How should we live? Introduction...
Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but we’re not in heaven yet. We still live as fallen creatures in a fallen world. How then should we live? Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…’ Mark 6:9
‘…your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ His will is revealed in the Bible and there he tells his followers how they should live. By direct command or by careful deduction from the Bible, God’s people have been given:
‘…everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’ 2 Pe 1:3
This statement is comprehensive. It doesn’t mean the Bible tells us how deep we should plant our carrot seeds, or what nutrient mix we should run in a hydroponic glasshouse, but it does by precept, or in principle, address all areas of life.
The mandate given our first parents to have dominion and rule over God’s world has never been withdrawn. Thus every field of human activity, except those that are explicitly contrary to God’s law, are open to people to pursue their calling. Even the most mundane activities are sanctified through dedication to God and service to others.
Fallen humans inevitable grade occupations by some criteria so that the status of some people is exalted, simply on the basis of the work they do. Many see academic training and the professions as of greater worth than those callings where people work with their hands. Within the church, often times the minister or pastor, or full time worker, has a status deemed higher than others. How many people are elders or deacons in churches, or sit on church boards, not because they’re spiritually qualified and astute, but because they’re successful business or academic people.
Jesus by his life refuted this glorification and exaltation of some tasks and denigration of others. He himself worked as a carpenter, and so honoured the trades and manual labour. A number of the twelve closest disciples were fishermen. One was a tax collector, a task despised at the time. None were part of the Jerusalem academic or ruling establishment, though in time the group of disciples included some of these, Nicodemas and Joseph of Arimathea being two notable examples.
When I was younger, an acquaintance who was a joiner by trade, returned from Bible School and told me he was thinking of going into full time Christian work. Clearly, in the rarified atmosphere of the Bible School, the idea that full time Christian work was better and more to be desired than the work he was already skilled in, was communicated at least implicitly. I gave him my thoughts on the matter. God needed people who saw themselves as being in full time Christian work no matter what paid employment they were in. God needed full time Christian joiners to be a light in the world, a city on a hill, where their light could shine before men who would see their good works and praise the Lord as a result. Joiners who understood their work as a calling from God.
My own philosophy of work is drawn from Scripture. Jesus said he had come to serve, not to be served, and modeled this attitude in his time here. At the ‘last supper’ he took a towel and washed the disciples feet. Service to others is the way God works, and it’s the way he’s set up the world to work. Remarkably God has even made the world in such a way that in a free market economy, even those with less than pure motives are required to serve others if they are to get what their base motives desire. Regardless of motive and regardless of whether done grudgingly or cheerfully, the better a person serves others, the more people there will be who want that service. A controlled economy strips this requirement away and leaves customers little or no choice, and sellers little reason to serve the best they can.
For the Christian, service is paramount and should be done willingly and cheerfully. They should work as though working for the Lord they profess to love. A spinoff from this is that employers who have employees who see themselves as primarily working for God, will benefit though the dedication, honesty, and seriousness with which the Christian employee goes about their tasks, as they look past their employer to the one they view as their Ultimate employer, the Lord they serve. Customers will also benefit. As one who is self employed, I view my customers as my employers, but look past them to the one I’m ultimately doing my best for, and so my customers benefit.
Further, when God made things, he made them both beautiful, and to work. Elegance in design combines both of these features in all his creations. So this becomes my guiding light as build things every day. I want the characteristics of God to be seen in my combination of both of these things. Quality work emulating the supreme quality of the work of our Maker. Beauty, elegance of design, and functionality that really works.
This is just one way the Biblical worldview can practically change the way the world works. The priority of service, and the commitment, honesty, and quality of workmanship which those who hold the Biblical worldview espouse as they go about their lives, blesses all around them. If these are not things they espouse, then they have denied the Lord they say they serve, and bring dishonour to his name.
In the following articles, I’m going to deal in general terms with other examples of how the Biblical worldview informs us about important areas of life, and can transform the cultures and societies of which we are a part.