I must give credit where credit is due. I started thinking about Work-Ship when Dave Buschman, the Baptist Campus Minister at Princeton University, presented his Doctor of Ministry thesis at a ministry retreat. His thesis is entitled Students at the Threshold: A Course to Prepare College Seniors to Integrate Their Christian Faith in Their First Workplace Experience. In his thesis is an idea that formed the entire paradigm of this discussion. (see page 15 and 44)
Genesis 2:15 says “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (NIV) God creates humanity and places Adam in the garden to “work it.” The word “work” is the key concept for us in this blog. Obviously, the Hebrew Torah was originally written in Hebrew. That word “work” is actually the Hebrew word “‛âbad.” This word is a very generic word for work. It can mean many types of work. It is often translated into different words based on context of the sentence. The translation of the Bible sponsored by King James back in the 1600’s actually translated this word in this instance “to till” or “to dress” because that’s the type of work you do in a garden. This word ‛âbad is used often in the Hebrew Torah. In fact it is used 294 times. The vast majority of these are translated “serve.” Many of them are in reference to our service to God. Look at these quotes just from the 5th book of the Hebrew Torah Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 6:13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 10:20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-
Deuteronomy 13:4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
This is used to point out the fact that there is no linguistic difference in the ancient Hebrew Torah between work and service to God. They are the same word only translated differently due to context. That linguistic idea has led me to do some intense contemplation on the role of work in Scripture and in our lives. I am going to make a summary statement for how the Bible views work. All work can be worship. I would even go to the point of saying work (if done in the proper relation to God) is worship which has led me to create the word “work-ship.” You may think that I am overstating this point reading into a text more than is actually there. That is exactly why I want to discuss this idea with a larger community.
However, I also want to make clear what I am not saying. Although all work can be worship (as long as it is not inherently sinful work) worship is a far greater and broader topic than just work. Many other words are used for worship within the Hebrew Torah. What you do for employment can be worship to God but there are many other ways to worship God as well. All work can be worship. Not all worship is work.