Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.’
Happy New Year! In the coming days it’s likely that you’ll be returning to work, or thinking about it, or at least know someone who is!
You might have even made some work-related New Year’s resolutions – perhaps to get a new job or change the way that you approach your existing one. That would seem like a wise course of action considering the average person spends 30% of their waking hours at work— around 90,000 hours in a working lifetime.
How, then, might Scripture help frame or re-frame our approach to work in 2024?
The Bible offers two equally radical and contrasting insights, which are as counter-cultural today as they were in the world of the ancient Near East.
First, work is part of what makes us human. Genesis tells the story of God’s work of creation, the first work of all and the prototype for all work that follows. Unlike other creation myths (ancient and modern), the material world is not an accident or mistake. It is an act of self-expression on the part of God, intended for the flourishing of all.
God creates human beings in his ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ to ‘rule’ planet earth and look after it as his representatives, bringing life to everyone and everything around them. We are created both to work in, on, with, and for that which God has created. Matter really does matter. If we are serious about loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves, good work is non-negotiable. It’s an act of worship.
But, second, there’s more to life than work. God rested from his work. This act was also a prototype for all rest that follows. This is why the instruction to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy is one of the Ten Commandments. If we fail to take rest seriously, we are guilty of idolatry and of claiming we know better than God.
John Koessler notes how ‘Sabbath affords a rest by which we are not so much restored as re-storied.’ In the biblical narrative, Sabbath displaces work from the centre of human life and invites us to reimagine a world that is centred around the God who made it. In taking rest seriously, we are not only refreshed but ‘re-storied’ with a true account of God, the world, and ourselves.
So, enjoy practising the disciplines of work and rest over the year ahead – and, in the process, discover something more of what it means to be human.
How subversive is the Bible’s approach to work and rest in our contemporary culture, and how do you practise rhythms that reflect this approach? Join the conversation below.