Category Archives: Helping Others

A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 1

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

oil on wood panel

oil on wood panel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been referred to as the Cultural Mandate.  It is a requirement from God of all human beings that we reproduce ourselves in order to fill the earth and subdue it.  God built a planet we call Earth capable of sustaining many billions of people and He wants us, commands us, to rule over it in a way that in fact does sustain us.  This requires work, effort on our part, to successfully accomplish the utilization of Earth’s resources in a way that pleases God and brings life to Earth’s population — us.

Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3) God gave them work to do (Genesis 2) that included taking care of the Garden of Eden (2:15) and understanding and overseeing the animals of this area (2:19,20).  This responsibility did not cease after man’s rebellion, but became fraught with frustration as the ground began to work against man’s best efforts to grow food.  In the process human beings developed systems for raising livestock, growing food, producing music and forging tools (Genesis 4), all of which were necessary for our health and development as divine-image replicators.

In contrast to the pagan notions of man’s responsibilities, God did not create us to be His slaves and do all His dirty work.  He made us to be presidents to His chief executive role, vice-regents to His kingly rule, and managers for His owner-operated business.  There are at least three implications to this Cultural Mandate:

  • We are workers under divine appointment

We are not independent contractors.  The work we are called to do is or should be determined by God.  We are responsible for knowing what kind of work would be acceptable to Him in faithfully caring for His world and each other.  We may say that providing prostitution, or drugs, or control over other people is providing a service, but it is not the kind of service God says helps His world thrive.  And of course, He knows best what will make us thrive.  Our work must be of the kind that furthers the honor of God and the welfare of mankind.  This is His world and we are asked to share in making it livable.

  • We are stewards of God’s green earth

A steward is someone who takes care of someone else’s property.  His or her responsibility is not to own it but to develop it for the sake of the owner.  It just so happens in this case that the owner, God, has made us partners in the ownership, but nevertheless, He is the principle owner.  So our work must serve to develop and utilize, not exploit for ourselves, the world He has given us.  This means we must use arts and technology wisely and lovingly to reflect the character of God and benefit our race (see Lessons from the Old Testament: Arts and Technology).  It must certainly mean that we do not so exploit our world that we make it less habitable or reduce its quality of livability.

  • The more of us there are, the more work that needs to be done

We were made to care for each other the way God cares for us.  So as we multiply we need to create better systems for caring for each others’ needs for food, shelter, beauty, clothing and protection.  Our goal cannot be personal wealth but public weal, the prosperity and well-being that we can secure for all people.  And though it might be argued that capitalism is the best system in a fallen world for such public weal, sinners always find a way to take personal advantage of even the best systems to the detriment of others, and those who submit to God look for ways no matter the system to help others thrive.

Are you a plumber?  You are helping me and our whole culture thrive.  Do you grow food, deliver and sell food, make clothes, sell insurance, pave roads, build buildings, serve in government, paint pictures, make music, heal, administer funds, advocate for lawbreakers, develop community laws, cut hair, raise livestock, put out fires or any number of other “professions”?  You are working as God’s appointees to tend His world and people in ways that make it possible for us to fill the earth.  You are so cool, because the part that you play combined with the part that I play and all of us play makes possible a relatively peaceful and prosperous life.  We are caring for each other under God’s wise direction, and that’s what makes the world go round.

For further reading:

What is the Cultural Mandate?

The Cultural Mandate

What the Cultural Mandate Means for Your Work

Video and Resources from Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City


Ephesians 6:21-24 — Conversations with God

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.  I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.  Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Could Paul have sent me, Lord?  Am I a dear brother to other believers and a faithful servant to You?  Do I bring encouragement when I arrive?

I am thankful for the many brothers and sisters You have sent me in my life who have offered encouragement to me.  It is as if You were speaking through them to my heart.  Of course, it doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear it again, Lord.  I continue to need encouragement and You continue to offer it.  It’s not a one time deal from You.

So help me to emulate You, Lord.  Help me to offer peace to my brothers and sisters, and love with faith from You and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Help me to stand in Your place with my family in Christ and mediate Your love.  May all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love find grace to meet our every need and may we be very free with the grace we have received from You.


Ephesians 5:25-30 — Conversations with God

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.

Lord Jesus, it doesn’t get much clearer than this!  You love Your church, Your bride, and You want us to love our brides with you as a model and pattern.  I know there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence.  I can’t make my wife holy.  My life in sacrifice for hers can only be effective on the physical and emotional level.  It won’t save her soul eternally.

But I can be concerned about her spiritual growth as she can mine.  I can be of help to her in that area as much as I am spiritually mature.  I can seek to help her develop to the maximum of her potential as You have gifted her and developed in her unique talents.  I can sacrifice myself for this cause because I love her with Your love.

I can treat her as if she is me and I am great at giving myself credit for the slightest of good motives, rationale for the most egregious of sins, and pampering when I am the least bit uncomfortable.  If I give myself the benefit of the doubt, I must do so for her as well.

Pretty simple…pretty hard!  Help me, Lord Jesus.  You’re my only hope.


