‘Avodah’: What It Means to Live a Seamless Life of Work, Worship, and Service
This article was originally published at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics.
Depending on who you ask, Eskimos may have over 100 distinct words for snow. Why? Because language has a unique ability to create distinctions between things in our minds.
Language can also, however, bring two ideas together.
Ancient Hebrews had a deep understanding of how faith and work came together in their lives. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that they used the same word for work and worship.
The Hebrew word avodah jointly means work, worship, and service. The various usages of this Hebrew word found first in Genesis 2:15 tell us that God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living.
In some verses the word avodah means work, as in to work in the field and to do common labor. Moses, renewing the covenant with God, says,
“Six days you shall work (avodah).” – Exodus 34:21
“Then man goes out to his work (avodah), to his labor until evening.” – Psalm 104:23
In other verses, avodah means worship, as in to worship You, O God.
“This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) me.” – Exodus 8:1
“But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15
As for me, Joshua says, I will avodah. I will work for, and worship, the Lord.
This is a powerful image to think that the word for working in the fields is the same word used for worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Avodah is a picture of an integrated faith. A life where work and worship come from the same root. The same foundation.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 3:11
So often we think of worship as something we do on Sunday and work as something we do on Monday. However, this dichotomy is neither what God designed nor what he desires for our lives.
Avodah, on the other hand, suggests that our work can be a form of worship where we honor the Lord God, and serve our neighbors.Topics: Love, Work, Worship