By Nicole George
The title isn’t meant to be misleading because I don’t think these two things actually go against each other at all. They both come from God after all. However, for the limited human mind, it can be difficult and confusing to hold different commands in our minds at the same time.
This all comes from a discussion I had over multiple days with my friend Alex. (His interview with Baton Exchange can be found here.) He earnestly seeks to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins with as many people as he possibly can. Most of the time this is encouraging to me and spurs me on to want to do the same.
However, we entered a discussion about leisure that really confused me based on what I have learned about our purpose to work. Granted, part of me was idolizing comfort and enjoyment for myself, which caused a bit of friction between me and Alex as well as me and God. It wasn’t the only source of confusion though. I found a lot of friction in the idea of our calling to work and be human with other humans. My questions were some of the following:
• Why in some places are there commands like the Great Commission but Paul doesn’t command that to the Church in Thessalonica? He commands instead that they “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one?” (1 Thess. 5:11 ESV) Am I missing something contextually here?
• Does God care more about me evangelizing or me spending time with him and growing in love with him?
• Is it okay for me to do a day of good work and not proclaim the Gospel verbally that day?
• Is the original cultural mandate voided because the command came before sin and death entered the world? Am I not supposed to work and am instead supposed to go on mission and be like Paul?
Some of those questions you may never have considered or you may have an answer to or you may also struggle with. I finally reconciled some of them today when it hit me that my purpose and calling to work, as in the Genesis 2 cultural mandate and Paul’s commands, go right alongside the Gospel and they’re the reason Jesus came to die and rise again.
People cannot and will not live as they should without the good news of the Gospel. The Gospel means that for now, we get small glimpses of things to come and we get the promise of receiving what has yet to come.
Gifts as seen in Ecclesiastes 5:19 (and throughout Ecclesiastes) begin here and will be full when Christ returns and redeems the world, but those present gifts are fleeting here. God gives the gift of enjoyment here in food, friends, work and marriage. They are good things that come from him as is written in Ecclesiastes and elsewhere in the Bible. There’s a whole book about Solomon and his bride rejoicing over each other! And yet, our work, our bodies and the worldly gifts God gifts us generously are fleeting.
What is not fleeting is the presence of God eternally in the redeemed world to come. And the urgency of the Gospel is whether or not people find glimpses of enjoyment here on earth now, once life comes to an end, if they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as the perfect payment for their sins against a holy God, they will not get the eternal enjoyment and pleasure of being with and working unto God.
The hope to come with the acceptance of the Gospel is work not being work anymore. Our daily work is being redeemed daily through the Gospel, but not brought to a perfect finish until Christ’s return. The original calling to subdue and rule over the world will be perfectly restored and we get glimpses of it now. However, others in the world will not get to take part in this if they do not know Christ and this is indeed the urgency of proclaiming and living out the Gospel at all times.
So the cultural mandate and evangelism, declaring the Gospel to others who don’t know God yet, go hand in hand. The cultural mandate of working and subduing the world is presently redeemed as we live out the Gospel in our work and creation and family life. This glorifies God as we let it point back to him and enjoy him being glorified instead of doing such things for our own pleasure or enjoyment.
The proclamation of the Gospel verbally goes with it to invite non-Christians into the redemptive work God is doing. They see him active, present and pertinent in our lives and they are affected. They hear the God who is present and active and they must make a choice. We cannot let them stay ignorant. They must hear about the God for whom we were made to worship and glorify and they must see us glorifying Him in our lives.
Although I haven’t really answered all the questions that popped into my mind, the result was a fresh understanding: Our work and the mission of evangelism go together, hand in hand, in order that God may invade His creation and bring it back to Him.