A great puritan theologian said, ” before there was a theologian, there was a storyteller, and the first storytellers in the Bible were also theologians.” The Bible is a collection of stories, telling us of God’s loving determination to renew everything, including his people. All through the Bible we see workers, workplaces, some works are good and some are bad, all described in a story form. Several of us can mention endless types of work people do.
Making steel rivets by hands, preaching, filing, attending committees, listening, building houses, teaching, writing, grinding pepper, washing, mechanic, cleaners etc.
You may be tempted to ask, is some of this work a holy work that will last for eternity? are other works just fluff? What is good work? Who benefits from the work? Does work have both intrinsic and extrinsic values? What does work mean? Most I work before I can eat? Is every work Gods work? Whose work matters to God? Some of these questions can only be answered by the “Theology of Work” that explained what work really means.
The Theology of Work is Biblical, because it draws on the entire scripture from Genesis to Revelation, by telling the stories of people like Adam & Eve, Ruth, David, Jesus, Paul and John’s work illustrated in a variety of contexts within Biblical history upholding the fundamental unity of scripture.
Work is not easily defined, but a working definition of work in this context defined by William Perkins is ” Work is any purposeful expenditure of energy whether manual, mental, spiritual or both, whether paid or not, which serves the neighbors and bring glory to God”
William Perkins, the eighteen-century puritan defined Theology as ” the science of living blessedly forever”. A Theology of Work is a subset of Theology enabling us to make sense of work, and not just work, but working in the light of God’s purposes for creation and work forever.The Theology engages the timeless word of God and the contemporary culture/situation at the same time. Hence a Biblical Theology of Work considers the whole canon of scriptures with the goal to find a comprehensive understanding and practice of work in the light of Gods purposes and the ultimate goal of creation and history.
The concept of a Theology of Work is a fairly recent development entering western thoughts after the second world war, largely as a result of the work of the Roman Catholic Theologian ” Darrell Cosden” he describes Theology of Work as a new discipline-a Theological exploration of work itself by exploring work with references to a number of doctrines within a Systematic Theology. Few of these doctrines are
- Trinitarian Theologies: work for human, God-imaging creatures is determined by the work of the Triune God
- Creation Theologies: work was given in God’s original design at the creation so that human beings could function as co-workers and co-creators with God
- Image of God Theologies: God-imaging creatures are given the power to make decisions and to make a difference
- Curse Theologies: work comes after the fall of the human being into sin and therefore is a negative thing and cursed.
- New Creation Theologies: work is an expression of life under the new covenant and therefore is both substantially redeemed and redeeming. We are co-workers with God in the new creation, collaborating with God in the creation of the world and establishment of creation and human life.
- Vocation Theologies: work in our present situation is a calling of God
- Spirit Theologies: work is an expression of Spirit work and giftedness, not only in church ministry but also in the world
- Kingdom Theologies: work is part of expressing God’s life-giving and shalom, bringing rule over all of life, not only in the life to come but also in the present world
- Heaven and Endtimes Theologies: the meaning of work is determined by the end. Some of our work in this life will last beyond the grave. The ultimate experience of work will be in a new heaven and new earth.
Paul Minears, in his book ” Work and vocation in scripture” said the Bible is ” an album of casual photographs of laborers… A book by workers, about workers, for workers… that is the Bible.
Genesis opens with introducing God at work, the first and finest worker in the universe. The Bible shows that God is still working ( John 5:17) contrary to the belief that God after creation is resting eternally.
Throughout the Bible we see different images of God as a worker, such as a gardener( Gen. 2:8), shepherd ( Ps 23), potter( Jer.18:6), physician( Mathew 8:16), teacher( Ps 143:30), vineyard-dresser(Isa 5:1-7), and metalworker & refiner(Mal.3:2-3, Eze 22:20). These are metaphors drawn from almost every trade, craft and role in human experiences. God is active and creative today: creating, sustaining, redeeming, transforming and consummating– as he was when he began to make this vast universe.
We must bear in mind that the ultimate goal for everything makes everything different, including our everyday work. For instance, we see God throughout the Bible wants all his creature meet with him at the marriage supper in Revelation, but began the process from Genesis. This is the kingdom perspective on work.
The kingdom is essentially the spread of the goodness and shalom of God in the world and human life. Vatican 11, Russ Barta, founding president of the National Center for the laity says. “Our earthly task is to marry and beget, to establish civilizations and cultures, to create cities and industries, to search relentlessly for justice in institutions, to pursue the mysteries of life scientifically and philosophically, to fashion the best in arts, to mediate harmony among people” that is the kingdom work.
We are created in the image of God and after his likeness, hence we are also made in the image of God as workers, we are called to work as God does ( Gen.1:28) that calling does not stop at age 65, there is no retirement age. Our work involves being vice-regents over creation, act as stewards of God’s created world. Creation is neither a curse nor an idol, but a reality with the signature of God on it, and a reality on which humankind is also to write its signature through beeing world-makers, culture-makers, tool-makers, community-makers and beauty makers.
Work is good. It is intrinsically good, which means that work is good in itself. It is also extrinsically good-good for what it produces and what it leads to. The two words God used in his command ( Gen. 2:15) for Adam to work are abad (work) and Shamar( take care). Interestingly these words are also used to mean ” service to God” and ” keeping of his commandments” respectively. This implies that we should make no distinction between sacred and secular work. In God’s design, there is no dualism-sacred and secular.
Every human being has a distinctive work to bring to the world. Human work God-like when it is relational. This means we are all designed to work together: each person’s work is to be enriched by and intended to enrich his or her neighbor. Genesis continues to tell us about other workers: Cain; the people that built the Tower of Babel, Abraham & Sarah, who were the first missionary workers, Jacob, the herdsman in the far country, Joseph who as a believer running the affairs of Egypt governance, second in command to Pharoah, Moses led the Hebrew people out of a violent and terrible work situation in Egypt. We see inspired Bezaleel and Aholiab great men who work in all manner of workmanship.
I know there are great hunger and yearnings in the heart of many looking for what to do and find fulfillment in life. If this is your heart cry, this Institute is the answer to your quest. Enroll today for a better understanding of work life and perspectives. Welcome to where destinies are shaped & callings identified!!
Dr. King Y.M. Kinang