A better theology of work

Mar 20, 2021 by

by Stephen Kneale, Building Jerusalem:

Some of us could do with a better theology of work, couldn’t we? If you want that to sound less poncey than reading it back sounds, we need to have a better view of secular work.

All too often, the message comes through that work is fine, but it is is a necessity mainly for the purpose of looking after your family and give to the church. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a nuisance really, taking you away from gospel work; that is to say, real work. We are grateful for the giving from our members in work, but we have little patience for those who come home tired from work and don’t feel able to give themselves to the ministry of the church six nights of the week and they can thank themselves lucky that we give them a night off.

Then there are the hifalutin comments about calling. Work is all well and good, but it is treated like some sort of lesser calling. If somebody is being sent into full time pastoral ministry, or mission work, we wheel them out to the front of church and let them explain how they are leaving secular work behind because they have now received a higher calling. They have left the world of work to do more important work; gospel work.

Personally, I think all that is really unhelpful and, frankly, a bit light on theology and biblical warrant. Adam was given, to all intents and purposes, a fairly secular job to do. Most of the dudes in the Bible had some sort of ordinary job to do and weren’t viewed as unspiritual for doing it. For a lot of them, it was just herding animals. But you’ve also got your Daniels and Nehemiahs who were employed by the state to do some sort of civil service job. When you get to the New Testament, quite a few dudes were running fairly ordinary jobs and nobody was suggesting they had chosen some sort of low road. And let’s not forget Jesus was working a normal job for most of his life too.

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