A Theology for “All Things”

DIFW Series • Think Theologically, Work
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George herbert

I’ve often found that God first teaches me something about my work (such a practical place to learn) and then kneads that lesson throughout my life. Here’s an example: Through seeking wisdom from scripture about the role of work in the kingdom of God, I first noticed the repeated use of the phrase “all things.” Scripture shows us that Christ is the Lord who literally “made all things” (Isaiah 44:24-25), claims “all things” as his servants (Psalm 119:90-91), and holds “all things” together (Colossians 1:17). 

While God worked in my heart to plant a true and full understanding of just how broadly the gospel is at work in the world, I came across this poem by George Herbert, a seventeenth century lyricist. I immediately recognized that same refrain in the second line, “in all things Thee to see.” I share Herbert’s poem below in the hope that it does for you what poetry often does for me: help me see the world, and in this case my work, a bit differently than before.

The Elixir

By George Herbert 

Teach me, my God and King,

         In all things Thee to see,

And what I do in anything

         To do it as for Thee.

         Not rudely, as a beast,

         To run into an action;

But still to make Thee prepossest,

         And give it his perfection.

         A man that looks on glass,

         On it may stay his eye;

Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,

         And then the heav’n espy.

         All may of Thee partake:

         Nothing can be so mean,

Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—

         Will not grow bright and clean.

         A servant with this clause

         Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,

         Makes that and th’ action fine.

         This is the famous stone

         That turneth all to gold;

For that which God doth touch and own

         Cannot for less be told.


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