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What Is Work?

Posted by on in Modern Reformation
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As one of our faithful readers was perusing the current issue of Modern Reformation, he came across this sentence in the Geek Squad section:
Refracted by/through the Fall, the cultural mandate is no longer holy work.  It is profane though legitimate and common and valid for all creatures created in God's image.

This raised a bit of concern among our other friends--what do we mean when we say that everyday work (whether it's caring for a home and family or changing a transmission) is 'profane though legitimate'?  Our Executive Editor responds below:

We very much appreciate thoughtful interaction with MR - that’s how good conversations develop, especially when helpful correction is offered. I’m afraid we made a poor choice of words, and this unfortunately slipped through our editing process. As new creatures in Christ, we are being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). We therefore lead joyful, worship-filled lives East of Eden, thankful for God’s mercy and for our new life in Christ. The whole of a Christian’s life is rendered as service unto God, as an expression of thanks; our work is “holy” in that sense, just as the questions and comments above imply.

What the abbreviated chart was intended to communicate is that our vocations are also common rather than distinctively sacred. We are all priests, in the sense 1 Peter implies, but we are not all specially called to be ministers of the Gospel, nor need we justify our work as contributing objectively to the building of the redemptive kingdom of God. Vocations are wonderful gifts given by God to all people; the cultural mandate continues, although it is refracted by the fall. Legitimate vocations contribute to the good of all people, though this good is creational and of a general usefulness as distinguished from a redemptive service to mankind (i.e., the ministry of Word and Sacrament). And one would certainly assume that legitimate vocations do not represent “profane” or evil work!

Thanks for reading with a keen eye and raising the issue in the comments.

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