The Theology of Work: Work and the Carpenter of Nazareth
No matter what the subject, Christians are interested in what Jesus had to say about it. Continuing on from the Old Testament’s teaching on work, we now delve into the New Testament for Christ’s profound comments.
Click here to view part one – The Theology of Work: Work in the Torah
Click here to view part two – The Theology of Work: Proverbial Lessons on Work
Click here to view part three – The Theology of Work: Labor and Vanity
The Father’s Work
While Jesus does not speak much on the topic of work, he makes three crucial statements that we must notice as we trace the thread of the Bible’s teaching on work.
First, Jesus mentioned in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working..”
Admittedly, this is not referring to a secular occupation or employment! Jesus is talking about spiritual work, laboring in a mystical sense. Nevertheless, we have already noticed that God’s mystical working is a pattern for mankind’s very literal, hands-in-the-dirt sort of work.
God’s mystical working is a pattern for mankind’s very literal, hands-in-the-dirt sort of work. via @DanielPentimone
The basic lesson of this verse is clear: Jesus followed the example of His Father. He saw his Father work; in turn, He worked. For Christians, the basic lesson is clear as well: follow the example of your heavenly Father by working.
Day and Night
Second, Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4).
Again, I am far from implying that Jesus is talking about the same type of work that man typically does. In fact, in this context Jesus is talking about working a miracle! Yet we can still learn about work from our Lord’s saying.
The words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:6 sound strangely familiar – “A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.” Jesus seems to express a similar sentiment – ‘a time to work, and a time to not work.’
According to Jesus, the night comes when man cannot work, but daytime is the time of working; Jesus, at least, felt compelled to work ‘while it is day.’ Is Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? The answer is found in Christ’s next statement.
The Divine Work Finished
Third, Christ reminded his Father in his high priestly prayer, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
No longer could Christ work as he had previously; the great crowds of eager followers, the synagogue discourses, the discipleship of the twelve – those years were over. It is as if Christ is saying here, ‘the night has come, and I cannot work any longer.’
For Christ, ‘the night’ was the end of his life. Christ’s adult life was filled with work; he only ended it when the ‘nighttime’ of death approached.
But we also learn from our Lord that he glorified his Father by finishing the work that he was given to do. Of course, what work we are given to do will be quite different, but whatever work God has seen fit to give us, he is glorified when we accomplish it – when we do it faithfully for Him.
The God-Man Jesus Christ again sheds light through his simple yet profound statements. He demonstrates that to work is to follow the example of the Father and bring Him glory. Christ himself did His Father’s work throughout his entire life, hallowing the endeavor for all his disciples.