Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Bring Meaning To Your Work As The Work Of God

A recent Wall Street Journal article provides a good follow-up to last week's post. The article, Idle Hands: Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed, appeared November 19:

“…the Puritans... had a view of work in which God looms large. [They] believed that all of life, including their work, was God's, and, as such, infused with purpose and meaning…

...Martin Luther, in his doctrine of vocation, taught that God gave each individual an occupational ‘calling.’ Man's vocation was not seen as impersonal and random, but as from a loving and personal God who bestowed each individual with natural talents and desires for a particular occupation...

…17th-century tradition held that sacred occupations (like priest or monk) trumped secular ones (like farming or blacksmithing). The Puritans, however, rejected such a distinction. Holding to 'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might' (Ecclesiastes 9:10), the Puritans sanctified the common, believing that all work, however lowly, if done for the glory of God, was good…The farmer's plow became his altar, his tilling an act of service to God every bit as holy and valuable as the priest's….

Now, I’m not suggesting the Puritans did everything right. Nor is the WSJ article suggesting that. But the Puritan view of work was biblically motivated, and this is what interests me most.

“Biblicity” (did I just invent a new word?) is what allowed Jonathan Edwards, and his forerunners, Luther and Calvin, to view work in a profoundly remarkable way.

Last week I asked if "worklife discipleship" could be restored. I think it can. But to get there, I believe we have to re-learn how to view our work in the context of a comprehensive biblical worldview and an explicit theology of work.

This begs the question, "What is a biblical worldview and a theology of work?"

I'll fill that in as we go along. But for now, I'd just like to say that when you see your work in the context of a biblical worldview and a theology of work, as Luther, Calvin, and Edwards did, your work (no matter what kind of work it may be) takes on previously unimaginable significance.

In fact, seeing your work in the context of a biblical worldview and a theology of work allows you to bring meaning to your work as the work of God.

To be continued.

For the full Wall Street Journal article by Amy Henry, see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704431804574541403268485712.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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  1. Christian,

    I like "biblicity." Perhaps, we can use it to distinguish being Biblical from all that passes for Biblical worldview but is not.

    Isn't the great achilles heal here, which prevents Christians from seeing their work or the rest of the world from a Biblical worldview, simply how bad we are at reading the Bible? The bit by bit approach to Scripture can never take us beyond the mere "are you honest and moral in your work" approach to the work as worship approach you have been writing about so well here.

    It is only if Paul's letters and Revelation can be seriously and legitimately connected with Genesis that work can be considered sacred. If there is a hard discontinuity between God's design in Genesis and the world post-fall, then nothing saced remains except helping other people get out of here and buying our time until we can escape too.

    Ahhh... how we need hermeneutical soundness.


  2. John,

    You have touched on one of the most critical points in this whole conversation, and that is how God's "pre-Fall" Commission (I call it the "First Commission" of Gen. 1:26-28) connects with the "post-Fall" world.

    I see the First Commission as totally applicable today, regardless of the Fall.

    In fact, I see the First Commission of Genesis 1 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28 as having the same en: “Observing all that Christ commanded” means observing it during the 1/3 of our waking hours spent in the workplace, as well as the hours we spend at home loving our families and at church, etc.

    I am afraid we have focused so much on being "saved" and on escaping the consequences of the Fall that we have failed to see that we are "saved" for a purpose, and that purpose has a lot to do with how we spend our time in the workplaces of the here-and-now.

    Thanks so much for sending in your thoughts, John.