Ephesians 5:7-14 — Conversations with God

Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Lord, it is odd to think in Paul’s grammar of the Christian life.  He gives us an imperative (“Do not be partakers with them” in their disobedience) and says the reason rests in an indicative (“You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”).  Father, how is the one cause for the other?

I suppose, Lord, that if I were not in actuality “light” in You, I could do nothing else but darkness.  You have done something miraculous in me and the proof or fruit of it must be obeying Your imperatives and living a life of “goodness and righteousness and truth.”  I should be trying to learn what is pleasing to You.

So help me live what I am. Instead of participating in deeds of darkness, help me to expose them with the light You have made me and given me.  Use my life to show those in darkness a better way. Give me a passion for calling them out of darkness.  Use me to wake them up so that they might see the Son shine.


Ephesians 4:12-16 – Conversations with God

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Some people can be very protective of their place and position, making it difficult, if not impossible, for someone else to gain their knowledge or experience.  But not You, Lord Jesus.  You have purposely given Your church gifted individuals for the express goal of equipping us to be replicas of You.  Whereas some might see this as just another form of pride, we, Your followers, know it is the expression of Your deepest love for us.

Your heart is to build us up, to help us attain to the full stature of Your character because you know this is what makes us the most happy and fulfilled.  When we are loving like You love, when we we are making a powerful contribution to the welfare of another like You do, we are operating at our “factory” best.

I want to be everything You are, Lord.  You want me to be everything You are.  There is nothing better to be.  So equip me, equip me, equip me.  Let me never tire of gaining more knowledge and skill to minister to my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.  Help me maintain absolute unity in the faith with them.  Make me worthy of Your gifts.


Casting for Christians (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Bust of Menander. Marble, Roman copy of the Im...

Image via Wikipedia

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Paul’s letter to the Phiippians, chapter 3, verse 17)

One of our most ancient arts is casting, that is, the use of molds into which some liquified material is poured, allowed to set or cure, and then removed as a solid replication of the mold.  The mold, by necessity, is a work of art in itself and is able to be used over and over to turn out replicas.  Lifecasting is the art of taking molds directly from the human body. It is an ancient art form dating back to the time of the Egyptians where body casts were made as a means of transport to the next world.

One of the words used for mold is the Greek word tupos, sometimes translated as here in Paul’s letter, “example, model”.  Paul is urging his friends in Philippi to beware of false teaching that leads to wrong living.  But first he encourages them to imitate him and replicate the model he and his team have set for them.  They are the positive “mold” into which the Philippians may pour themselves to ensure they come out in the form desired by Jesus Christ.

Have you ever noticed that you become like those with whom you spend the most time or those whom you idolize or respect?  We have a proverb, “Bad company corrupts good character,” from the Greek poet Menander and quoted in our own 1 Corinthians 15:33 by Paul.  Paul is stating the corollary here in his letter to the Philippians.  Good company casts good character.

We need Christian casting.  We need not only teaching about how to live the Christian life, but molds into which we might be poured.  We need people with whom we might “hang” who know how to live for Christ and become our tupos, our example or model, and show us how to live.  This means we need to become tupoi (plural for tupos) ourselves, casting for other Christians who need a model or mold to fit into.

Are you in need of a Christian model?  Find one and hold on.  Do you need to become a Christian model?  There has never been more need for Christian casting than today.


Brothers and Sisters Unparalleled, Part 2 (Theology for Living from Philippians)

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.  For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.  So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 25-30)

Just in case the Philippians needed someone closer to home than Timothy as an example of humility of mind, you know, that willingness to consider others more important than yourself, they had a ready specimen in Epaphroditus.  From Paul’s description we might suppose that Epaphroditus was one of the overseers (see 1:1), one of the leaders in the Philippian church.  He had been entrusted with the message and the money the church had sent for Paul’s needs.  He had the utmost integrity.

Was he on the side of those who wanted to send money to Paul?  Perhaps, but his concern was not for those only who sided with him in this matter.  He was concerned for the distress of the whole congregation and longed for all of them when he found out that they heard he was ill almost to death.  And can you imagine what concerns he might have had when they learned this?  I can just hear those who did not want to send money to Paul saying, “I told you so.”  “See,” they might have said, ” we send money to Paul and we almost lose one of our pastors.”

God spared Epaphroditus and in so doing spared Paul and the Philippians more suffering.  But this stirring up of the conflict all the more is surely the reason Paul feels a need to even have to charge the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus in the Lord with great joy.  Why else would they hesitate to do so unless there was a lack of joy over his trip?  Why else would Paul have to charge them to honor their own shepherd?  His willingness to risk his life for the work of Christ in order to help Paul must be noticed as another example of someone with humility of mind.  Epaphroditus did not think first of himself when he undertook this trip nor when he fell ill.  He thought of his fellow congregants.

It is a strange but time worn verity that we are changed by those around whom we center our lives.  Paul is challenging us to center our lives around those in our fellowship who demonstrate this kind of Christlike humility.