By Terry Stephens, Bethel Seminary St. Paul
We, of course, desire integration and wholeness in all that we do. It is easier and cleaner and freer to know that we can be the same person – one person – in any context, and every day. Unfortunately, it is far too common to think that life is divided into secular and sacred realms, a dualism that suggests worship is for Sunday but work is for Monday. Such dualism, to a degree, fuels a type of dis-integration and even suggests that some work is holy, but all other work is mundane. Sadly, this false dualism even leads to the error that some people are more holy than others, a falsehood that surely lends to license and undergirds the scourge of clergy abuse.
Dualistic thinking is not promulgated by the Bible, though it was advanced by ancient Greek philosophy. While the language tools of koine Greek were helpful in articulating New Testament doctrine, we must always guard against the encroachment of ungodly philosophical ideas. Paul is clear: We must “be transformed by the renewing” of our minds (Rom. 12:2). Avodah is a Hebrew term that is rich with meaning, and is variously translated as work, worship, and service. It offers a holistic view of the life of faith and helps us to understand that everything we do may be an act of worship and service unto our Lord, including all that we categorize as work. We do not have to live bifurcated lives – our work can also be an act of worship to the One who gifted and equipped us to work and to meet the needs of His humanity.
In the book Work Matters, Tom Nelson helps us to renew our thinking by “connecting Sunday worship to Monday work” (the subtitle of the book). The reflections of Peggy, a student, are especially noteworthy. She observes that “most of life is work of some sort, and the routines of daily life require faith” (p. 80). From the routine tasks of dusting furniture to the weekly task of grocery shopping and to every morally acceptable career choice, let us not shy away from thanking the only One who has so enabled us – and let us, thereby, worship Him even as we work.
Nelson, Tom. Work Matters. Crossway, 2011.