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06.03.2017

Bible through Workers’ Eyes

What does the Bible have to say about my work? My difficult boss? (1 Samuel 19:9-10) My brilliant colleague? (1 Samuel 18:8) My challenging patient? (2 Kings 5:9-13) My quarterly targets? (Exodus 5)

Sometimes the cultural landscape of the Bible can seem so distant from our daily experience that we can fail to see how – and how often – God’s word addresses work. The reality is that the Bible has lots of material that’s directly about work, lots of material that is set in workplaces and lots and lots of material that is applicable to work.

Some things are obvious. It’s obvious that the account of God’s work of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 has implications for our understanding of work. But for many of us it’s less obvious in the stories of Noah and Babel. But here are the first great biblical construction projects: Noah’s outsize boat is built in obedient response to God’s direct command and Babel’s skyscraping tower is built in arrogant defiance of God’s direct command. Implications abound.

Similarly, it’s obvious that the oppression of the Israelites by Pharaoh’s taskmasters has something to do with work, but we’re perhaps less quick to see how Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law Moses to restructure the judiciary might cast him as the first management consultant in the Bible.

Often all that is required is to ask ourselves two simple questions. What is the character’s role? Where is the action taking place?

Shiphrah and Puah are Israelite midwives facing a totalitarian Egyptian regime that has legalised the compulsory murder of every new-born male – how will these national health workers respond? Nehemiah is a senior civil servant in a pagan empire – how does he approach a challenging urban regeneration project? When we see these things our eyes are opened to the myriad ways biblical stories can speak into the workplaces where Christ has called us to serve.

Of course, a particular biblical text doesn’t have to be specifically about the workplace for us to find wisdom that can shape our discipleship at work. ‘Thou shalt not steal’ applies to our professional behaviour as well as to our behaviour in the local jeweller’s. ‘Blessed are the meek’ is as relevant in a competitive workplace as it is in the family home or the church meeting.

So this week as you read your Bible, engage with the sermon, tap up the verse of the day on your phone – ask the Lord to alert you to what he might have to say about your work as well as other areas of your life.

After all, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”