Lesson 1 - Theology of Work

Introduction

Reflect

Take a moment to consider your understanding of work as you enter into this lesson. How would you define “work?” 

What have been your frustrations with your current job or in your career?

Read

In Amy Sherman's book, "Kingdom Calling," she elaborates on why integrating our faith and work is so important:  

The average Christian sitting in the pew hears little from the pulpit or in Sunday school about how her life with God relates to her life at work. She may receive general guidance about being salt and light in all the spheres of her life, including her workplace. Overall, though, her church offers little specific guidance about why her work matters, how God can and does use it, or how her vocational power can be stewarded to advance his kingdom. Lacking this guidance, some Christians simply “turn off” their faith at work; they function as “practical atheists” on the job. They have no vision for what it means to partner with God at work, to bring meaning to their work or to accomplish kingdom purposes in and through their work. Committed believers from the age of twenty-five to sixty-five who regularly attend church will spend about 2,266 hours in a church service. As a comparison, those same people will spend about 96,000 hours at work during forty years of work.

Amy Sherman, "Kingdom Calling"

God is a Worker

Work is central to Genesis 1 and 2 right in the middle of how God created the world. In fact, God is a worker too. Since people are made in the likeness and image of God (Gen. 1:26), then we too are workers. You can see our work echoing God’s work in many different occupations: 

  1. Redemptive work like pastors, writers, and prophetic artists looks like God’s saving and reconciling actions.
  2. Creative work like painters, poets, and musicians looks like God’s creating the physical and human world.
  3. Providential work like IT specialists, entrepreneurs, mechanics, and professors looks like God’s provision for humanity and creation.
  4. Justice work like judges, lawyers, and city managers looks like maintaining God’s standard of justice.
  5. Compassionate work like medical professionals, nonprofit directors, and social workers looks like God’s help in healing and comforting.

This can be hard to read when we feel unfulfilled in our jobs or we are frustrated with them. And it's true that the fall exposed futility into our work. There will be times when our jobs are frustrating. But we need to re-examine how we view work. Amy elaborates:

For Christ-followers, the primary motivation for work is not self-fulfillment, self-enrichment, or self-promotion. That cuts directly across our secular culture's claims. Christianity insists that our lives – including our work – are all about God and his work, his mission.

Work is not evil, nor is it a side effect of sin. It's certainly true that the curse of Genesis 3 brought toil and futility into work. Ever since, our experience of work involves pain as well as pleasure. But work itself is good. It has intrinsic value.

Amy Sherman, "Kingdom Calling"

Is – Can

Reflect

As Amy said, we live in the time of "Can," where Christ's incarnation repairs all that was lost in the Fall. This means that our lives, and our jobs, contain a sense of resurrection power and possibility. Each one of us has the ability to show Christ through our specific work as God has specifically gifted us. Amy elaborates:

God creates us each with passions and talents. He puts in us the capacity to find deep joy and purpose by serving him through work that draws on our unique, God-given combination of natural and spiritual gifts. We serve him as we serve others through our work, because he has called us to be his hands and feet in the midst of our beautiful but broken planet. 

And the workplace is the primary place where we live out our faith. 

Amy Sherman, "Kingdom Calling"

How does this quote start change your perspective about your particular work?