Part Two - Summoned and Equipped by God: Chapter 5 - Doing the Lord's Work
Trinitarian View of Work
So what is God’s work? Stevens lists more than thirty adjectives from the Bible that describe God at work. He identifies four themes:
Creator – forms, fabricates, maintains and finishes.
Lover – does relational work, bringing dignity, health and meaning.
Savior – does redemptive work, mending, uniting and saving.
Leader – does community-building work and brings things to consummation.
Based on these observations Stevens writes:
Every legitimate human occupation (paid or unpaid) is some dimension of God’s own work: making, designing, doing chores, beautifying, organizing, helping, bringing dignity, and leading. (119)
But beyond this, Stevens offers what I think is one of his most powerful insights; a Trinitarian view of work. Just as there are three persons of the Trinity who are different and yet thoroughly interrelated, so are there three types of interrelated work. We can generally identify each type of work with each person of the Trinity. (Clearly all members of the Trinity being one do all three types of work, yet we can identify certain kinds of work with the individual members.)
First, there is Father work called stewardship. This includes activity like working the earth and taking care of it. It involves community-building work like forming families, businesses and other human structures.
Second, there is Son work called Kingdom ministry. Succinctly, it is the furtherance of the gospel and God’s kingdom purposes in the world. Clearly a few believers like the apostles put aside typical occupations to have “the privilege of being supported by others,” as Stevens puts it. “Where such support is not forthcoming the believer is clearly ‘called’ to support themselves with ordinary work!” (120) Stewardship and Kingdom ministry are not alternatives to each other or things that we do in separate compartments of our lives. They are integrated and inseparable aspects of a Trinitarian call. But there is a third integral part to work.
Third, there is Spirit work called giftedness and empowerment. Stevens notes that Luther tried to address the elevation of the vita contemplativa over the vita activa by secularizing all calls. Drawing on the work of Miroslav Volf, Stevens makes that case that instead, all aspects of human work are sacred because our work is done as images of God in response to God. The Spirit gives gifts not only for ecclesial purposes but to do all aspects of human work.
I love his summary paragraph for this section:
What is the work of God? God’s work includes fabricating work, maintaining work, love work, restorative work, gospel work and leading work. Who does God’s work? All the people of God (the laos) and, without their knowing it, most not-yet-believers. Where is God’s work done? In the church and world including the physical creation, the home, society and community, politics, culture, education and finance realms, all the ‘worlds’ which we are making and mending. Why should we work? The Bible’s answer is that God invites us to have communion with him as co-workers while God brings the world to its consummation in the new heaven and new earth. Human work is a duty and a godlike activity. (123)
This Trinitarian view of work is one of the most important things I have learned from Stevens' work. It give’s us the ability to see different aspects of work without the destructive compartmentalization that is so ubiquitous within our culture and sadly within the Church.
Have you thought about work in this way before? How does Stevens’ take strike you?