At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Why to ‘Reweave Shalom’ at Your Job

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We have been talking about the Cultural Mandate found in Genesis 1:28,

 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

When I am out talking about the Cultural Mandate, the question is often asked, “What does ‘taking dominion’ look like today?” An answer to that question can be found in a very unusual place.

In the 29th chapter of the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, we find part of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon. These exiles have seen the destruction of their homeland, the death of their family members and the demolishing of their holiest place of worship. These discouraged refugees read the following:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Jeremiah is reminding them of the Cultural Mandate telling them to be fruitful and multiply filling this part of the earth with God’s images and to have dominion.  What does having dominion look like in a place where the culture is not your own, where you have no power?  It looks like, “seeking the peace and prosperity of the city.”

In the original Hebrew text, the word which is translated as peace and prosperity is actually the word shalom.  I would propose that our translation of the word shalom is far too weak.  Cornelius Plantinga in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, suggests that,

 Shalom is …the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be… the full flourishing of human life in all aspects, as God intended it to be.  

During the exile to Babylon, the best and brightest of Jerusalem were then taken into captivity and made to march almost 1000 miles to the great city of Babylon. Even in their oppression, God was calling his people to take dominion by reweaving shalom, working for the shalom of the city of Babylon.  The clearest example of this is in the life of one of the exiles, Daniel.

The answer to our question about “taking dominion” can be found in this ancient example. We too are strangers in a strange land, called to be in the world but not of the world.  Like Daniel we are called to work for the shalom of the city, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). We are to do this in everything we do, especially in our vocational calling.  Because we believe in a coming age when shalom will be completely restored, an age without sin and injustice, we eagerly work in this world to bring about glimpses of the world to come.

Question: what steps can you take to reweave shalom in your job? Leave a comment here.

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