Blog - Grasping Vocation
What is the Theology of Work?Sunday, August 14, 2011
"I wasn’t aware that there is such a thing as work theology.” Those words, written by a Christian graduate student, no doubt reflect the position of countless believers. The term theology of work is hardly a household word. On the other hand theology of mission, theology of marriage, theology of ministry, and the like have made themselves at home among us. A "theology” of something refers to what God has said on that subject.
We still don’t hear the words theology of work in most churches. And yet the phrase is edging into our vocabulary. While writing this, I googled "theology of work” (with quotation marks to limit the hits to just those exact words). That returned 269,000 results—one bit of evidence for the amazing growth of the theology-of-work movement.
My desire to help Christians live out their faith on the job began around 1970. Back then a few other books on faith at work did exist. But I was unaware of them. So I began searching Scripture to learn what God has said about work. It took more than a year, but a book finally came together. Christian Literature Crusade published Secular Work is Full-Time Service in 1974 (now printed with the new title, Serving Christ in the Workplace).
Since then books on faith at work have multiplied. The Marketplace Annotated Bibliography: A Christian Guide to Books on Work, Business & Vocation appeared in 2002 (by Pete Hammond, R. Paul Stevens, and Todd Svanoe). It lists and offers brief overviews of nearly 700 books on the subject. Hundreds more have been published in the nine years since.
Even so, the message has not reached many Christians. Recently I have been grading papers of believers pursuing master’s degrees. Here are a few samples of what several of them have written:
- "I had seen business as inherently bad. . . . I am beginning to see that business truly is God’s idea.”
- "I . . . had separated God from my work, enjoyed Him immensely at church, at home, in my quiet time but could not fellowship with Him in my work.”
- "I have been guilty for perceiving work as punishment instead of viewing it as a reflection of God’s glory especially when it has frustrated and challenged me.”
- "I certainly would have never thought that my workplace could be a place of ministry.”
- "To me work was always viewed as something that was done apart from service to God.”
- "The mindset seems to be that only the church centric programs are important to the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
It concerns me that so many Christians still need to know what Scripture says about the activity in which we invest most of our best waking hours. When it comes to making known God’s word on work, there’s still plenty of work to do.