“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)
Jesus confirms that of all the commandments in God’s Law the two greatest are the ones which summarize all the others. The commands like having no other gods besides God, no graven images, not testing Him and obeying Him can all be subsumed under “love God with all your being.” And all the commands like not stealing or killing or lying can be subsumed under “love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have already discussed how the Cultural Mandate given us in Genesis 1:27,28 describes the nature of our work as stewards of God’s world for the sake of God’s glory and mankind’s benefit. The Great Commandments highlight even more clearly what our motivation should be for working in this way. We should work out of love for God and out of love for our fellow humans. This means at least three things regarding our work:
- In our work we love the people God loves
When I work, am I doing what I do because I love people? Do I work for someone the way I would want them to work for me? Am I providing goods or services that meet important needs of the community I live in or the greater community of my world? And in the place I work am I loving my co-workers, seeking to help them succeed and not just myself? Am I a positive force at work or a destructive one?
- In our work we love the world God loves
As I work, am I caring for the world God has put under my dominion, or am I exploiting it simply for my own good or the good of my community? This becomes a hard question to answer at times when the survival of my community seems to necessitate such exploitation. Asking the question should lead us to consider long-term survival in relationship to the survival of our environment. Does God love the animals He created? Of course. Did He give them to us for food and other sustaining properties? Of course. But we must have long-term plans for caring for their survival as well as our own. Humans are the most important creatures on God’s planet, but our lives and those of the other creatures are closely tied together.
- In our work we love the God who loves
All the work I do I ultimately do as an homage to the God who made me and gave me the capacity to work. I do the kind of work He loves (righteous work) and I acknowledge it is accomplished by His help. When I work I am ultimately working for Him and out of love for Him, regardless of my most immediate human supervisor. This gives my work dignity and moves me to work with excellence and even joy. I am contributing in a way that honors Him.
Why I work is as important as how I work. It many times is the difference between finding meaning in my work or not. Many a mother or father has labored in difficult situations with joy knowing it was for their children’s sake, for their community’s sake, and for God’s sake. Obeying the Great Commandments gives us our motivation for work.
For further reading:
Sweating Outcomes (and other blog entries about work)