I was raised to believe that God didn’t need any of our help.
That God was totally self-sufficient. Independent. Could snap his proverbial fingers and, shazaaam, make things happen. God could do anything single-handedly.
It was long into my adulthood before I started to figure out I'd been wrong. That God had his own HR department.
I had been raised to read and to believe the Bible. Unfortunately, I wasn’t raised to actually understand the Bible, so I came away from childhood with the magical and wishful thinking that God was in control of everything and we had no say in what happened, any role to play, no job to do. God did it all for us.
The actual Bible, once accurately understood, tells us quite the opposite.
For those venturing into the Bible’s Christian New Testament, the very idea of salvation picks up on the Old Testament theme that God does all his work through people. Jesus, the self-identified son of man, becomes the human laborer needed to complete the work of salvation. God hands over the controls to Jesus, who does the helping and the healing and the saving. Not to mention the hiring and the training.
God does nothing in the Bible without going through HR (Human Resources).
Jesus himself became something of an HR Director in the New Testament, starting with the recruiting and the job descriptions for his followers (actual job title was “disciples”). Never performed a single miracle without human participation at some level. Never healed anyone single-handedly. Often the patient being healed had some prescribed action to take in the process. Sometimes the action-role belonged to a parent, or friends, where Jesus applied his Matthew 9:38 metaphor of “workers to bring in the harvest.” Jesus worked for God and expected people to join in that work as partners with him in that effort. He challenged us to be partners with God in changing the world for the best. Which is a long way from my old childhood notion that God was in control and totally self-sufficient.
So maybe God has always appreciated and celebrated Labor. Long before any American Labor Day was ever imagined, let alone calendared.
Maybe God is the Master of collaboration, not control. Of cooperation, not competition. And maybe God celebrates our response of co-labor-ation.
So what do you think?
Can creatures actually partner with God? Does God actually employ our assistance?
A new book* is due out this week that aims to answer that very question. I was invited to share an essay contributing to a very small piece of the book, which is entitled “Partnering with God: exploring collaboration in open and relational theology.” Its editors are Thomas Jay Oord, Bonnie Rambob, Tim Reddish, and Fran Stedman. This team of four distinguished theologians on today’s world scene has assembled a collection of many examples noting how creatures actually do partner with God.
You may be one of those creatures. One of the laborers in the harvest field, if returning to Jesus’s own metaphor. You may be someone God celebrates for the work you’re doing here on earth, or will be doing as a future Jesus-follower. You may be the helper God needs to finish the job.
You may be the next one up in God’s HR Department.
*For early discount pricing, check out: