So far we have looked at what we can discover about God’s original intention for work and also at what work might be like in the kingdom of God. Now we will begin thinking about what the Bible has to say about work in our present times.
Oddly enough, we’ll begin thinking about our times by looking at the Old Testament, specifically Exodus,and Leviticus.
Christians often have a difficult time with Leviticus and Exodus, we don’t exactly know what to “do” with significant parts of these books. While Christians are not bound to follow the Torah commands, we can find some helpful guidance. God’s intention is for all aspects of our lives to reflect God’s holiness, God’s love, and God’s values. Leviticus and Exodus (along with the rest of Torah) were given to ancient Israel to help them reflect God’s holiness, love and values as a particular people in a particular time and place. As modern people we are not called to return to ancient times or follow ancient rules. But we are still called to be God’s holy people. Our challenge today is to think about how these ancient rules might help us discern how to live today; not as legalistic rule followers but as people trying to live and participate in society as faithful people.
Much of what we find in Leviticus are instructions for priests. But we want to look at part of what is sometimes called the “Holiness Code” (Chapter 17-26) . Israel, as God’s people, are to be holy because God is holy. Leviticus contains instructions that help Israel do this.
We will focus our attention on Leviticus 19:1-18,33-37.
Does this chapter help you understand holiness? You might find it helpful to consult a Bible dictionary. What does it mean to be holy?
What does our work have to do with being a holy people?
What instructions in chapter 19 have to do with work?
Did you know that Jesus’ statement, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus? How do the instructions in this chapter “fit” with the message and life of Jesus?
Exodus 20:22-23:19 is called the “Covenant Code” or the “Book of the Covenant” . Scholars think this may be the oldest legal material in the Old Testament. Just before this section, Israel has arrived at Mt Sinai and Moses has received the Ten Commandments. The Covenant Code is where Israel discovers what it means to be in covenant with God, how should God’s people act, toward God and toward each other in light of their covenant relationship? Israel believed that every part of life belonged to God. As you read these passages, look for the ideas and values that give rise to these particular instructions.
We may not have to worry about our neighbor’s ox or donkey, but what possessions of our “neighbor” (or business associate, or competitor, or another student) do we need to be mindful of? Remember this was written for an agricultural society where oxen and donkeys were valuable “equipment” for one’s work and survival.
Do these passages have anything to do with workplace responsibility and ethics?
What are the underlying principles and values of these passages?
How would you restate them in modern terms?
Thinking about all the passages we have looked at today, what are some words or phrases that encapsulate the ideas and values you discovered today?
Thinking about where you work or go to school, what are some specific ways you might live these ideas and values?