Monday, July 16, 2012

Work as a Calling Part 2

Another helpful source for developing a concept of work as a calling, vocation, and ministry is Witherington’s book, Work: A Kingdom Perspective. Witherington asks the question: Is work a curse, a necessary evil, a means to an end, or does it serve some other purpose? This is the question Witherington seeks to answer. He seeks to dispel many myths about work. He was surprised that so few theologians have discussed work as a theological subject, even though it takes up a large portion of our time. Witherington points out that Adam was given work to do before the fall and work is being done in the New Jerusalem. He seeks to clarify what a biblical view of work would look like. Witherington defines work as “any necessary and meaningful task that God calls and gifts a person to do and which can be undertaken to the glory of God and for the edification and aid of human beings, being inspired by the Spirit and foreshadowing the realities of the new creation” (Work xii). Witherington also refers to Buechner’s definition of work: “The place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”He notes that nowhere in the Bible is the idea of retirement is found. Work is part of the original creation. Witherington also thinks that “in the course of a life-time God may equip us and call us to various jobs and tasks” (164).The fall did not change work; it just made it more toilsome. It is also part of the “new creation.” He says that “in the creation accounts work is what human beings were fitted and commanded to do … [but now] the Spirit inspires and gifts “ believers for the work God calls them to do and “in what they find joy” (xii).
            Witherington believes that our work needs to be connected to our calling to follow Christ. All Christians are to love God with their whole being and to love their neighbor as themselves. All believers are to make disciples of all the nations. Witherington thinks that our work can be a calling, a vocation, and a ministry. He believes these things are interrelated, but distinct. Witherington asserts that work is what one is called and gifted to do. Along with that, he believes believers should avoid two extremes, laziness and workaholism. Withering also discusses the nature of good work. He defines good work as the doing of “all things in a way that fulfills the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, glorifying God and edifying humans” (156). The Great Commandment is to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations. Witherington asserts that “any other tasks, jobs, or work we undertake must be seen as subheadings under these primary, life-long tasks” (162). Good work is characterized by excellence. Believers should put their whole heart into their work; they should not do it half-heartedly.
            In addition, work needs to be balanced with worship, rest, and play. Witherington suggests that Saturday could be devoted to rest and play and Sunday could be devoted to worship. Time with the family would be part of worship, rest, and play. Witherington notes that “an adequate amount rest, play, and worship provides the boundaries for work and the reminder that work is not the be-all and end-all of our existence” (158). The Bible says six days you should work and one day should be reserved for rest and worship. Then God said it was very good. This shows the need for rest, worship, and contemplation. It also affirms the importance of leisure.

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