What’s Wrong with “Faith and…”?

“Faith and Work.”  Life in the marketplace as a Christian.  The term is part of a vast constellation of “Faith and’s.”  Faith and freedom, faith and work, faith and family, faith and reason…  And at one level, there’s nothing objectionable in the intent of the term, or really of any of these.  They merely mean to say that we want to talk about the issues of work in relationship to our faith, logic in relationship to faith, family in relationship to faith….  Very good – may there be more.

But there’s another sense in which the term creates just a slight unease.  Does it still embrace a dualism?  By phrasing them in parallel, and joining them with the conjunction “and,” there is the slight hint that these are still, in the end, two separate things.  Your faith…your work…related but different, still in essence two different things.  But does such a dualism do justice to the biblical view of work?

hard-work-1382713 - Ronald SchusterMost of us somehow view work through the lens of Genesis 3, the Fall.  We find our work frustrating, maybe unfulfilling, difficult – we see the impact of the Fall on our work lives, and we assume that is because work is a function of the Fall.  But the Scripture so importantly locates our work in a different place, in Genesis 1 and 2: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  (Gen. 2:15, ESV)

A simple but profound observation: work existed before sin.  This means work is part of creation, part of how God made the world and how He made us.  We are, literally, made with work as part of our purpose.  As hard as it can be and may be, as much as work may show us the impact of the Fall, as much as we may labor under its challenges and hardships, it was made to be so much more.  It is a feature of the world when God made it and said it was “good…good…good…good…good…very good.”

When we look at the world as it was before Genesis 3, we look at a world as it ought to be.  And the world as it ought to be has humans working, not just lying around in recreation.  Before our faith had to deal with sin and redemption, work was there.  Which means work in this world isn’t an “and” to our faith.  Instead, it is part of the essence of why God made us – the purpose He gave before we fell, integral to our faith, not accidental.


Photos: FreeImages.com/Ronald Schuster, James Farmer

This entry was posted in On Vocation, Visions of Vocation *New and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Andrew Cone

    If the Bible is true, then to be human is to be a worker. For my heart, the concept of work must be torn down from its secular, pagan roots and replaced with the glorious foundation established by my working Creator. I wish I had a chart which compared what God thought of work with competing secular thoughts. Initially it is hard for me to believe, but God is a worker (Gen. 1 and John 5:17). I am actually refreshed when I consider how often God changes my view of who he/she is.

    Is it possible that faith has been separated from work as a result of lies from the evil one? Could there be so much potential fruit and expansion in God’s kingdom on earth in the context of “work” that Satan has focused on confusing the right concept of work? This seems pretty reasonable to me, knowing that the majority of a people’s lives is spent at work which would be the place of greatest exposure to one’s neighbor and a good platform to love God with our heart and strength.

  • Collin Young

    I would like to think that the reason this separation between faith and work entered into conversation is rooted back to Genesis 3. Just as we have been separated from God through the sin that Adam committed and our own sins, the ideal balance and interdependence of faith followed in tow. Dorothy Sayers made the proposition in her piece “Why Work” that to adjust this mindset, we need to challenge all of the conventional or secular perspectives about the “enterprise”, “man”, and a few others. Our cultural has turned work into a means of gain and by so doing fortifies the argument that our perspective is skewed (1 Timothy 6:10).