In The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, Joe Rigney writes:
The call to subdue the earth means that the earth, as originally given to man, was unsubdued, undomesticated. This implies that creation has unrealized potential, latent dimensions that lie beneath the surface . . . Culture, then, is a kind of cultivation, a drawing out what God has put in. Or, to change metaphors, culture is an adornment of creation, the further beautification of an already beautiful world . . . In a word, Creation + Man’s Creative Efforts = Culture. (pg. 138-139)
What he’s saying here? He’s saying that our work is pleasing to God, not only because it is itself an expression of worship, but also because it contributes to the shaping of God’s creation! The fact that God’s intention was always to have a world cultivated by man puts a whole new spin on our work. This is at least part of what it means to be made in the image of God; we have been profoundly blessed with the privilege of imitating him in our shaping of the world. This is true of every legitimate vocation.
A ministry position in a local church is not the only possible work you can do to the glory of God. If you work as a barista, work hard to give your customer a well-crafted drink; this shapes the world and it is pleasing to the Lord. If you’re a banker, work hard for the fiscal success of your employer and for your customer’s peace of mind; this shapes the world and it is pleasing to the Lord. If you are a plumber, work hard to bless your clients with dependable plumbing; this shapes the world and it is pleasing to the Lord. If you are a stay-at-home mother, work hard to raise and nurture your children for their temporal and eternal good (even when your hard work goes unrecognized); this profoundly shapes the world and it is pleasing to the Lord.
Your Work Has An Eschatology
All of this means that, for the Christian who works as unto the Lord, nothing is wasted. Nothing is meaningless. No email you send is insignificant. No software code you tweak is without purpose. All of your work is contributing to an uncultivated world that God intends to cultivate through your seemingly minute activities.
And, contrary to popular belief, the fall has not reversed this reality. The common conception for Christians is that we’re all on this sinking ship, waiting for it to go under, and any effort to keep the thing afloat is a complete waste of time. But this is a misconception. Of course we should walk around with a very real sense that this current world is not our home; we are sojourners, in search of our native heavenly homeland. Things on this planet are not as they should be.
But the glorious hope of the resurrection is that things on this planet will become as they should be! This is what creation itself groans for (Romans 8:19-22, 2 Corinthians 5:4-5). As Doug Wilson often says, “The prayer is, your kingdom come, not your kingdom go.” And however you believe this whole end-of-the-age thing is going down, one thing is certain; Jesus is going to turn every tragedy on its head!
Mortality will be swallowed up by immortality. Every one step backward will be transformed into two steps forward. The final product isn’t going to be some strange, ethereal floaty place, populated by little fat baby cherubs playing on golden harps (besides, if Ezekiel’s description of the cherubs holds true, we won’t be saying “aww!” when we see them; we’ll be saying “AWESOME!”). We’re not looking to be unclothed. We’re not looking forward to a bodiless existence; we’re anticipating a resurrection! We’re anticipating Eden 2.0; a thick, redeemed, glorified universe where food tastes better, and color is more vibrant, and everything is more real. We’re looking forward to a world that makes this fallen, groaning world look like a ghostly, transparent, grey city in comparison.
We know this, because King Jesus has promised to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). Furthermore, God has proven that he is equal to the task; he knows how make wickedness an agent of good (Genesis 50:20), he knows how to make folly an agent of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21), he knows how to make weakness an agent of strength (2 Corinthians 12:10), he knows how to make affliction an agent of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), and he knows how to make death and agent of life (1 Corinthians 15:42-45).
In all of this, we can rest assured that Jesus is able to redeem the seemingly monotonous work we do. Your work has an eschatology.