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The Power of Work

Weekly Devotionals

The Power of Work

Who is the most influential person in history? It’s no doubt a debatable question without any clear answers. Based on one metric, the answer may be someone most of us have never heard of: Fritz Haber. Around the year 1900, there were roughly 1.5 billion people and some scientists feared that the population of the world would plateau amid mass starvation because we would not be able to sustain the growth rate due to lack of food production.

That may have been true until Fritz Haber discovered a way to fix nitrogen and make cheap fertilizer that spawned a new agricultural revolution. Even today, 40% of the world eats food produced by fertilizer made using the Haber process, the invention which won him the Nobel Prize. It’s why some historians name Haber as the most important person in history since billions may not be born today without his invention.

We were made to cultivate the Earth and use our work to serve others. 1 Cor. 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Not all Christians are called to be missionaries or pastors. Most are called to work “secular” jobs and serve the world by being excellent in our vocation. The example of Fritz Haber shows us the potential for life-giving work when we use our God given gifts to produce something of value.

There’s also a dark side to our creative forces as well. Haber was also famous for another invention. Serving during the first World War as the leading chemist for Germany, he invented chlorine gas and ushered in the horrific age of chemical warfare. He was a staunch nationalist and was present during the first test which killed an estimated 6,000 French troops. His wife, a Christian, was so tormented by his work that she shot herself in the heart after this event. The morning after her death, he left to supervise another gassing of Russians.

In Haber we see the power of work. It can save life or it can take life. We can use our gifts to love or to be a monster.  Maybe not in the same drastic measure, but all of our jobs either build up or tear down.

CS Lewis writes in the Weight of Glory. “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption you meet only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.”

Being made in the image of God has serious consequences. We are imbued with a power that we mostly take for granted. I pray that we are reminded about our role was cultivators of creation and that we earnestly use our vocation to serve the world.