Tag: Everyday theology

Another Way to Integrate Faith & Work

“What matters to God is the way we work, not what we do for work.” This is a common perception of work; assuming, of course that your work is ethical. But apart from this assumption, does God really care what we do for a living? Does God really care whether we install urinals or pacemakers? Or is God primarily concerned with how we do our work?

More Than Ethics

To be sure, God is concerned with the how of our work, that we don’t lie, cheat, or steal.. But assuming that your vocation and ethics are God-honoring (or, the “what” and “how” of your work are good), I suggest that God still cares what you do for a living, that he is intimately concerned with the essence of our vocation. In fact, if we can identify the essence of our vocation and reflect on it theologically, work can even become worship.

The Essence of Your Vocation

The “essence of vocation” is shaped by its principal goal or discipline. For instance, the principal discipline of medical surgery is biology. In order to make the proper incisions, a surgeon must know where human organs are located and how circulatory systems function. After you have identified the principle goal or discipline of your vocation, try to connect that principal to the nature and character of God. For instance, medical surgery reflects God as an orderly, creative Designer and as a merciful Redeemer. Here’s how.

Surgery exists because God created the human mind and body. Surgery works because God made the body in an orderly fashion. Surgery repairs because God has built redemption into the very fabric of life; our bodies can be restored. With the discipline of surgery in view—biology—and a little theological reflection, we can worship God through our work. In this case we get to witness his creativity, orderly providence, and merciful redemption. As a result, we worship God in Christ as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer (Col. 1:16-17, 20). Another term for this activity is theological integration, the integration of academic disciplines and/or vocational principles with the knowledge of God.

Integrated Work in the Bible

Theological integration is not an esoteric practice, but rather a mundane activity celebrated by Jesus. In the Gospels, a Roman centurion came to Jesus seeking healing for his servant. Jesus agreed to go with him; however, the centurion replied by saying that Christ need merely speak the word, not come to his house, and his servant would be healed. The centurion came to this conclusion by considering the essence of his work—authority—present in military principles. His reflection on the essence of his work, joined with faith, led him to conclude: “For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it” (Matt. 8:9). In response, Jesus praised the centurion for this great faith. By reflecting on the essence of his work through faith, the centurion was able to glorify God. His work must have never been the same.

God is concerned, not merely with how you work, but what you do for work. Consider the essence of your vocation and try connecting it to the nature and character of God. Identify what discipline or principle drives or sustains your line of work—science, math, language, arts, sanitation, service, construction—and trace it to the nature and character of the triune Creator. In cultivating theological integration, work can become worship.

This article originally appeared at The High Calling.

Project on Lived Theology

At Virginia University there is a Project on Lived Theology that aims to reflect theologically on the practices of everyday life. The website says: “It is our conviction that the patterns and practices of religious communities offer rich and generative material for theological inquiry. These patterns and practices are not just ways of “doing things” (as the historian Wayne Meeks has written in one of his essential studies of early Christian communities), but they are also ways of “saying things”: practices and patterns are “communicative”.

Some current projects include research and writing by Alan Jacobs and Mark Gornik. Check out the list of scholars and thier current book projects here which also includes chapter downloads of forthcoming books.

How Should We Then Work?

Boundless is running one of my new articles on a redemptive approach to work entitled “How Should We Then Work?

An excerpt:

In many respects, work is the engine of civilization. Without work, societies would not perpetuate. Furthermore, if as Schaeffer argues, the rise and decline of civilization is intimately intertwined with the strength and weakness of the Christian worldview, then the labor of everyday citizens, which contributes to the quality of human flourishing, should be given serious attention. If indeed theological ideas have practical consequences it becomes us to inquire, “How should we then work?”

In response to this important question, I can think of at least four main approaches to work that should frame our theologically informed response. First, Christian work should be excellent work. Second, Christian work should be ethical work. Third, Christian work is a platform for evangelism. And fourth, Christian work should be done in reflection upon its essence, how it may or may not reflect the nature and character of God.