Saturday 25 September 2010

Work in Progress

In the latest edition of Case Magazine we focus on work with the theme 'Work in Progress'. In it we explore a range of questions. It is framed by the broad question, what does the Bible teach us about work? Do we see it just as a curse to be endured? Could it be simply a means to earn money for life? Or is it part of God's plan for our lives? Do we have a well thought through theology of work, or is our thinking about the place of work in our lives no different than that of the non-Christian? Does work have too dominant an influence on how we view our identity and purpose in life? These are just a few of thew questions that our 5 writers address in Case #24.

Andrew Laird is one of these authors with a piece titled 'The Worthiness of Work: God and your 9 to 5'. He approaches the topic from the perspective of the value and meaning it has for the world we live in. He points out that we contribute daily to the order and running of this world in our work, and in so doing, reflect what God did in creation by bringing order to chaos. Work is reflective of God’s plan for us, and as such is part of what it means to be humans made in the image of God. As well, there is also an instrumental aspect to work; it is, a means to some end.

Work is reflective of God’s plan for us, and this is one reason why it can be so satisfying to admire a back patio you’ve just swept which, for a moment, is spotless and clean; to appreciate putting a staple through a finished university essay or work report; to feel pleasure at having fixed a leaking tap or re-installed software on a troublesome computer; to take joy in composing a song or painting a final brushstroke. We can find pleasure in our work when we bring order to chaos, subdue, work and rule over the creation because we’re doing something we’ve been wired to do; we’re fulfilling part of what it means to be humans made in the image of God.

As well, work has value for human, social, structural and broader societal development’; it contributes to the good order and development of society

But beyond the value, meaning and good that work can do, Laird suggests that all work is part of our service and worship of our God. He reminds us that the death and resurrection of Jesus has changed work.  It is an arena where we can show our love for God by working in a way that pleases Him and it can be a way to love our neighbours by working in ways that benefit them.

And beyond work, he reminds us that there is rest, for this is the climax of God's creation towards which all of creation is heading. In "resting from our work we testify to our colleagues that we don't rely on our own strength in life but trust in someone bigger to provide for our every need, especially salvation".

Other articles

In the same edition you can read the lead article by Gordon Preece that considers the tricky notion of ‘calling’. To address the question ’Does God call people to particular jobs?’ he outlines a Trinitarian model of ‘calling’ and argues that our first focus must be on our call to God’s kingdom. After that, where and how we are to work is an area of ‘freedom in limitation’.

Mark Stephens addresses the question of work in eschatological terms and sets out to evaluate the idea that work is of value not just as participation in God’s creation, but as it relates to the ultimate completion of creation. Unpacking Revelation 18 and 21, he explores the possibility that some aspects of human culture may find a place in the new creation: an eschatological city that takes account of the works of man.

Nicole Starling's piece (which you can read online) - 'Chained to the Kitchen Sink? Christian Women and the Apologetics of Unpaid Domestic Labour' - provides a specific illustration of how diverse work is.  She explores a type of work undervalued by society, being a stay-at-home mother. She argues that the paid career shouldn’t be seen as the only type of socially productive work. When a woman chooses to become a full-time stay-at-home mother and wife, she demonstrates three attractive counter-cultural lifestyles that are a powerful apologetic. Caring for a family, and the many other forms of service this permits, are valuable social goods. The worth of the work done at home exceeds the social status given to it and so those making this choice demonstrate a freedom from social status and consumption. Finally, stay-at-home mothers show that their decision to work in the home reflects a “deep and secure sense of… identity as children of God”.

Dani Scarratt also revisits the insights of Sayers and C.S. Lewis on ‘good work’ in our first ‘Case History’, an occasional segment that seeks to unearth the wisdom of Christian writers from the past for the benefit of Christians today.

To complete our issue Andrew Baartz reviews 'The Missional Entrepreneur: Principles and Practices for Business as Mission' and Georgina Barratt-See reviews de Botton's ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work'.

You can read all of these excellent articles by subscribing to Case magazine or by purchasing single copies of Case #24. You can find more information HERE.

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