Although I enjoyed wearing the habit while I was a monk--it was a very comfortable garment--I learned early in my monastic career to change into regular work clothes before doing most of the physical labor required to run a large community. Monastic history is replete with stories about monks who were killed when a part of their garment was caught in a machine. Furthermore, as good as I was at climbing stairs in my habit, climbing a ladder to fix a roof was another matter. Wearing the habit not only was a visible reminder to everyone who saw me that my life was dedicated in service to God, but was also a living witness that Christ was first in my life. In other words, being clothed with Christ changes the way we work.
Jesus said, "'The very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me'" (John 5:36, NIV). Jesus knew that His work represented the Father. Furthermore, in Genesis 2:15 we read, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (NIV). This working in the Garden describes man's accomplishment of a task given to him by God, done in the place where God "put" him.
An example of this is seen in Exodus 31:2-3. God had given Moses detailed instructions for building the Tabernacle, but He didn't stop there. "See, I have filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God and have given him the skill, ability, and knowledge to do all kinds of work." And then the chapter lists everything God had gifted Bezalel to do. I want us to notice two things. First, Bezalel means "under the shadow or protection of God." Second, Bezalel was equipped to do the detailed work God had called him to do.
This is the picture I get: When Bezalel was involved in doing the detailed work that God had given him, I imagine him feeling the presence of the Master standing over him, casting a shadow upon his body as he worked.
When we are clothed with Christ, our work is to be done for God as if He is standing over us, protecting us and casting His approving shadow as He watches us. Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (NIV).
Notice that the passage does not say, "Whenever you are in church, work at it with all your heart." It says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart." Whether that is building a house, selling insurance, mending clothes, or even changing a diaper, the shadow of God is upon you, for you are clothed with Christ.
I have one more thought on work. Genesis 2:2 says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." Since God used his words to do the work of creation, it is unnatural for our words and our work to be in opposition. This is Scripture's first lesson in integrity--the working together of the things we say and the things we do.
The final question we should all ask ourselves is, "Is my work that which has been laid upon me by God, and am I doing that work in the place where God has put me, with the spirit He has given me, as a testimony to God's goodness?"
James D. Thornber