The Bible and Work

Women at work on C-47 Douglas cargo transport,...
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Regular readers might recall a  five-part series on Vocation and Work that began in January 2011. Today I am revisiting the topic in a new series in a different format. This is a series about Work and Vocation that can be used by small groups. I would appreciate your feedback and constructive comments. I am expecting groups to have 40-50 minutes to use this material. I want each session to convey information but also to be interactive, conversational, and to encourage thoughtful reflection and discussion. I want this series to be user-friendly, no advanced degrees or extensive teaching experience needed. 

This won’t be the only blog postings I do this summer. I have something in progress for Pentecost and there are a couple of book reviews/responses to come as well as, well, whatever else I end up writing about.  Perhaps the Vocation and Work series won’t always take the regular Friday post spot- we’ll just see what happens. 

But I am serious about requesting your comments. Please, I’d like to know what you think. And I really need help with a better title…

The Bible and Work

1. Clearing the ground: What do we already believe?

When Christians think about work we rightly ask, “what does the Bible say?”. But this seemingly simple question needs some thought, a little “unpacking” as theologians like to say. The question, “What does the Bible say” means more than finding a concordance and looking up verses about “work”. We need to be careful we don’t misuse the Bible when we are searching for what the Bible “says”.

What do I mean by misuse the Bible? I mean that we might go to scripture looking for and then finding what we “know” the Bible says. We ought not do Bible study seeking to have our own ideas validated. We ought to do Bible study looking for what God’s Word might have to say to us.

There are, I think, two big ways we risk misusing the Bible when we go to it for answers. First we don’t make an effort to recognize the beliefs, ideas, and concepts we already have. What do we bring to the text for both better and worse?

Second, we need to be intentional and thoughtful about how we approach studying the Bible. Sometimes a plain reading of the Bible is appropriate. But often, actually more often than not, we need to do a little homework. How do the passages we are studying “fit” with the rest of the Bible? What were the cultural, social and historical circumstances of the first audience? How have other Christians interpreted these texts?

So we begin with a little ground clearing in our first two sessions: what do we bring to the text and what do we need to know read it faithfully on the topic of work.

Today, we’ll spend a bit of time reflecting on what we already think about work. We need to recognize what ideas of our own we bring to the text. It is alright to bring our own ideas about work to the Bible. In fact we can’t help it. But we can get ourselves in trouble if we don’t have at least some idea about our concept of work. I invite you to reflect on these questions. You may wish to write your answers. If you are doing this study in a group, share what you think with each other.

Why is work important?

What does society tell us about work?

What have our families taught us about work?

What has your own experience taught you about work?

Do we think of work as if we were in a country music song- something to endure until the weekend comes?

Is work the way we pay for or earn our fun?

Should work contribute to society? If so, how?

Are some jobs more valuable than others? ( and I mean that question in its several senses, monetary and otherwise.)

Is our work an important part of our self-worth? Should it be?

If you could quit your job, would you? What would you do if you didn’t work?

What do you think the Bible teaches about work?

What do you think Jesus says about work?

Can you write a short paragraph that summarizes your ideas and beliefs about work?

Cross posted at

2 thoughts on “The Bible and Work

  1. Some random thoughts for you.

    Questions are very good for discussion, and I see a progression.

    Meaning of “Unpacking” … good for discussion in itself.

    Two paragraph is outstanding.

    Going back to the original context is a great reminder for everyone.

    Great idea … best of luck with it!

  2. Thanks. This is turning out to be a bit of a stretch for me as it is a different style of writing. I kept on wanting to answer my own questions!

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