At Work

Bridge the Faith and Work Divide – Get Economics

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When it comes to making sense of our faith and our work, many of us feel there is a great divide. At IFWE, we’re passionate about helping Christians bridge that separation by rediscovering a rich biblical doctrine of work.

But what seems even more pressing to most Americans today is to find answers to our country’s economic woes. In the midst of this economic strain, a variety of voices are proposing solutions. Some are convinced their proposals are not only the path to peace and prosperity for all, but also the only biblical approach to the problem. How can we be certain this is true? And what do economic ideas have to do with our jobs, other than helping us get one?

For many of us, this is really the first time we’re thinking seriously about economics. Because Christians are called by God to be engaged our culture and to seek the welfare of our neighbors, we must be equipped to think critically and biblically about these ideas.

Thinking biblically about economics starts with thinking biblically about work.

Many Christians don’t know that by giving us a vocational calling, God has given us a powerful tool to change the world.

In her book Creed or Chaos, Dorothy Sayers hit the nail on the head:

In nothing has the church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation.  She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.  But is it astonishing?  How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of life?

Compare that quote to a statement by George Barna in his book Boiling Point:

Workplace ministry will be one of the core future innovations in church ministry.

The difference between these two quotes epitomizes the dilemma the church is in regarding work, vocation and calling. The Barna quote represents the church’s current understanding of integrating faith and work, often called workplace ministry. These ministries focus on encouraging Christians to share their faith in the workplace. While this is not a bad emphasis, it pales in comparison to the point Sayers makes. She is lamenting the church’s loss of a robust biblical doctrine of work:

Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.

As Christians, we are called to do both. Most Christians today do not have any idea what Dorothy Sayers is talking about. At IFWE, we’re eager to dive in to this discussion.

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  • David Noble

    I love Sayers’ idea that work is the medium in which one offers oneself to God. It directs my thinking about work ultimately away from my work and toward God. But allows me to see my work as valuable because of who God is and what he is doing, rather than who I am and what I am doing.

    • I am amazed when I read some of the thing Sayers writes about work, it almost seems prophetic with you realize she was writing over 70 years ago. I agree with you, the message that our work is important to God is a message we all desperately need to hear.

  • Rev. Sidney Flack

    The concept introduced here is precisely what the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is about. Each person is called (vocatio) to serve God, proclaiming Christ crucified for all, through our daily lives. This calling remains the same regardless our profession or labor. Luther held this to such a degree that he saw no higher calling among us than that of a parent as it is through our parents’ lives that God teaches us love of our neighbor and, thereby, love of Christ. In these lessons we learn the unrelenting nature of God’s love for us, persistent desire to forgive us our faults, and the joy of being contributing members of society living in community with all others.

    • Yes, Luther, Calvin and the other reformers really understood the Biblical doctrine of work. One of my favorite Luther quotes (paraphrased) is “one of the best ways we love our neighbor is by doing our jobs well.”

Further readings on At Work

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