What conclusions can we form concerning what the Bible says about work? On the one hand we might answer, “Not much”. We don’t find a list of rules or guidelines for Christians to follow. The Bible isn’t an operations manual for humans. The Bible isn’t our book of everything.
On the other hand…
The Bible tells us the story* about who God is and who we are. The Bible tells us the story about the relationship between God and humans. The story the Bible tells helps us to understand what it means to be human; created in God’s image, loved by God. Because the Bible tells us these stories, about God and about humans, we can read the Bible and look for our place in the story. We can begin to think about how work ought to fit into our life as it unfolds in God’s story.
So our conclusion is not principles and rules for “Christian work” gleaned from the Bible, rather our conclusion points us toward an orientation, an attitude toward God and toward each other that shapes our approach to work.
Here’s how I would sum things up.
God worked and continues to work in the world, creating, sustaining, saving. Work has been given to us by God and is part of the human condition, now and in the world to come. We work primarily for others. Not primarily for our satisfaction, not primarily for our enrichment. Even if we love our work, we do our work for others- other people and for God. Work is one of the ways, an important way, God provides for each of us. In the variety of things that each person does, people’s needs are met. We end up caring for each other through the varieties of jobs we do. Each of us makes our contribution to society, to the well-being of each other. Our responsibility as workers is to do our work well and with integrity.
I suspect that as long as we keep our focus on the big picture, doing our work well, with integrity and for others, God is willing to leave the details of what we do up to us.
Each of us has skills and abilities and interests. Good gifts of God. Some of us are fortunate and have jobs we love, were we can use our gifts. For some of us, circumstances may constrain what we are able to do. Things happen. People can’t complete or even start their education. Economic and societal forces cause jobs to leave and work opportunities to change. We may take a job because it pays the bills, keeps a roof over our head and puts food on the table. That has been, and continues to be the situation for lots of people.
No matter why we have the job we do, we can do our work well, with integrity and for the well-being of others. We can offer our work for the good of each other and the world God loves or we can do our work only for the “good” of ourselves. In offering our work for the good of each other and the world, we give God glory through our work.
These four short paragraphs don’t say everything there is to say about a Christian view of work. And so, I’d like to know what do you think?
* When I write “story”, just to be clear, I mean true story in the fullest sense of the word true.
Also posted at True North Campus Ministry