By Keith Lippy
At some point in my spiritual journey, I realized my job as a farmer was a stewardship given to me by God. Your job also is a God-given responsibility God has expressly given to you. From the outset, Genesis tells us that “the Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). God created Adam and Eve; then God put them in a specific place to fulfill a specific purpose.
Your occupation is a God-given calling expressly given to you as an image bearer of God. Unlike the perfect world that Adam and Eve were given dominion over, our world is now tainted by sin. God wants to use each of us as his instruments to bring order out of chaos. As illustrated in the seven days of creation, God began with elements that He created “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). Through the seven day process of creating, dividing, and separating he brought the world into order. God’s finished creation was expressly made for the benefit of man. When a construction worker levels the ground for a new road, he is bringing order out of chaos. God’s world is brought into order, through the creativity of one or many of His image bearers, for humankind’s benefit. When a mother trains up a child through hundreds of diaper changes, much patience, love, and sacrifice she is acting as God’s agent. When a software developer comes up with a new app that makes life easier, God’s world continues to be maintained and ordered. We could go on and on.
Let’s go back to farming. When we plant corn on the farm, the first task is preparing the ground. Why is that? It is because God’s creation, now under the curse of sin, wants to return to the realm of chaos. Weeds and insects will ruin the crop if not controlled. The land itself will not produce unless nutrients are consistently added to the soil and the correct acidity is maintained. Land left uncultivated soon returns to thorns and thistles; eventually it’s no longer fit to produce a crop. Of course, all these things thrive amidst the chaos of neglect. When we farmers do our job diligently, the land will produce grass, grain, vegetables, fruit, and meat to feed the world.
So, each of us has been given a responsibility to fulfill our God-given calling to work. But this calling from God is not limited to the physical realm. When we become followers of Jesus Christ we take on a new responsibility, a new stewardship and that is to reclaim ground lost in the spiritual realm through the devastation caused by sin.
When we believe in Jesus Christ, God gives us new lives characterized by order – a radical change from our lives previously characterized by chaos. Colossians 1:13 says it like this: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Because of our new standing before God, the physical dominion God gave to Adam and Eve in the garden extends also to the spiritual realm. Our new responsibility as believers in Christ, as saints, is to fulfill this stewardship to exert dominion over the chaos caused by sin and work to subdue it in the lives of those around us. Paul explains this responsibility to the Colossian church, that for the sake of the body of Christ, “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you” (Colossians 1:25). Paul’s job, in conjunction with his physical work of tent-making, was to make Jesus Christ known in the world around him so that the lives of people could be restored to a right relationship with God. Paul said, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).
You and I, then, have two God-given occupations. One is the work we do to feed our families. The second is to proclaim the message of reconciliation to a lost, disordered, and dying world. By diligently applying the nutrients of the Gospel message of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sin to an uncultivated world we fulfill our second calling which is to be a minister. This divine calling, like the first one which relates to the physical realm, is a spiritual stewardship or responsibility to each of us from God. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” So, our second job is to relay this message: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). When we do this, we will harvest fruit that lasts forever.