“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?
Most 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