difficult to overstate the importance God places on the work He has given us to do.
By our work Christians acknowledge the Lord’s gracious provision, join in His reconciliation, express His presence and power, advance His dominion over the earth, and entice others to seek Him. The work God has given us to do is greater than the job at which we work. There is the work of growing in our salvation, for example (Phil. 2:12, 13), as well as the work of ministering God’s grace and truth to others (Eph. 4:11, 12). We must also employ the spiritual gifts God has given us to do the work of building the Church in unity and maturity (1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:3). The work in which we apply our professional skills and earn our living is equally important, and part of the larger calling to work that God has extended to all those who call upon His Name.
Work, in other words, is neither a curse nor a thing indifferent to the Kingdom purposes of God. Nor is work limited only to what we do in order to make a living. Work is central to what God has prepared for us so that He might bless us and make us a blessing to the world.
Jesus was very much conscious of the importance of His work. And while His work was unique, it nonetheless establishes a template for our work, which is also unique, in its own way. Like Jesus, we want to have the assurance that our work – every aspect of all our work – is bringing glory to God. What can we learn from Jesus about doing our work in such a way that God is truly glorified in all we do?
Let me suggest five guidelines which outline a kind of ethics of working for the glory of God.
First, Jesus shows us that, in order to work well, we have to prepare well. Jesus’ work only extended for some three years of His life. What was He doing for the preceding thirty years? We can only imagine, but from Luke 2:52 a broad outline of Jesus’ preparations emerges. He continued growing in wisdom – the skillful application of God’s truth to all of life. He was careful to maintain good health so that He could grow in stature. He worked on understanding and relating to men. And, above all, He continued deepening His relationship with God the Father.
Wisdom, stature (good health), favor with God, favor with men: Jesus prepared diligently in all these areas. Moreover, He prepared continuously. Even after His ministry had begun we observe Him conscientiously attending to all these areas.
If we want our work to bring glory to God, then we, too, must be always in a mode of preparation – growing in grace, improving our ability to understand and love our neighbors, learning new skills and abilities in all our work, and taking care to maintain good health – both of soul and body.
An eye to the horizon
Second, Jesus undertook His work with a view to an eternal horizon. Whatever He did, even as a child, was with a view to doing His “Father’s business.” Jesus understood and embraced Solomon’s advice about living “under the heavens” in every area of life rather than merely “under the sun.” He wanted to make sure that all His work was pleasing to God and that all of it contributed to furthering the divine economy.
There was no division in Jesus’ work between what mattered only for His personal needs and what was for the Kingdom of God. All Jesus’ work was Kingdom work. His eye was always toward the bright glow of eternal blessedness that shines beyond the horizons of time.
When we learn to take up all our work with this eternal horizon as our orienting point, we will discover the secret of doing all things – no matter how seemingly small or inconsequential – for the praise of God and His glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
Engage and enlist others
Third, Jesus worked diligently to engage others in His work and to enlist them in His mission. Indeed, the vast bulk of Jesus’ public ministry was devoted to readying the next generation of those who would carry His work forward in time. If our work matters, if it truly has Kingdom significance and, thus, the ability to bring the blessings of God to others, then would it not be important to bring others into it and help them own and carry it beyond wherever we might be able to go?
But training others is work in and of itself. We need a context for such work (home, church, workplace) as well as a curriculum (things to be learned over time) and conditions (outcomes) that will tell us that our work has borne good fruit.
We do not work only for ourselves; we work for others and for the future – especially if our work is geared toward honoring and glorifying God. So we need to bring others into our work and begin to give them a role to play in helping to bring that work to completion and continuation.
Fourth, Jesus carefully assessed His work, and that of His colleagues, concerning its contribution to the Kingdom of God. There were many good things Jesus might have done, or that He might have given His disciples to do. But what mattered to Him, as He pressed toward that eternal horizon, were those activities that brought righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit to the people of His day, and that laid the foundation for more such Kingdom advance after He had returned to the Father.
Jesus told His disciples that they would do “greater works” than He had done because the Spirit would come to dwell with and in them. In His own work He taught the disciples that they could not do everything; thus, they must focus only on those works that have the most possibility of advancing the rule of God on earth.
Our work – all aspects of our work – is bearing fruit when we can discern the marks of the Kingdom – righteousness, peace, an d joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17, 18) – increasingly in evidence over time.
Finally, Jesus worked in such a way as to ensure that fruit would remain after He had departed. Mere activity was never on the Lord’s agenda. All His work was toward specific objectives, and designed to achieve concrete results. He chose His disciples that they might go and bear abiding fruit – in themselves and others – and He taught them how to seek the Kingdom so that the Church of the Lord would grow in unity and maturity through their efforts. In everything He did Jesus sought the fruit of the Kingdom, and it pleased Him, at the end of His life, to see that in everything He had done, He had more than abundantly succeeded.
In all our work we need to make sure that our efforts will leave behind blessings for the people who follow us.
It’s worth considering how these simple guidelines might help to shape and improve the work we’ve been given to do. What will it mean for you and your work to:
be always preparing to take up all your work in a manner that will bring glory to God and blessing to men?
focus on the coming day when you will stand before God, expecting to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
seek to bring about increase of righteousness, peace, and joy in every aspect of your work?
bring others into your work, and teach them how to take up the work of the Kingdom according to their own callings and abilities?
evaluate all you do in order to discover the fruit God has brought forth, so that you might praise and thank Him accordingly?
Our work matters – all of it. If we can do our work unto the Lord and take every aspect of it captive for Christ, then the Kingdom of God will come through us to bring the blessings of grace to everyone touched by the work we’ve been given to do.
Next steps: Review the five guidelines for a Christian ethic of work. Rate yourself, using a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is the highest rating) to discover the extent to which this ethic is in place in your own life. Where do you need to improve? How might you begin to do so? Share the results of this exercise with a Christian friend.