At IFWE, we believe that your work is the greatest tool God has given you to impact the world. Thanks to the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this is a truth we can learn about in deeper ways on a day-to-day basis. In recognition of the Labor Day holiday, we asked some of our regular blog contributors what God has been teaching them about the theology of work in the past year. Here are their responses:
Work is an Essential Element of our Personhood
Scot Bellavia: For the first time, I’ve come to see work as more than a way to afford life; it’s an essential part of a person’s personhood. In the last year, I started a job assisting adults with autism in the workplace (making sure they stay on task and helping them negotiate any confusing social interactions). There is, of course, the confidence they earn in a job well done and the paycheck to prove it. On top of that, these employees benefit from inclusive environments and are supported by generous, open-minded co-workers and supervisors. The self-esteem they build from being seen as an equal and team player in the real world (as many of them are around their intellectual peers all other hours of the day) is immeasurable. My current job is far and away the most rewarding on my resume as I see the direct impact of what I do on a person’s personhood.
Read this article from Scot Bellavia: How Do You Know If You Are Where God Wants You To Be?
Work is Sacrificial
Dr. Joshua Nangle: I have recently recognized that work is an opportunity to crucify my sinful flesh. Our carnal nature longs for self-gratification, to please our own desires. Work affords me the opportunity to improve the well-being of others at my own expense by providing for my family, supporting my colleagues, and advancing the mission of an organization that is larger than myself. Work is reciprocal in that I receive a wage for my efforts, but it is more than this because it provides me with resources for the advancement of the people God has entrusted to me. Working hard means I sacrifice my own comfort for the sake of making those connected to me more comfortable.
Read this article from Dr. Joshua Nangle: Why Christians Should Exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit at Work
God is Faithful and Personal
Russell Gehrlein: During this past spring and summer, I sensed God’s presence in a deeper, more personal way as my wife and I navigated through the rough waters of selling a home so that I could be much closer to work—less than ten minutes from the front gate. God exceeded our expectations by allowing us to purchase a beautiful house, sell our old one, and get moved in a relatively smooth transition in less than 60 days. We saw God demonstrate his faithfulness to provide a home that met our family’s needs and unique circumstances. I also came to appreciate the labor of the painters, realtors, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, and movers that God used as answers to prayers along the way.
Read this recent article from Russell Gehrlein: Where Do I Find God When I Start a New Job?
Jesus Teaches Us Kingdom Business by Example
Dr. John Pletcher: Throughout 2022, our church has been doing a deep-dive in the gospels. We are exploring what it means to more fully follow Jesus in all we do and say. I’ve been moved anew by how integrated, purposeful, and redemptive Jesus truly is. As the carpenter (Mk. 6:3), itinerant rabbi, and Great Shepherd-leader, Jesus was certainly all-wise and wondrous in his works. Many of my own aha moments, beyond his miracles and sacrificial work on the cross, have included fresh reminders of how business-based and money-savvy Jesus’ parables really are. As a result, his applications for everyday kingdom business are profound. Again and again, we see the marvelous God-man demonstrate how to live on mission via kingdom business principles. It’s all very moving to work like Jesus!
Read this recent article by Dr. John Pletcher: After Roe v. Wade: How Should We Then Live?
The Idol and Remuneration of Work
Dr. Susan Wharton Gates: In the past year, God has been working to peel apart the close connection I make between work and remuneration, my deeply-ingrained view that work is meaningful to the extent that someone values it enough to pay me to do it. And the more I am paid, the more “important” the work, and, therefore (and this is the most insidious part of this lie) the more valued I feel as a person. While we’re young and growing in our careers, we are not aware so much of how “work” (as an idol) is worming its way into our soul. But once we lose a job or retire—and lose the “drug” of work-based validation—our sense of self will nosedive until we find a new “shiny.” The only affection strong enough to oust the idolization of work is love for Christ, whose finished work on the cross is the only sure anchor for human identity.
Read this recent article from Dr. Susan Wharton Gates: The Ultimate Satisfaction Our Work Provides
Blessings and Miracles
Dr. Renita Reed-Thomson: “Then God blessed them and said…” (Gen. 1:28). Sometimes we miss the blessing part of this verse. A blessing is an empowering and an equipping. As I stood in Burundi, a nation in East Africa which struggles with great poverty and yet has great potential, I heard how the prosperity gospel has led people to spend their time praying for a miracle. As I considered that, I felt led to begin teaching the people to “be the miracle that you are praying for.” The aha moment is that the prosperity gospel not only is damaging to our understanding of God and what it means to be faithful, but it also is damaging to our perspective of work. Miracles are the exception, not the rule. The rule is to work as co-laborers with Christ.
Read this recent article from Dr. Renita Reed-Thomson: Why It’s Risky to Not Take Risks
Work Is Preparing Us For Eternity
Judy Allen: When we are no longer on this earth, I believe we’ll be surprised at how our work has prepared us for eternity. And by work, I mean our jobs, relationships, hobbies, interests, struggles, successes, volunteer efforts, heartache, and even the routine chores that we all must do. God will have used it all to transform us into eternity-ready people. My theology of work is broadening to include far more than a job, yet it always begins with God’s work, for he is always working.
Read this recent article from Judy Allen: Examining Our Aspirations & Worship in the Great Resignation