At Work & Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

The New Testament’s View of Flourishing

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. 

– Matthew 5:9

What does the New Testament have to say about flourishing, or shalom, and how does that impact how we live our lives and go about our work?

New Testament writers translated shalom as the Greek word eirene. “Peace” in the minds of New Testament writers would have embraced the Old Testament concept of shalom, so the good news Jesus preached would be seen as the gospel of shalom (Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:17, 6:15). When Paul quotes Isaiah 57:19, in Ephesians 2:17, he is teaching us that the Old Testament dream of shalom is realized through faith in Christ. 

Yet this biblical notion of shalom means more than simple internal peace. It includes external justice in society. Nicholas Wolterstorff, in his book Until Justice and Peace Embrace, points out that shalom is more than justice. He explains that it is also the delight in the just world of relationships:

In shalom, each person enjoys justice, enjoys his or her rights. There is no shalom without justice. But shalom goes beyond justice. Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his or her relationships: with God, with self, with fellow, with nature.

The Christian Community Development Association also argues that shalom means more than peace. One piece of CCDA literature explains:

When God created the heavens and the earth, he wove it all together like a million silk threads forming a dazzling garment never before seen – each thread passing over, under and around millions of others to create a perfectly complementary, tightly-woven interdependent, amazing whole. This wondrous webbing together of God and man and all of creation is what the Hebrew prophets called shalom. Shalom is a word packed with hope for a broken, bruised, and wounded world. It speaks of wholeness, right relationships, justice, salvation, and righteousness, all of which can be missed when we simply read the English word, ‘peace.’ God’s intention for every community is that his shalom would reign.

The apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 8:20 that the good news of the Kingdom is God’s total, comprehensive, complete, ultimate, and final solution to all of the effects of sin on the fall of mankind and the frustration of creation. The good news of the Kingdom encompasses the total redemption and reconciliation of man as well as the absolute restoration of all creation.

In short, everything will be put back together, made right again, and restored to its proper place and original design. This is the biblical concept of shalom, and Paul would have had this in mind.

When Jesus used the word shalom in the Gospels, he was describing the world as God intended it to be. He was describing the Kingdom of God on earth, and the way in which God’s kingdom people, redeemed by his sacrifice on our behalf and empowered by the Holy Spirit, would live. 

In my last post I suggested that the Bible tells us that fully restored shalom awaits God’s people at the end of this age, in the last chapter of redemptive history when Christ returns to consummate his Kingdom. Tim Keller in his book Generous Justice describes it this way:

It (shalom) means complete reconciliation, a state of the fullest flourishing in every dimension–physical, emotional, social, and spiritual–because all relationships are right, perfect, and filled with joy.

In this present age we as disciples of Christ are called to seek out and work toward shalom and the kingdom while we wait for the return of our King. We here at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics describe this working toward shalom as “flourishing.”

We believe when Christians live holistic lives and integrate faith and work using all the tools God has given us – including economics – they are reweaving shalom. This results in the flourishing of both the community and individuals.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, writes:

Shalom is not only an incredible gift; it is a most demanding mission.

Blessed are those who reweave shalom, for they will be called children of God.

What does the New Testament’s view of flourishing mean for you and your work? Leave your comments here

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