I previously wrote about three vocational “E’s” that marketplace Christians can leverage for the sake of advancing God’s mission in the world: education, experience, and expertise (From Milk to Meat: Applying the Three E’s of Marketplace Christians). There are other e-words that we might apply, like energy or effort, to consider the work that marketplace Christians intentionally direct to missional activities and ends. But the Divine E, is the impetus of God as partner in the work of the Holy Spirit working through us: in Hebrew, the `ezer.
We first come across `ezer in the phrase `ezer neged in Genesis 2:18 when Eve is conceived as a “suitable helper” to overcome the inadequacies of Adam’s isolation. The “suitable” – neged – implies “one in front of, visible, present with, or corresponding to.” Eve is Adam’s co-worker but of equal and perfectly paired roles. We find the superiority of Adam’s position in the relationship (to rule over her – Genesis 3:16) comes only in God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin.
The concept of `ezer recurs in the Old Testament, occurring 21 times in all. Of those, five pertain to human assistance – the two occurrences in Genesis 2, where coupled with neged, and once each in Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14, and Daniel 11:34. The other sixteen occurrences refer to God as the `ezer, the help or helper. This occurs most famously in Psalm 121:1 – “I Will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come?”
Perhaps most telling about the relationship between the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, and Jesus Christ, as the man-God of the New Testament is a similar sounding sentiment between Psalm 124:8 – “Our help (`ezer) is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth,” – and Romans 10:13 – “for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved’” (Paul citing Joel 2:32, emphasis mine).
Seeing the connection between these verses, surrounds the concept of `ezer with salvific overtones. The introduction of Eve, as the `ezer neged, was for the communal working out of Adam’s salvation (Philippians 2:12), to overcome the shortfalls of his isolation. She was his co-worker in the temporal toward his material prosperity. She was his collaborator to deepen his cognitive reach. And she was his partner in the practice of holiness, that is, obedience to God. She was able to help him to some degree, we can be sure, on the first two counts. But on the third, she, as do we all, fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Adam put his trust in her words and leading, turning his back on God’s command, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But when we turn back to God as divine `ezer, we can be assured of wise counsel and positive intervention in our endeavors. The cooperative and collaborative nature of the community of the Triune God is not only the example we follow but puts forth the impetus to move our hearts, compelling us by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within us each to act according to holiness. It is this helping power, the `ezer of God’s Spirit and presence, that creates in us right thought and, moving outwardly, right action to undertake ministry in every arena of life. Just as God moves us to love and serve our families, to take on charitable causes, to glorify him as readily as we breathe, it is by God’s help that we are moved to embrace our work as the stamp of God’s image (imago Dei) of who and what we are when we carry forth his nature, character, and will into the marketplace.
It is by the `ezer of God that our education, experience, expertise, energy, and efforts (and one might even include our entrepreneurial leanings!) are woven together (Romans 8:28). These, working well together, contribute to the productive wellness of human life, giving households incomes but also supplying the funds to meet every need, whether through charitable gifts, regular purchasing, or the application of taxes to common goods like parks, schools, police and military protection, and transportation corridors.
God’s Spirit has opened our eyes to a great opportunity: to glorify his name by our works (Matthew 5:16). When we pursue economic development and financial security for the poor through the wise use of all those other “e’s,” but most importantly with God’s help – his power and leading – it is truly Good News, a strong proclamation of God’s goodness and grace, divine kindness extended to all humankind. Marketplace ministries, extolling and demonstrating the righteousness of God, and offering our labors sacrificially for the sake of others, have the indwelling power of God infusing our witness. Marketplace Christians, for too long relegated to pew sitting and serving only as checkbooks to Christian churches and missionaries, have the opportunity to carry the Gospel to the world in unprecedented ways.
The lever is the simplest of all tools. By its use, one can create enormous advantage. God has gifted us with a wide variety of education, experience, and expertise. These are levers for our advantage and the advantage of the world. The `ezer, the help, of God is our fulcrum, the pivot point of our ability and productive existence, and by it, with apologies to Archimedes, we can transform the world.