Work


Not only does the Book of Exodus give us the Ten Commandments, it also includes the Bible’s earliest reference to a person being filled with the Spirit of God. (I am grateful to Richard Foster’s Steams of Living Water, a wonderful book, for making me aware of this detail.)

A man named Bezalel was the one about whom God said, “Look, I have filled him with God’s Spirit” in Exodus 31:3.

Why do this? To what end? Even after this filling, Bezalel was no mystic, no orator, no miracle-worker, no champion. Bezalel was a craftsman.

Specifically, he was appointed by God to work metal, cut stone, and carve wood. See Exodus 31:4-5.

That means scripture’s first reference to the Holy Spirit working through a man is a reference to a tradesman applying his mind, skills, strength, and tools to make something of material value.

Our productive abilities are gifts, and our skills are divine. Our work is holy. Both our jobs and our art are sacred—if we choose to see them that way.

Jesus was a carpenter.  This would seem to be the model for the significance of our earthly work, except there is a model for this significance that is even greater and even more basic than Jesus’ example. In Genesis 1, the creation story, we see a maker doing material work.

In the sequence that Genesis 1 describes, God made day and night, then the sky, then the land and sea, then vegetation, and so on. At every step, God took hold of worldly matter and he crafted it into something better than it was.

The work was worthy even to God himself. According to Genesis, he kept on pausing (Genesis 1:4, 1:10, 1:12, and so on) in order to notice that the work was good.

You and I still live within that same material world. More, you and I work here. We are called to keep on adding value to the world, arguably as part of that same creation process that now continues under human stewardship.

And as we remain true to this work, as we continue in it according to the opportunities and gifts we are given, I don’t doubt that we still give God pause.

Presumably, God still responds to worthy work the way he has responded from the beginning. He notices the work done with love and devotion, and he sees that it is good.