Work is Worship

Work = Worship?

For many, the word “worship” often conjures an image of corporate activity expressed within the four walls of a church. But the Old Testament paints a much broader, life-encompassing perspective. It begins in Genesis 2:15 where God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it.”

The Hebrew word for “work” in this and several other Old Testament passages is avodah. That same verb is often used to describe “worship,” as in Exodus 3:12 when God calls Moses to lead the Hebrews with the assurance that, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship (avad) God on this mountain.”

In fact, throughout the Old Testament avodah is used to describe work, worship, service, and cultivation, indicating a seamless integration of our labor with the glorification of God. Paul sums up the essence of this integration in Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

In His Image

Hands of woodcarver make wooden bowl. Close up

This has important implications for our understanding of “calling” and “doing the Lord’s work.” In truth, every Christian is engaged in full-time ministry, and our work is a critical part of our image-bearing nature and cultural stewardship. As human beings we were created for productive, neighbor-serving activity.

This understanding of the sacredness of work and its indivisible correlation with worship was revived during the Reformation and became one of its central tenets. But a subtle dualism – a sacred-secular divide – has crept into the Church, elevating ministry and mission work over other vocations.

What This Means

As pastors, we need to proclaim the truth that God created his image-bearers to work. We need to re-instill the understanding that our parishioners’ occupations as plumbers, pilots, pathologists, or parents are meaningful and should be done to God’s glory. And we need to equip the saints to face the challenges that arise in their Monday-Friday work.