The Work of Our Hands

By David Gill, reprinted from The 313.

Right now, after a year of pandemic-enforced distance-learning and distance-working for many of us, to speak of “hands-on” work seems more like a dream than a reality. It seems like most of the time our hands are on our keyboards while we sit in isolation. But how can we not recognize and stand up in grateful salute to all of our truly essential workers keeping our infrastructure working? Delivering the mail (and everything else), preparing food, fighting fires, manufacturing our vehicles, caring for our bodily health . . . thank God for these heroes.

But let’s take a deeper look. There are two accounts of creation in Genesis. In the first one, God creates by his word: “Let there be!” Out of the mind of God and his communication came a spectacular creation. But in the second account, God stoops to the earth and fashions a man out of dust, and a woman out of a rib, as the crown of all creation. Hands-on. Man and woman follow this same pattern:  naming . . . but also cultivating the earth.  When God arrives on our planet in Jesus Christ, he teaches and counsels and organizes . . . but also works as a carpenter, healer and wine-maker.

Just listen to these amazing scriptures:

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands”

Psalm 90:17

“The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands”

Deuteronomy 28:12

“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you”

First Thessalonians 4:11

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need”

Ephesians 4:28

Every man, woman and child is made in the image and likeness of a “hands-on” working God. It is in our nature, our DNA, to do this kind of work. It is dehumanizing to miss out on it. And it is heretical and faithless to downplay or ignore its dignity and value—and to fail to pray in church and in home for our bothers and sisters in the blue collar arenas.

The Bible cautions us not to go too far in the other direction and turn our work products into idols. Listen to the prophet Hosea: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, . . . say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands” (Hosea 14:1-3). God has given human beings so much talent that we can even be seduced by our machines, technologies, buildings and artworks into bowing down to them, praising and worshipping them, making them the center of our life and its meaning. Let’s not go there. No to idolatry. But today our problem may be more a matter of disrespect and unfairness toward blue collar work. Let’s turn that around. Respect and recognition. Fair wages and healthy working conditions. Better trade schools and more training in the crafts and construction and agriculture. Raise a Christian voice in the name of our hands-on worker God.

Speaking personally, my work and calling has been as a teacher, writer, and organizer. But my life would have been desperately impoverished if I hadn’t worked at a gas station and a factory for several years – and then on construction (and cooking!) projects related to the houses I lived in over the decades. I recommend it!

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