What the Biblical Narrative Teaches Us about Work

Dr. Keith Whitfield, Assistant Professor of Theology and Vice President for Academic Administration at Southeastern, recently discussed faith and work with Dr. Benjamin Quinn. Quinn teaches Intersect’s free class, Work and Worship: Connecting Sunday to Monday.

Keith Whitfield: Benjamin, what does the Bible teach us about work?

Benjamin Quinn: When we open the scriptures, we meet God at work. First and foremost, we recognize value in work because that’s what God’s doing the second we meet him in the Bible. We see he’s creating everything.

He creates human beings in his own image, puts them in his world, in the garden, to continue on in his own work. He gives them the responsibility to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to rule over it, to keep it and to cultivate it. He’s given that responsibility to them, and it’s something that’s not hard for them at that point…. Apparently, it’s something that’s very good for them.

We recognize value in work because that’s what God’s doing the second we meet him in the Bible.

Whitfield: Something takes place, though, in Genesis 3. And the rest of the Bible is Genesis 3 to the end, right — the majority of the text? What’s the story, and how does it continue in its instruction on how we should work?

Quinn: When Genesis 3 happens, a number of things take place. But when sin enters the world, it seems to fracture everything in creation — even things we can’t see about creation, like our processes of work.

At that point, work changes a bit. There was work before; it was a good and necessary part of our responsibility in the world. But in Genesis 3, now work is frustrating. Now human beings work by the sweat of our brow.

Then we push forward, though, and ultimately we’re longing for the one who’s promised in Genesis 3 — the one who is going to crush the head of Satan and fix these fractures in the world. What we’re longing for, ultimately, is the work of Christ himself. In theology class, we talk about the person and work of Christ. What he’s going to do at the cross and at the empty tomb is he’s going to fix what’s been broken.

[Here’s] the way it then affects work: As we place our own hope and faith in Christ, and that relationship with God has been fixed, we have the opportunity then (as ministers of reconciliation according to 2 Corinthians 5) to apply the power of the gospel by the power of God to our work and to see relationships healed all over the place. To see coworkers come to Christ. To see coworkers reconciled with one another, maybe with their family. And even to see them recognize value in their own work and the contributions they make in God’s world.

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The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

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