This is the second installment in the series, “Letters from my father(s)”. You can find the first letter (from my biological father) here. This second letter is from my personal mentor, Matthew Hoskinson. Matthew is the faithful father to 5 beautiful children, husband to Kimberly, Pastor of First Baptist Church in NYC, and my friend. I’m so thankful to him for writing this letter for our encouragement in faith. Enjoy!
Contemporary society tends to think that the only way one’s profession can be a testament to their faith is if their career is directly ministerial in nature—like opening a food pantry or being a chaplain at a hospital or pastoring a church. And it’s not just society at large that dichotomizes faith from most jobs. American evangelicals tend to believe that the only work that glorifies God is “full-time Christian ministry.” But that mindset betrays one of the great discoveries of the Protestant Reformation: the nobility of work. Even more significant, it fails to take into account how all legitimate vocations reflect the glory of God.
One need only to read the first few verses of the Bible to see it. You well know Genesis 1.1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But the next verse was always a bit befuddling: Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. The words in Hebrew indicate that the heavens and earth that God made were marked by some kind of chaos. Everything was there, but it was out of order. Thus we find the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the waters. And then we hear God’s voice: “Let there be light.”
This idea is radically transformative in that it infuses all labor—jobs you love and jobs you loathe, permanent careers and temporary work, dream jobs and second acts—with dignity and meaning and value.
To be sure there are many questions that arise from this account, ranging from what the original form of creation was like to how much time elapsed between verses 1 and 3. But the one I’d have you consider is this: why did God initially make the world chaotic and disordered? Why didn’t he just create it in its final form? He certainly had the power to do so, but he didn’t. Why?
I’d suggest that the answer, at least in part, comes later in the chapter, when God creates humanity male and female in his image (vv. 26–28). He then places them ina garden and tells them to fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over it in a way that causes everything to flourish.
Do you see what God is telling our first parents? He is saying, “I want you to do with creation what I have done with creation. No, you cannot create something out of nothing. You can’t reflect my glory that way. But you can take that which is chaotic and bring meaning to it. You can take what is disordered and bring order to it. You bear my image. In this way you are like me. So take my good world and—just like I did—bring order out of chaos.”
Centuries of debate have not finally resolved the meaning of imago Dei, the image of God in humanity. Is it human personality? the ability to communicate? our mind, will, and emotions? Whatever else the imago Dei is, it must include the element that is directly tied to it in vv. 26–28: filling, subduing, and ruling God’s earth. Humans are his vice regents, called to rule over all God’s creation in a way that causes it to flourish.
And that’s why the Reformers so adamantly defended the nobility of all legitimate work. What does a barber do? He takes chaos—in this case, unruly hair—and brings it to order. And in that way he glorifies God. What does a CEO do? She takes chaos—in this case, an unwieldy organization—and brings it to order. And in that way she glorifies God. What does a stay-at-home parent do? They take chaos—in this case, the messiness of life—and bring it to order. And in that way they glorify God.
This idea is radically transformative in that it infuses all labor—jobs you love and jobs you loathe, permanent careers and temporary work, dream jobs and second acts—with dignity and meaning and value. It’s not just about hair and org charts and stain removal, or rehearsals and spreadsheets and deadlines. It’s about being who we were made to be, humans created in the image of God, reflecting his glory through our labor.
Of course those who go into “full-time Christian ministry” should have the same mindset. But they are not more spiritual or more glorifying to God because of the career they have chosen. They too are image-bearers pointing to the only One who is great and whose divine creativity makes our work valuable.