Grace Episcopal Church
Work and the Image of God
By Rev. Caroline Osborne
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1). Have you ever considered that God works? I don’t just mean that he makes miracles happen, I mean that he works. The Bible says so. He created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 2:2 makes it even more clear: “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” God works.
But the fact that God works is not all that the beginning of Genesis tells us. It also tells us, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
If God works and we are made in his image, it only makes sense that part of being made in God’s image is that we are made to work. That doesn’t mean we are made for harsh labor or unhappy work – Adam’s job was to work alongside of God in taking care of the Garden of Eden and it sounds like it was a pretty wonderful job (see Genesis 2:8-16). What it means, though, is that work has inherent dignity and that work is part of what we are created to do, whether laboring in a job or laboring to help take care of a home. When we labor for God’s glory, we labor alongside him and in his image.
The downside of this is that when someone becomes unemployed, it does not just take a financial toll; it takes a spiritual one, too. Unemployment is a challenge to that person’s core sense of self. As a part of how we are made, work is deeply tied to our sense of purpose, achievement, and even self-worth. To lose a job or be unable to find one is stressful and profoundly challenging at many levels.
As we face a probable unemployment crisis, we need not only to prepare for how to help people but, even more importantly, how to help people in light of the image of God in them. We need to develop our deepest sense of identity in Jesus and help others to do the same. We need to acknowledge the multifaceted struggle of unemployment and find ways to address the deepest pains of it as well as the most immediate needs created by it.