After the last installment you may be saying, that’s very interesting about Deuteronomy and Leviticus but what does the New Testament have to say about work? Well, that’s today’s topic. Once again, we won’t be able to look at everything that might be relevant, but let’s look at some passages in Acts and 1 Corinthians.
One of the reasons people work, is to make money to support themselves. For the vast majority of us it takes money to have a place to live, get food to eat and so on. For generations people have worked to survive. Survival was the reason to work. In modern times, many of us work to thrive. We work to find fulfillment. We work to impress others. We work to find our self-worth. We think differently about work and we need to continue to keep that in mind. The Biblical writers thought differently about work than we do. But interestingly enough, in spite of their different understanding of work, the Biblical writers still have useful and helpful things to tell us.
It may help to know that in the ancient world the phrase “all things in common” was a phrase from Greek philosophy used to describe a deep and serious friendship, and not as we might assume, a statement about an economic system. Having all things in common was a statement about the willingness to share, to be concerned for each others spiritual and physical state.
What do these passages from Acts assume about work? Perhaps better said, what do they assume about the results (money,property, etc.) of work?
What do they say about possessions? Do they extol possessions? Are they critical of possessions? Or do they offer a third way of thinking about possessions?
Now read 1 Cor 12:4-7 and Romans 12:4. It is always good, when someone asks you to read a single verse or two, to read several verses before and after the single verse or even the entire chapter where the single verse is found. Context matters. So read more than I asked but pay particular attention to 1Cor 12:4-7 and Romans 12:4.
What do these discussions of spiritual gifts have to do with work?
Are spiritual gifts distinct from or separate from the “regular” world of work?
Are the spiritual gifts Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 only to be used in the church?
How might these spiritual gifts be used in one’s work?
What might Paul mean when he writes about the common good?
People in ancient times and today work to survive. We also work to survive. But we also work to make a statement about who we are. We work to feel good about who we are. For many of us, when we think about work, we think about it in terms of what work can “do” for us. The Scripture passages we looked at today suggest that work has to do more with others and their wellbeing. Would this perspective on work change the way you do your job? In what ways?
I’d like to know, what do you think?
Cross posted at Conversation in Faith