Towards a Practical Theology of Work — Part 1
Victor Chininin Buele
“Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?” The Christian cannot have his theology of work dictated more by the old “classic” Office Space than by the Word of God. But it happens. We all do it. It’s easier to just go along with it and say, “Yes, I have a case of the Mondays” than it is to actually live by faith, to worship God with our work.
I’ve done it countless times. It’s easier to give in and go through the motions on Monday (or any other day, really). We just gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day. How can we possibly have a case of the Mondays?
“[…] Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. […] [No] one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. […] [Crying] with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! […] As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”Mark 5:2-4, 7-8, 18-20 (ESV)
After reading this, we need a very different vision for Monday.
Let me tell you how much the Lord has done for me, and how he has had mercy on me. Let me live that out in my work, doing it excellently, to the glory of God and the well-being of my neighbor. How can I pursue delighting in God in worship through the checking of emails and writing of documents and reading of documents and producing of my work product deliverables?
“The enjoyment and the glorification of God are one. His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite. […] For: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.’”
If I am to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, and I give in to the so-called case of the Mondays, there must be something wrong with the way I am approaching my day-to-day work. We cannot compartmentalize our faith–There cannot be a difference between the person that goes to Sunday service and serves the church, the person that goes to community or prayer group on Tuesdays, the person that goes to school, the person that goes to work every day. All of our lives are worship. All of life for Christ’s glory.
Over the years, I’ve read a number of books and articles on the theology of work, but the following statement really stirred me up inside: “Eventually, Christians tend to adopt one of two solutions to relieve the tension they feel at work. They either run or they hide. The run response comes from the idea that it would just be easier to make a clean break – to start over in a new environment or to withdraw completely by enrolling in seminary and going into ministry full-time. […] The hide response is nothing less than a subtle surrender of the mission.”
As a result of the Fall, we struggle with work. Numbers 11 tells the story of the people of God complaining, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (6). It didn’t matter to them that the Lord had rescued them from slavery and given them manna abundantly as they walked away from their chains and towards the land that He promised to their fathers. It didn’t matter that God had proven time and time again His love, mercy, wrath, and justice. The people were complaining and kept on complaining. They complained so much that Moses went to God, and that’s where we will pick up with this attempt at a practical theology of work next time.
Time to Reflect
Until then, reflect on the following. Peter writes to the exiles:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
This presupposes the freedom I am highlighting today. We are all walking out of prior chains of oppression and slavery to sin. Whatever our past sins, they are all covered by Christ once we call upon His name as Lord to be saved. Our work is the fruit of our repentance, the fruits of our justification, the fragrant offering of the fruit of the work of Christ in our lives through the Holy Spirit. So, our work ought to leave people wondering. Our colleagues, our customers, our managers, our partners, our vendors will necessarily be driven to ask why. Why is this person so different? Why does he conduct his business in this way? Why does he treat me differently from the rest? Why do I leave his presence with a renewed sense of encouragement and an appreciation of my value as a contributor? Why do I feel loved? Why?
And it is in that context that we will have that opportunity to do, gently and respectfully, lovingly and compassionately what Peter calls “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and what the Lord commissioned the Gadarene man to do, “to tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.“
 Piper, John. Desiring God. (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003), 307
 Campbell, Regi. About My Father’s Business. (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2009), 27