When studying the Bible, at times we need to take effort get into the mindset of the original writes to fully catch the drift of their meaning and intent. However, after almost two thousand years since the writing of the newest books of the Bible, this makes for a bit of a challenge, given the changes in society and cultures which have occurred in the meantime. Colloquial phrases are a particular hurdle, such that sometime we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for explanation.
As I studied the Bible over the last few days through the writings of a noted bible teacher, it became apparent to me that Christians are unintentionally misinterpreting the New Terstament (for want of better description) simply because of our thought process. The whole of Holy Bible, both New and Old Testaments, was written from a Hebrew perspective, irrespective of the original written language of the New Testaament generally being Greek, for all the original authors were Hebrews. However, the 49AD expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Emperor Claudius was a turning point for Church development, as in 54AD when the expulsion decree ended, though many Jewish Christians returned to Rome, they had lost their dominant position in running the Churches. With this loss of Jewish dominance, came an abrupt change in the interpretation style of the Bible, especially the Christian New Testament, from a Jewish, or Hebrew perspective or mindset, to a Greek perspective or mindset.
The fifth century B.C. Greek philosopher Protagoras wrote “Man is the measure of all things.” In other words, without the God of the Bible, we are only left with ourselves to measure against. Following on this theme, Plato (424-348 B.C.) dwelt on the concept of “dualism,” with its higher and lower “planes” of activities and ideas. Seeking a universal truth, the upper plane was called ‘form’ and the lower ‘matter’. Plato’s interest was in the upper plane which was seen as temporal and superior when compared to the lower, physical plane. Thus, not surprisingly, work and occupations of manual labour were seen as physical, lower plane matter. This Greek philosophical mindset eventually ruled the Church. Christian ministry, it was deemed, was the upper plane, the high road, whereas the lower plane, the low road, was working for a living with ones’ hands. Work, put bluntly, was looked down upon by the Church who aspired to higher things and higher ‘callings’.
This resulted in a schism which we have inherited and use to this day, normally never giving it a second thought. The seminaries teach it, the Church teaches it, indeed we are all trained to recognise and accept the following without question:
- Spiritual versus Worldly
- Sacred versus Secular
- Church versus World
- Clergy versus Laity
But this is a Greek mindset, not a Hebrew mindset and therefore, quite simply, does not align with the original intent of the Bible authors. While we and the Greeks would see the world as layered and compartmentalised, the Hebrews saw a totally integrated world; everything was interdependent on everything else. Christians, therefore, tend to look at the Church and the world as two separate entities, the Sacred – the Church, and the Secular – all the rest; the opposite of the Hebrew position, which sees both as one – for both work and ministry, honour God. Thus, when Christians look at work , they put it into the Secular lower plane, whereas Church ministry in any and all forms, falls into the Sacred higher plane.
To bring this home and see how far we have strayed from the original intent of the Bible authors, we just need to look at the Hebrew word for “Worship.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says of the English word, worship “Other words are: סגד, ṣāghadh, “prostrate,” but rendered “fall down.” (Aramaic סגד, ṣeghidh) is “worship”, 7 times associated with “falling down” and 5 times with “serve.” עבד, ‛ābhadh, “work,” “labour,” “serve,” is rendered “worship” by English Versions of the Bible: “the worshippers“.”
Yes, the Hebrew word for “Worship” also translated “Work” in the Bible. Now does that make a difference how you see work, how you see your day job?
That should change the importance for you of Colossians 3:23 which says:
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men; knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.”
It should also change how we look at First Corinthians 15:58
“So that, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not without fruit in the Lord.”
We can no longer separate out work for the Church and any other type of work. For a born-again Christian, all work is worship for God and we ought to approach it in that mindset, the mindset which was intended by those whose hands wrote the Bible for us.
It means we worship God in everything we do, and everything we do, is worship! The Bible says so!
Amen and Amen.