At Work & Theology 101

Four Questions About Faith & Work

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I’m currently in the middle of a “radio tour,” doing interviews about my new book How Then Should We Work? with radio stations across the country. I’ve noticed that certain questions pop up consistently in these interviews. I thought I’d take some time to share these questions – and their answers – with you today.

1. You identify five key biblical principles of work. What are they?

  • The Four-Chapter Gospel: This is the grand narrative of the Bible that gives context to our work.
  • The Cultural Mandate: God’s directive for the stewardship of creation, given to Adam in Genesis 1, and expected of Christians today.
  • The Kingdom of God: Understanding our place in God’s Kingdom is essential for carrying out his purpose for our lives. Christ established the Kingdom while on earth, and will bring it in full when he returns.
  • Common Grace: Non-saving grace that is universal and undeserved – it is a gift of a gracious God. Common grace is the reason we observe unbelievers enjoying God’s gifts and doing work that benefits the world.
  • The Meaning of Success: We need to reclaim a biblical view of success in order to develop a biblical perspective on work.

2. “Isn’t work a punishment for sin?”

No. In the beginning, prior to the Fall, God gave Adam and Eve important work in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:15 tells us about humanity’s first day at work:

The LORD God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Man was given the work of cultivating, developing, and protecting God’s creation.

Work is not a curse, but a gift from God given to us before the Fall. One result of the Fall, however, is that our work will at times be frustrating and difficult.

3. “You say the Gospel has four ‘chapters,’ but most evangelicals read only two. What do you mean by that?”

The Bible’s grand story stretches across four “chapters”: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Evangelicals tend to only talk about fall and redemption.

  • The Fall teaches about our sin and separation from God.
  • Redemption illustrates God’s redemptive work to reconcile us to Him.
  • Restoration is God’s final plan for his whole creation.

The “two-chapter gospel” (just fall and redemption) limits the gospel to mere sin management. That narrative becomes about us, and not God and his work in the world. It is only within the four-chapter gospel framework that we can fully understand why our work matters to God.

4. Are you saying that someone’s work as a plumber or accountant is as important in God’s eyes as a minister’s or a missionary’s?

Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Christians have bought into an unbiblical “sacred/secular” distinction regarding work. Few people understand that even in our everyday work, the Scripture teaches no separation between the secular and the sacred.

No church-related work or mission is more spiritual than any other profession such as law, business, education, journalism, politics, plumbing, or being a janitor.

What do you think? What questions do you have about faith and work? How are these questions changing the way you view your work? 

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Further readings on At Work & Theology 101

  • At Work
  • Theology 101
Taking Our Faith to Work

By: Russell Gehrlein

7 minute read

Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein reappeared on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on Tuesday, March…

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  • Theology 101

Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel, IFWE founder and long-time executive director, passed away on Good Friday after a four-year battle with…

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