Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing . 184 pages. 2012
The author writes that this book is both a systematic theology of vocation and a spiritual theology of personal transformation. It is a book that engages both the head and heart. It is an approach to a comprehensive biblical theology of work, but it is certainly readable for those who don’t consider themselves to be theologians.
The author provides an introduction to each major section of the Bible, and then follows with stories of people in the Bible who are workers. He includes helpful discussion and reflection questions at the end of each chapter that can be used in study and discussion groups. Summaries of each major portion of Scripture are found at the end of each part. The epilogue reflects on how we should work in light of the preceding discussion.
The author shows us that throughout the Bible we see different images of God as a worker – a gardener (Gen. 2:8), shepherd (Ps. 23), potter (Jer. 18:6), physician (Matt. 8:16), teacher (Ps. 143:10), vineyard-dresser (Isa. 5:1-7), and metalworker and refiner (Mal. 3:2-3; Ezek. 22:20), to name only a few. He tells us that we are also made in the image of God as workers. We are called to work as God does (Gen. 1:28), and that calling does not stop at sixty-five or some arbitrary retirement age. He writes that there is no concept of retirement in the Bible.
He writes that we should make no distinction between sacred and secular work. In God’s design, there is no dualism – sacred and secular. What makes work God-pleasing and God-blessed is not that God’s name and Word are spoken out loud but that the work is done in love, faith, and hope. He states that the command to work was given before the fall and hence work is meant to be a blessing, not a curse. Toil, bad work, and the idolatry of work are the results of the fall. If it is true that all human work that embodies God’s values and serves God’s goals is rightly called God’s work, then it follows that the old distinction between sacred work and so-called secular work can no longer be maintained.
He tells us that the most fundamental fact about calling and living vocationally is that we are first of all called to Someone before we are called to do something.
We all have a vocation, a calling, which is much more than a career. A career is something we choose, something we push to succeed in. But a calling is something for which we are summoned.
He writes that all believers are providentially sent by God into workplaces as missionaries. In these workplaces, we bear witness both by deed and word.
And although some believers may not see the value of our work because they believe it to be temporal, the author writes that our final destiny is not a workless utopia but a renewed world in which we will work with infinite creativity and fulfillment.
As the author takes us through the Bible, he shares how individuals such as Joshua, Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jesus and Paul did their work. I appreciated the approach the author took in this book, showing work throughout the Biblical record. Highly recommended for those exploring the value of work and integrating it with their faith.