35: Idolatry at work (Habakkuk 2:6–20)

Scripture ReadingHabakkuk 2:6–20

Faithfulness is not a superficial matter of uttering praises to God while we work. It is the act of putting God’s priorities first in our work. Habakkuk reminds that “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!” (Hab. 2:20). This silence is not merely a religious observation, but a silencing of our own broken ambitions, fears, and motivations, so that the priorities of God’s covenant can become our priorities. Those who exploit others’ vulnerabilities bring judgment on themselves. Work that oppresses or takes advantage of others ultimately brings about its own downfall.

Today we may not be literally crafting idols of precious materials before which we bow down. But work may also be idolatrous if we imagine that we are capable of producing our own salvation. For the essence of idolatry is that “its maker trusts in his own handiwork” (Hab. 2:18, NASB), rather than trusting in God by whose guidance and power we are created to work.

If we are ambitious for power and influence because we think without our wisdom, skill and leadership, our work group, company, organization, or nation is doomed, then our ambition is a form of idolatry. In contrast, if we are ambitious for power and influence so that we can draw others into a network of service in which everyone brings forth God’s gifts for the world, then our ambition is a form of faithfulness. If our response to success is self-congratulation, we are practicing idolatry. If our response is thankfulness, then we are worshiping God. If our reaction to failure is despair, then we are feeling the hollowness of a broken idol, but if our reaction is perseverance, then we are experiencing the saving power of God.

Prayer: Jesus, when I am tempted by the idols of pride and self-sufficiency in my work, help me instead to remember with thanksgiving that I have freely received all gifts from you. Thank you for making fruitful work possible. Amen.

For Further Exploration: Read Idolatrous Work (Habakkuk 2:1-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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